I’m Filipino American. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and now I live in Santa Monica, California.
I grew up in predominantly Black communities. The other Asians that I knew were mostly Filipino because their parents were nurses. My mom worked in a hospital, and she was a nurse supervisor and educator, so all the Filipinos I happened to know worked in the hospitals with my mom.
I remember when I was a kid and CHiPs was on TV, I was like, “Hey, that guy kind of looks like me.” I watched CHiPs because of Erik Estrada, not knowing he wasn’t Asian! Like, “Oh, you kind of look like me. Close enough.” And then of course it was just Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. I got excited when things would come out and Asian males were in there, like when the “Mortal Kombat” movie came out. Growing up, it was few and far between.
I’m straight, and when it comes to sexuality and masculinity, I was always comfortable with myself. Masculinity in America in general is fairly toxic and fragile, and I noticed that very early on. So I never needed that kind of tough-guy masculine validation.
But, I mean, I did grow up in Brooklyn, so I didn’t want to be a pushover. And just being a different race, you kind of had a target on your back. What’s socially programmed is that we’re not masculine, we’re kind of easy targets, we’re passive. So you kind of have to put your foot down in certain situations. I mean there were a few situations, like, “Well, I know I’m going to get beat up. Let me make sure they don’t have a gun, or anything to stab me, but I’ve got to talk some shit and just take the beating.” Not just take the beating, but take the beating swinging. You know, someone has to have a black eye while I hopefully don’t have any broken bones. That was a reality I had to grow up with.
Right now what I do for a living is a form of objectification. I’m a stripper, so I put myself on stage, I take my clothes off, and I get judged. That’s my job. And hopefully you’re judged positively based on your performance or what kind of fantasy you’re giving off.
So I think you should just own your space as you normally would, be yourself, and hopefully people will accept it. I think people are being a little bit more open-minded, but will it ever be fair? I don’t think so. For an Asian male, what do you have to bring to the table to be equal? You have to be extra good looking, you have to be extra smart, you have to make extra money. You have to compensate to equal the mediocrity of another race.
I’m just saying “Asian” to say “Asian.” But we know what you mean when you put a certain tone to it within the context. They know it’s derogatory, and they know that you know it’s derogatory. I think it’s time for people to acknowledge their own programming, what’s being told to them socially, and start to open their minds up a little bit. I think you should look within yourself and then realize your biases and don’t project them on others.