Race and masculinity: How backward stereotypes continue to shape my experience of the gay scene

London rugby player Chris Kang opens up about his experiences as part of our 'Masculinity Month'.


This article first appeared in Attitude issue 290, December 2017.

Gay men of colour often find other people make sweeping assumptions about their masculinity based purely on ethnicity. In our new issue – available to download and in shops now – we spoke to gay men from a number of different backgrounds in an effort to see just how this behaviour impacts their lives.

Here, rugby player Chris Kang debunks some stereotypes about being gay and Asian. Read his story below...

My experiences as a gay Asian male might not be reflected by the rest of my gaysian brethren. Part of this, I think, is down to the fact that my general “look” is fairly atypical: I’ve got a pretty heavy, muscular build and can grow a fairly bushy beard, so people don’t usually think of me as “Asian” in the traditional sense.

That being said, I haven’t been immune to other people’s stereotyping and preconceptions.

I can’t say for certain what people might think about me when they see my “Asian-ness”. The days of blatant “no fats, no femmes, no Asians” are, thankfully, much rarer. But, all those unreturned taps/woofs/messages, instant blocks or listless conversations my gay, visible minority friends and I have experienced still give the sense that perhaps the sentiment hasn’t completely gone away. If anything, I suspect technology has just made it easier to filter, swipe left and ignore.

As with any form of racism, there’s no question that a lot of the prejudice directed at gaysians expresses itself in the expectation that we’ll somehow be more feminine and, as a result, in assumptions about our preferred sexual role. Although I can’t recall meeting anyone who has assumed I’m passive on account of my race, I have met plenty of gaysians who have been stereotyped.

I think the root of the problem is the gay community’s concept of masculinity, and what it means to be “masculine.” It’s certainly something with which I’ve always struggled. Growing up playing sports you get used to a certain definition of masculinity and what it takes “to be a man” — tough, stoic and guarded with your emotions. The sentiment is reinforced coming from a traditional Asian (Korean, in my case) family.

However, I think it’s great to see that society and the gay community is coming around to a point where how you speak, dress or look doesn’t define the sort of man you are. But I’m not naïve. We’re heading in the right direction but I still feel that for many gay men there is some underlying need to adopt and, in turn, desire to see, traditional masculine traits in their partners.

I’m not saying this is right or acceptable, and at times I have been guilty of thinking the same.

But playing for The Kings Cross Steelers (the world’s first gay and inclusive rugby club, based in London) has helped me to evolve my conceptions of masculinity. I have seen 10st twinks fearlessly take down 18st hulking props, only to see both then dress up in drag at club socials. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and in my opinion equally as attractive and “masculine.”

I’ve always believed that the gay experience is pretty universal — regardless of our nationality, race or upbringing — so I would never argue that Asian gays have a monopoly on being hard done by.

But I don’t let myself get bogged down in other people’s bad energy, ignorance and hang-ups, and my fellow gaysians shouldn’t either. Being masculine is really about confidence, and that transcends any sort of racial or physical attributes. Living by that belief is truly interesting and sexy.

The December issue of Attitude is out now - buy in printsubscribe or download.

More stories: Rapper Lil Peep dies aged 21 Hunger Games star Josh Rivers goes full-frontal and masturbates in new TV series (NSFW)