In the Name of the Father: The Search for Asian Male Role Models

last night, after cursing myself for not having snatched up the domain name during the nascent years of online social networking, i lay in bed mulling over ponderous existential questions about modernity, identity, and the dying light of french theory. as a half-assed, largely incompetent student of literature and philosophy in the continental tradition, i have always held myself in unhealthy relation to french theory — and to dead white men more generally. Gilles Deleuze, for example, is my patron saint. aside from being a creative wordy genius after my own heart, he committed suicide by hurling himself through a window. defenestration? score! +10 points for theatricality. Michel Foucault, hero of literate transgender hussies everywhere, is second on my list of greats. Method of suicide: death by HIV (many speculate this was intentional, as he frequented the SF bath houses during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. in which case +10 pts for irony and biopower!)

Anyhow, as I rifled through my rolodex of heroes, it occurred to me that i have no asian intellectual icons of any sort, no Eastern locus at which my mimetic tensions gather. =P indeed furthur reflection made me realize that i have never had a male asian role model to emulate in any capacity — intellectual, affective, representational. not a single one. and not for lack of wanting and needing one, frankly.

As a self-professed slanty-eyed smartfag, i must say that a major part of my frustration with the Bear movement’s domination of the queer scene (aside from its tendency toward the same body fascism it originally deigned to move against) owes to the fact that the dominance of Bear social cartography effectively ensures that certain affective registers consequent to Oedipal sociality will for me remain unfulfilled. A distinctly Oedipal hieirarchy (and by that I mean the broader Oedipal model of family) is a de facto feature of the Bear scene — even the taxonomy of bodies reflects this: “Bear” (older bearded heavyset male) and “Cub” (younger slimmer bearded bear-to-be). The circulation of such a (hehe bestial) trope foregrounds a naturalistic sense of progression, a continuity between the young and the old, and what’s more, a mentor(ing relation)ship apart from pure sexual practice. Part of my own struggle with my sexual identity (and broader cultural identity as a child of immigrant parents) owes to the utter lack of such a relationship structure during my own coming-of-age. In the absence of a male ideal and a male homosocial mentor figure, I failed to develop a historical sense of my self and my world. Without a male ideal whose semiotic stability could organize my experience, my world has always lacked continuity. In many ways (and i don’t use this term lightly, as my mother was a violent postpartum nutcase) it has presented itself as something schizoid, devoid of coherence. while such may be the case, i’m under the impression most people operate without a crippling, persistent awareness of Althusserian/Lacanian ideological rupture. =P

At the risk of betraying my own desire to move beyond classical Western structures of affiliation and connectedness, i can’t help but wonder how different my life would be if i’d had access to not only to a stable family (and strong father figure in a distinctly Western aka classical Greek sense), but also to the parallel structure of mentoring and paternal care that has taken root in the queer community. I wonder sometimes if I am not deficient in some way for not being entitled to such mentoring? why am i not able to belong to a site of emulation, intersubjectivity, identification, paternal care? why is the absence of facial hair grounds for being disbarred from a community that prides itself on its ideology of inclusiveness and warmth? (reference: history of Bear movement, issues highlighted by addendum: i suppose the “return to nature” aspect of the bear-cub figure only “naturally” implies that hairless persons like most Asian men are ‘unnatural’, and hence undesirable)

While the Bear community’s emphasis on Western practices (loud gatherings at sports bars / community rugby tournaments / events that are traditionally attached to the working class) is perhaps somewhat removed from my own Asian domesticity (do not question authority / walk quietly through the house / do not make eye contact, let alone physical contact / to be loved requires deference, invisibility), the feelings, the affects, must fundamentally feel the same. To be embraced by a community and have your attachments be guided by that community’s very forms certainly must feel rewarding. These rewards are definitely experienced in a performative way – in the hundreds of Bear (which might as well be called Bear-For-Bear) websites on the web, the myriad Bear events (reference last weekend’s Chicago Bear pride), even Bear bars. Bear culture has even leeched into popular media (reference Cachorro.) Bear culture validates itself by making itself known — Asian ideology, on the other hand, demands that we blend in. Disappear. We demand a loss of faciality. Where eyes might meet I sometimes imagine an eraser.

For me, a gay Asian American male, to continually be rejected or marginalized by the Bear community on the basis of my lack of body and facial hair (note even the terminology! reference: Chaser) is infuriating. For me as an individual with a particularly violent and unstable family background, the rejection causes great pain and an even deeper sense of isolation. In many ways it simply recapitulates my early loss time and again.

The problem is not necessarily the Bears’ concern. They have their fun, and they have earned it. But what options are available for me? What gay Asian male – imagined by popular television or otherwise – could be a father figure to this 28-year-old spazzy recovered ivy-league meth-head who, posturing as intelligentsia , has largely gotten through life with strategies of avoidance, deference, and isolation? Why are others entitled to such relationships simply because they have more follicles in their face? That the Bear community has even failed its own (see account in The Bear Book volume II, in which a member of the community develops a disease that causes him to lose all his body/facial hair) is on paper ludicrous but in life potentially quite devastating for any h0m0 attached to this world of meaning.

My question is (as usual) an unproductive one. It may not even be a question. I suddenly find I am no longer able to ask one. But maybe this post would do better as something else entirely – something that is not so much a guided inquiry as an articulation of a need, as the identification of a void that greatly needs filling.

Asian-America, I am throwing down the gauntlet. I need an image of paternal care, empathy and instruction. it can be straight or gay, i don’t care. but I need it now.

(Mr. Miyagi does not count)

Thanks for rating this! Now tell the world how you feel - .
How does this post make you feel?
  • Excited
  • Fascinated
  • Amused
  • Disgusted
  • Sad
  • Angry

About pete

J. Peter is a rogue masters student from The University of Chicago and is roughly 2 pints shy of a quart. He hopes to someday pursue doctoral work at the intersection of the philosophy of technology, queer theory, visual culture, and aesthetics. He supports a number of special interest groups such as: Feral Children Awareness Inc., The Lindsay Lohan Meets Robert Downey jr. Fan Blog, and the Postpartum Psychosis: Not Just For Northern Virginians listserv J. Peter is also a semi-professional avant-pop homosexualist with offices in Harlem, Morningside Heights, and Brooklyn. He encourages all Asian Americans, even the ugly straight ones, to do their best to fight the power, even if it means test scores will plummet.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, LGBT, Lifestyles. Bookmark the permalink.