Share this:

What’s it like to be an Asian guy in a world of gay hook-up apps where some users just say ‘No Asians’? 


By Patrick Cash

Raise your hand if you like the term ‘gays’. Like not ‘gay people’ but as in the ‘God Hates Gays’ placards wielded by the pitifully sad and ever-increasingly desperate Westboro Baptist Church, an organisation who are the media equivalent of a toddler who does a shit on the floor to get attention.

But their use of ‘gays’ or ‘fags’, or even ‘homosexuals’, is calculated. It’s a lot easier to hate a dehumanised ‘gay’ than a living, breathing person who feels the same emotions and bleeds the same colour blood. This use of derogatory language is widespread to make minority groups ‘other’: n*ggers, scroungers, immigrants, the crackheads and crazies of Bethnal Green.

Language can even be used to separate people with power from their humanity, and their emotional thinking. Elizabeth Stoker Bruening published a piece last month in the New Republic entitled ‘Dear Politicians, Stop Calling People “Taxpayers”’.

In it she writes: ‘While “people” designates the broadest possible public as the subject of a political project, “taxpayer” advances a considerably narrower vision – and that’s why we should eliminate it from political rhetoric and punditry.’ When you’re a taxpayer you’re no longer considering the human needs of people on benefits, it’s all about the cost to your income.

As that old dragged-up mademoiselle of fate would have it, just as I was writing this introduction a meme flashed up on my Facebook news page from ‘Common Gay Boy’:

“EQUALITY” scream the white gays with LEGALIZE GAY across their shirts & “NO BLACKS NO ASIANS NO FEMS” across their Grindr profiles

Despite ‘white gays’ doing exactly that dehumanising thing I describe above, the angrily capitalised message has a point. You’d think being dehumanised by casual ignorance as ‘gays’ would be bad enough, but instead of rebelling against that by celebrating and expressing our humanity, we instead pass on the oppression. And one of our own minorities who really suffers is gay men of South-East and East Asian ethnicity.

‘No Asians’ is totally plastered over those windows of hook-up apps like Grindr as if they were newsagents run by UKIP. Guys claim they’re not being racist, because it’s a personal sexual preference, but who stops to think about the effect seeing those words will have on Asian men? Many of those perfect-bodied, headless torso profiles are not from closeted guys, but out-but-not-proud Asian guys scared of rejection.

In a recent report from Public Health England it found that gay/bi men from an ethnic minority have ‘significantly higher rates of suicide, self-harm and mental illness’. It also found that ‘the personal testimonies’ of these men often go untold. So we spoke to three gay, Asian men from the scene to find out their own stories, and what they think of that horrible ‘No Asians’ tag.



I moved to London from Tokyo when I was 18. I like taking pictures. I live a settled life with my partner and two Siamese cats. I grew up in Tokyo so my perspective isn’t relevant, but all I can say is that I never really notice my ethnicity when I’m in London, but I think I’m fortunate to say I have not. Although, I do get people “guessing” my race and getting it wrong all the time and it drives me insane. “I’ve been to China,” isn’t the cleverest opener…

I was never active on any of those hook-up apps, but I am aware of the profiles with racial preferences. For me personally, “ASIANS ONLY” or “NO ASIAN” are both equally rude. Sure, everyone has a type, but I think it’s a little too much. I don’t walk around with a placard saying I am Asian. No one does.  I just don’t get involved, as their mindset and not realising that it is offensive to some just offends me.

I don’t see my Asian-ness in London. You get so many different people from all around the world here and that’s a great thing. More interest and knowledge towards each other’s culture is the key to understanding and acceptance I think!


Personal Trainer and promoter for club Bang! 

Growing up as a gay, Chinese man in London was very lonely and challenging, yet some of the most important and rewarding few years of my life. Being 16 is a confusing time for most boys and being gay and a foreigner, I was totally lost. I could hardly meet any other gay Chinese guys like me and there was no role model that I could look up to. Trying to understand who you are becomes even more confusing when you don’t even know what you are trying to understand.

I felt odd, I felt isolated and started to question everything about myself. Was it my skin color? My eyes? My hair? The way I dress and pronounce, all these doubts eventually crashed my confidence completely and forced me into the journey of stereotyping. I have tried to change everything that I possibly can in the attempt to alter my identity and erase my past.

For many years I hated to speak Chinese in public and have seriously considered having plastic surgery to make me look more Westernized. Going to the gym five times a week just for the sake of six packs and big arms: I was only trying to fit into that stereotype. Trying to be accepted. The funny thing is no matter what I do, I will never be able to look like one of those poster boys that the gay community has been desperately perpetuating.

I can sit on the fence where the two different cultures assimilated and look at both sides of where I came from and what I have become. It broadens my horizon and definitely gives me a whole new perspective, but I also believe that every color is unique, they all vibrate under the sun. Everyone has a unique personality, background and life experience, that’s what makes us different; those sharp edges will make us spark when we collide together.

Gay, Asian men have been the subject of prejudice and have been fighting for our existence and acceptance in a straight man’s world for too long. We are refusing to be stuffed into pre-labeled boxes, because each one of us is unique! If we can’t accept ourselves, and worse let that negative feeling project on to others, then we have another problem, internalized homophobia is something that most gay men have experienced consciously or unconsciously.

We are working harder, partying longer with more drugs and even more casual sex, pushing us to the limit and taking everything to the extreme. It’s merely a desperate effort, trying to compensate for the fact that we can’t come to peace with ourselves. And all the prejudice and racial preferencing is only the side-effects. “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love someone else?” I’m in my 30s and only now can I start to fully comprehend the true meaning of that.

Being faced with racial prejudice has made me stronger, and who I am today. It’s very upsetting at the time, especially when it comes from within the gay community. It’s one thing that I cannot change and hurts me the most. But I slowly understand it’s a result of one’s ignorance and self-hate. They don’t know me, they have no right to put me in that box, as long I am sure of myself as a person and as an individual, everything else is irrelevant.

‘Trying to understand who you are becomes even more confusing when you don’t even know what you are trying to understand.’

In terms of the hook-up apps, it’s a place where people take measurement over moral grounds. I’ve seen things that are way worse then racial preferencing, all I can say is listing the ‘dislikes 101’ does not make you more assertive or attractive in anyway.

London’s LGBT community is very diverse and active, with all the new legislation that is protecting us now and the significant change of the social attitude towards gay people, which has made gay life so much easier. If we can all just be more accepting to each other’s differences and let the technology do what it’s meant to do – making our life easier, and better at reaching each other. Hopefully, another young Chinese male would find it easier growing up as an ethnic gay man in London.


Menswear Designer for Mark Thomas Taylor

I’m half-English and half-Thai although there’s some Irish, Italian, Chinese and Welsh thrown in there somewhere, too – I guess that’s pretty standard in London though, eh?

I moved to the UK when I was 18 from Washington DC and remember being in a gay bar, and while waiting for my drink to be poured just politely turned to the guy next to me and said: “Hey, how’s it going?”

I didn’t fancy him, I was simply being nice while we both waited. His response: “Haha… No, not into Asians mate, better luck next time.”

I was so shocked I just turned back to face the bar and wait for my drink, calling him a cunt under my breath.

Let’s face it, the Asian community both East and South are the least represented within the gay community in the marketing, the advertising, etc… I have no issues with that, but one does have to question why that is?

There are always jokes around when I date guys that they’re suddenly rice queens, but could it be that they just fell in love with an Asian guy? As a society we have dictated to us what beauty is and being Asian is certainly not at the forefront. Unless, of course, you turn to the massage pages in the back of any gay mag (awwwkwaaarrdddd) “Halloo massass mister?”

In recent years it’s improved considerably. I think one of the misconceptions when guys see an Asian guy in a bar is that they might not speak English. I had a douchebag come up to me two weeks ago and say: “HEEELLLOOO, WHEEEREEE AREEEE YOUUUUU FROOOOM?!?!”

To which I responded, “I’m Asian, not sloooow dude.” I laughed and did my shot of tequila, then danced off to Robyn. This must have been at least the fourth time that’s happened over the seven years I’ve been back in the UK. The other response is “OMG, but you speak English so well…” which is a total boner/conversation killer.

We’ve all seen “No blacks, no Asians” – It’s much worse in the States and Canada than it is here, but it definitely exists. Whatever floats their boat. They may feel that they’re stating it upfront to not waste anyone’s time, and I hate playing the race card but I’d say it’s a pretty racist thing to say. “Gaycism”, as I call it, is still really prevalent even today which is shitty. You wouldn’t write, “I’d love to be friends with everyone except blacks or Asians” and if you did, well, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to know you.

‘Guys who are nasty about race on these apps are just showing their true selves, which makes them look shallow and ignorant.’

We all have a type, and when I do occasionally use these apps I prefer to write about “I am looking for” rather than what repulses me. Anyone who has a long list of negatives isn’t going to get along with me.

At the end of the day I’m half-Asian and that’s not changing and I’m very happy about that. Guys who are nasty about race on these apps are just showing their true selves, which makes them look shallow and ignorant. I’m sure some would argue they’re just being “honest”… Or, as I call it, an asshole.

I think that apps have made it worse, it’s taken the humanity out of it all. People can be nasty and then just block them with no sense of guilt. I certainly don’t think that’s right nor does it build strong foundations for a community already marginalised within society. But, hey, everything is forever changing so maybe one day you’ll have a dancing dragon with a bashment queen dutty whining on it for a flyer. (Kidding).

Overall, we are moving forward as a society. I’ve met some beautiful, inspiring and supportive people in this crazy city and continue to meet more everyday.

I think I’m able to safely say that things will continue to improve. Not out of tolerance but out of acceptance. You can’t knock guys for having a type, I think some people just need to learn a little more tact and work on softer delivery when looking for their shags or future BFs. I’m happy to say the people I surround myself with all realise that we aren’t defined by our race, but by our actions. Hey, try an Asian, apparently we have soft skin!

West London Queer Project Spin classes

What’s on this week