“Are we the kind of boys we want? And if not, who will have we, if we won’t have us?” – Yolo Akili
The strangest thing happened.
I spent the last two years trying to make this South East Asian man love me back (at the level I was at) to no avail. Then suddenly I got what I wanted…in another person.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was searching for an assistant in early 2012. It was my first hire at work and (if possible) I really wanted to use the opportunity to award a young man of color an entry level non-profit position and the mentorship I sorely lacked the last few years. (There’s another post dealing with that whole process, but I’m unsure if I’ll ever publish it).
I ended up with a nice young man; he wasn’t that young, but I read him as such. He has a research background like myself, but lacked real world experience. It was a perfect opportunity and he was eager to learn.
At some point getting to know one another it became clear he was primarily attracted to Black men and wanted to get it in. I have this policy; no sex with people I work with/will see on a regular basis for business purposes. It’s just better for my sanity and I’ve seldom broken the rule.
But the timing was interesting. Considering on paper he was everything I was fighting for at the time, I couldn’t understand why I was so blah about him. Upon further reflection, I realized why I wasn’t attracted to him. The epiphany shook me to the core.
OMG. He’s me! The Filipino version of me. That’s why I’m not attracted to him!!
I immediately thought of the docu-poem by Yolo Akili. The first time I watched I was amazed most of the guys explicitly mentioned gender presentation. Ten years doing this work and I’m still amazed at the varying definitions of “masculine” and “feminine.”
Back to me, there was nothing “wrong” with my assistant. I wouldn’t stop if I saw him on the street, but he was definitely attractive in his own right. His mannerism and such swayed towards “feminine” but he has a strong personality and his interested varied like mine. Overall I would consider him androgynous. Of course race factored into all these assessments.
But it was his personality that had me intrigued:
He was funny, but in a goofy/quirky way (like me…although I’m more dry/sarcastic/bitchy).
He was very smart and driven (also like me, though I tend to wear it in a more elitist way).
And he was definitely a caretaker (like myself). For such a young person, he read more “old soul” than I do (and that’s saying a lot). Loyal and humble, he would make a great husband. But there was something missing: excitement.
And as much as I call myself boring in a self-deprecating way, to see it…to experience it personified in another person was an out of body experience to say the least.
When you have a long term romantic relationship with someone, but you never get a label, part of what they rob you of is feedback. No label means no accountability. The two “relationships” I’ve had since returning to New York, both intimate but unstructured, didn’t allow a space for the two men to critique me in a healthy way. I know how I felt about them, but no concrete language about how they felt about me. I can analyze their actions (and reactions), but they were both non-communicative, so not in their own words.
And it makes sense. The Bay Area was a hostile environment for me. It was unsafe, unsupportive…dare I say unloving. A specific version of Tony had to show up to survive that experience.
Which is a complete mindfuck because that’s not the version of Tony my undergrad friends know. That Tony was much more happy go lucky. It wasn’t until I was back in NY and the two groups started interacting more frequently that I even suspected something was wrong. Only then did unpacking the trauma that was my Masters program begin.
So am I the kind of man I want? Definitely. I love me, I get me. But not the version I thrusted upon this man for the last two years. That Tony was operating from a deficit. He was so starved for a genuine connection, when he found it that fateful night in Orlando, he became fixated on keeping it by any means necessary.
In Yolo’s poem the participant at 3:15 says he would date “a more masculine version of me.” I get that on a certain level. On one hand, I want someone with the same values, but to honor my Learner, I also want someone with a different background/interests. Dating interracially is the easiest way to find that (though clearly not the only way).
It’s easier to appreciate the time I had with Boston boy with this new lens. I can’t speak for him, but the situation makes a lot more sense now.