Trungles and Fascinasians Discuss Interracial Relationships
Trungles is a male-identified, queer-identified Asian American illustrator living in Minnesota. Fascinasians is a female-identified, straight Asian American feminist and blogger living in New York. This is based only off of our own personal experiences and we don’t attempt to speak for anyone else. This is obviously not a complete discussion so we welcome your input and comments!
Let’s talk interracial feels. What brought them up for you today? I saw the ask, oh my god.
Well, in the past week Angry Asian Girls United's gotten quite a bit of messages about Asian women worshiping white men and it's either demonizing and hating them for dating white men or being like “oh of course you should do it, they're the best”. Which, first off, not only completely erases other interracial relationships (they assume that white is the norm) but it makes me feel really uncomfortable being in my relationship with a white man. I'm trying to figure out why exactly I feel uncomfortable.
Right, yes. I mean, is it because you feel like your relationship should be indicative of something of yourself?
In some ways, yes. But it’s also almost like I feel guilty for dating someone white, like I’m betraying the Asian American community somehow. Whereas at the same time I know I shouldn’t have to justify my relationship and feel obligated to date someone Asian or non-white because I’m an AAPI advocate. Whenever I tell someone from the AAPI activist community that I’m dating someone non-Asian, there’s this certain vibe and attitude I get.
I mean, it is a relationship that was entered into with mutual parameters, and I’m sure you know the power dynamics of it all, too, so I wonder if all this strangers’ speculation is taking away how much agency you have over your own personal life?
That actually hits it right on the mark! What are your thoughts on interracial relationships?
Oh good! We’re on the same page.
In my experience, interracial relationships are really hard. I have to pare down my selection to just the guys who don’t see me as some kind of sexual prop. And even beyond that, when we’re in the relationship, there’s this tendency for them develop this comfort, this ‘familiarity,’ with my Asianness that tries to pass itself as support, and that’s when I need them to take a step back and reassess.
This is all before we even get to the part about what other people think about it.
Yeah, my current partner is completely new to Asian culture/dating someone Asian which is good and bad. He doesn’t assume to know anything or give off that entitlement vibe about my identity and culture. But it also means that there are some things that need to be discussed and aren’t a shared experience. Luckily he’s really open to learning and talking about what’s right, wrong, comfortable, appropriate, respectful, etc. Do you ever ask potential dates/partners if they’ve dated someone Asian before or if they have an Asian fetish?
Always. I used to take a lot of time to carefully and tactfully try to glean that information from them. In recent years, I just ask them directly, “Hey man. Are you an Asian fetishist?”
Same! I’ve actually become so paranoid about being objectified as an Asian woman, I’ve even looked at their internet/porn history to see if they watched racialized porn (if they watch porn at all, which is also a warning sign).
And there is a distinction between asking, “Are you an Asian fetishist?” and asking, “Do you have an Asian fetish?”
That’s a really good point. What would you say is the distinction, exactly?
Well, I used to ask, “Do you have an Asian fetish?” and people sometimes thought I was being playful and somehow implicitly approving of Asian fetishism. I suspect it’s because it separates the act from the person.
Asking, “Are you an Asian fetishist?” got me down to the dirty right away. When you use language that conflates an action with the person in a way that is inextricable, they are suddenly faced with the odd prospect of having to take very real ownership of their actions.
Asking the latter made some people angry, and the former sometimes comes off to them as flirtatious, creepily enough. If people wanted to talk about it after I asked them the latter, that was a good greenlight. If people go defensive right away, I knew there was some white supremacist bullshit that they didn’t want to address.
Ahh, I like that a lot.
I think it’s strategy thing for me, and I do that very deliberately.
In terms of when the relationship’s already going and people are side-eyeing it out of context, that’s tough. And the responsibility of understanding the power dynamics somehow shifts from the white person, who people will presume to be ignorant of PoC issues, to the PoC.
Which would explain the pressure to feel guilty.
Yes! And it’s a consequence of being Other’d, I think - everything we do is politicized, whether we want it to be or not. Even our most personal, most intimate desires and endeavors - love, crushes, sex, families - become a platform for discourse and debate.
A weird thing that is complicit in taking away our agency is when other people, well-intentioned as they might be, co-opt our personal dealings as props in a political tussle.
Every single thing we do/our existence becomes a political statement. And I’ve seen people deliberately make their personal life a political issue but it’s super problematic for literally everyone else.
Like, yeah, I’d love to talk about interracial relationships in all their political complications, but I think it’s disrespectful to make an example of someone else’s personal relationship to serve my own ends, you know?
And when other people do it with their own, that’s their thing. But it’s hard to backpedal from it and reclaim the private, intimate nature of that relationship, right?
Definitely, there are a lot of online examples that showcase interracial relationships and maybe I read too much into it but I think websites like that come close to blurring the lines between celebrating the realities of our diverse and interracial relationships and turning them into ads and poster-children for a colorblind society.
Yep, happens all the time. Suddenly our relationships and intimacies are reduced to fodder for someone else’s agenda.
And yeah, sometimes we would purportedly benefit from some of those well-meaning agendas, but the bottom line is that when our intimacies are taken from us, that’s our agency taken away.
That’s being complicit in the problem.
It’s a major violation of our lives. We end up not having ownership over anything, even the most intimate parts of our relationships.
Another conflict for me are the realities of interracial dating (for me), which I wrote about before when I wasn’t dating my partner and I was talking about how nice it’d be to be with someone who I didn’t have to educate on my culture and everything. I sometimes feel like there’s huge obstacles in terms of language and communication with my extended family, traditions and customs that all have to be taught and learned, foods to be accustomed to, future for kids (linguistically and culturally), etc.
For example: in the future, how are my grandparents and parents going to communicate with my partner if they’re not Chinese? And certain things like taking off your shoes, or eating rice porridge when you’re sick, or just little things our families do are completely new to them.
And I understand that this applies to inter-Asian relationships as well, like my grandpa hates Japanese people. And other people of color. And even with other Asian and Pacific Islanders, the culture and language thing would be a struggle too. Dating is so hard!
Right? And I don’t even have the future-family thing on deck. I think the most pressing issue in my relationships is just simply the whole ideology thing. I think it’s actually more of a me thing, not an Asian American specific thing, but not being able to engage in any oppression discourse at all is a big no-no. But more specifically, I have a pretty deferential personality sometimes. And it comes from growing up with very strict behavioral parameters, not speaking unless spoken to, revering elders, that sort of thing. And the whole honorifics thing, too.
I’ve dated men of color before, but I’ve never dated another Asian man before.
And sometimes I’m overly cautious in trying not to overstep my bounds, and then by comparison my partner is just kind of stepping everywhere like he owns every space, physical and conversational.
I almost wish I had a little more experience exploring those relationship dynamics in my personal life, but I rarely get past the “Asian fetishist” conversation before I know it’s not gonna work out.
Yes yes yes, actually I’ve never dated someone Asian; most of my exes were white when I was in Arizona. And I’ve only dated one person since I’ve moved to New York. So I feel you on the more experience with relationship dynamics. I also tend to date older so the power dynamics with an older white male and me are challenging at times. It’s important to talk about it. And the Asian fetishist conversation is usually a deal-breaker.
It’s the biggest deal-breaker for me!
It’s interesting….many Asian American advocates I know end up dating non-Asians and then get shit for it all the time.
Yeah! I see that all the time.
In conclusion, let’s run away to SF together!
Shoutout to my wonderful, amazing, and supportive partner. Lots of love <3
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- williamjh said:Thanks for posting this! As someone who tries to be a good ally and as a white man in a relationship with an APIA woman, I’ve definitely found it important to think critically about my relationship and talk about these issues with my partner.
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- tsubasadreams said:Oh my god! How do I get involved in conversations like this!?
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