The Stake That Sticks Out

Stake That Sticks OutThe Stake that Sticks Out Gets Hammered Down
– Japanese Proverb

The message is harsh. The meaning is obvious. But this article isn’t about being gay in Japan. It’s about how the proverb applies to gay Asians in America.

It is Gay Pride month in the US and Canada. As the month long celebration comes to an end, I reflect on the celebration of diversity and the gay Asian man.  We are an oddity amongst the gays and an oddity amongst the Asians. Whether we believe the proverb is right or wrong, we all try to fit in. Amongst the gays, we hide our Asianness. Amongst the Asians, we hide our gayness. Not necessarily in the closet about either attributes, but we down play them so as to fit in.

There are a few exceptions. We have various gay Asian groups marching in the Gay Pride parade all over US and Canada this month. Earlier this year, the first LGBT contingent marched in New York’s Chinese lunar new year parade through New York’s Chinatown. Also earlier this year, an LGBT Vietnamese group marched in the annual Tet Parade.

The mix of the gay and Asian cultures in these events may seem odd to those who do not live in San Francisco, the gay Asian mecca of the US, where gays have participated in the Chinese New Year Parade for over a decade. For the rest of us, we try not to stick out. We don’t have the support system that is already in place. We are our own trailblazers within our own social circles.

As minorities amongst minorities, we automatically stand out. We can assimilate and try to hide parts of ourselves or we can be proud of our sexual orientation and heritage. The next time you are at a social gathering, gay or straight, Asian or mixed, talk about your gay life and your Asian parents. Be the token gay and the token Asian and the token geek.

Be courteous and respectful. You’re at the gathering as a guest. You’re not there at a protest rally. Unless it is a protest rally on the subject, don’t hijack someone’s rally or party. Activism has its place, but it won’t win you friends at a party.

The Japanese proverb not only applies to society’s criticism of what they see as negative, but also about the positive. It is impolite to flaunt your good fortunes. Just think how obnoxious is the guy who brags about his bonus, his new car, or his straight-A kid. Just because you’ve got a fabulous gay Asian life doesn’t mean you have to rub everyone’s face in it. Share your life, don’t smother people with it.  The “stake that sticks up…”, also implies having a little humility, as we all need to get along.

Be out. Be proud. Be humble. But don’t be an ass.

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