The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog—Stereotypes Against Queer Asian American and Pacific Islanders

Posted on May 8th, 2015 by IMPACT in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

Previously, we talked about the hardships of queer Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ (AAPI) coming out process due to being both queer and AAPI. May is Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, and in celebration of AAPI’s lives in the US, this post will focus on another side of the hardship–stereotypes of queer AAPIs. A stereotype is the unfair belief that all people with a similar characteristic are the same. In the case of queer AAPIs, stereotypes about being queer and about AAPI intersect.

Expectations of Femininity
Expectations that queer AAPI men are feminine is an example of how being queer and AAPI intersect. Often the masculinity of AAPI men is challenged through widely held beliefs about AAPI men: less-than-average penis size (which has been falsified [1]), smaller body frame, geekiness, and not being sexually attractive [2]. Homophobia often strips queer men of their masculinity. For queer AAPI men, anti-Asian stereotypes and homophobia come together to create an even bigger barrier to claiming their manliness. For example, in gay and bi communities, AAPI men are often treated as less sexually desirable; some individuals even put “No Asian” disclaimers on their dating profiles.

Queer AAPI women are also affected by such expectations. Wen Liu’s quote captures this well: “I don’t know if that’s about the stereotype of queer Asians or queer butch women, but we’re mostly invisible … Even when you think you are butch-presenting, you won’t be taken seriously as someone who’s masculine. Being Asian is already seen as effeminate.”

In both cases, we can see that there are strict feminine guidelines that queer AAPI are expected to fit. Those who fit in suffer from negativity surrounding these expectations, and those who don’t suffer from lack of visibility [3].

Asians as Sexual Objects
Expectations of femininity of queer AAPI comes with an additional stereotype that queer AAPI are submissive, especially in the bedroom. Originally a stereotype assigned to AAPI women, sexual submissiveness is also a stereotype of queer AAPI men [4].

The “submissive-in-bedroom” AAPI stereotype is sometimes sexualized, as seen by “Asian” fetishes. Fetishes are objects, non-genital body parts, and/or activities that are desired for sexual arousal. While having fetishes isn’t wrong, having an “Asian fetish” is problematic because this treats AAPI individuals as sex objects that are willing to please their partner in any way possible. The most blatant example is the existence of “Asian” porn categories across sexual orientations. The “submissive Asian” stereotype shown in pornography angers many in the AAPI community who see themselves as unique human beings, not just stereotypes.

This video provides personal experiences with stigma against Asians and Pacific Islanders gay and bi communities.

These stereotypes are common, and it isn’t an individual’s fault that these exist. However, the responsibility of challenging these stereotypes falls on every one of us. This May, while celebrating the culture and food of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, challenge your own stereotypes of queer AAPIs and help make the US a more welcoming place.

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[1] Veale, D., Miles, S., Bramley, S., Muir, G., & Hodsoll, J. (2014). Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15,521 men. BJU international. doi: 10.1111/bju.13010. Advance online publication. Retrieved from;jsessionid=F7670752DDE9023EB40C6317BD9FF9EF.f02t02

[2] Poon, M. K. L., & Ho, P. T. T. (2008). Negotiating social stigma among gay Asian men. Sexualities. 11(1-2), 245-268. doi: 10.1177/1363460707085472

[3] Garnets, L., & Kimmel, D. C. (Eds.). (1993). Psychological perspectives on lesbian and gay male experiences. New York, New York: Columbia University Press.

[4] Nguyen, H. T. (2014). A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.

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