Being Filipino, I am already a mix of the many countries and cultures that have shaped (some would say invaded) the Philippines. But with my family immigrating in the early 70s to the U.S., that really ensured my development into a “banana,” a derogatory label meaning yellow outside and white inside and describing a person who is Asian in appearance only but totally Western in thought and action. Filipinos by and large already embrace the American culture – the U.S. occupying the country briefly and of course saving it from the Japanese in WW2. Now take Filipinos and raise them in the U.S and you get a bunch of very confused youths. We didn’t know if we wanted to be White or Black or Hispanic but never our own culture. And then put being gay into that mix and then you get a lot of bananas.

Dating as a banana

I started experimenting with guys at 15 and had my first relationship at 18 and all the guys I dated were White. The American soldiers that saved my country were White and Jesus Christ was White and since 95% of Filipinos are Catholic, we really were conditioned to worship White guys. My best gay friends were Chinese, Burmese and other Asians but they also dated White guys and I did not find other Asian men attractive at that time. This pattern continued on to my late 20’s and I worked through a number of failed relationships not really knowing why I was so unhappy…until I got a job in Japan. Then everything changed.

Finding my Asian identity

Although during my first 2 years in Japan I dated other Expats who happened to be White, but I started noticing Japanese men and the different subtleties of faces, hair, height and bodies and started to appreciate the Asian physique. Then I looked into the mirror and saw an attractive Asian man and then started the process of healing. I was able to love myself as Asian and understood what was missing in my earlier relationships with White men. I started dating other Asians and never looked back.

I also started finding other guys with color attractive. My job in an advertising agency took me to many major cities around the world including gay meccas like London, Amsterdam and Sydney. I started seeing the discrimination that “sticky rice” were experiencing in these cities. One time, my Vietnamese companion and I were laughed at and jeered while we were kissing at a dance party in Sydney. I realized I may have done the same things earlier in the US when I didn’t know any better and felt ashamed and angry. When I would go back home I started going to Asian groups and realized that sticky rice were a minority or they did not have such a strong voice. Fortunately, now things have changed and are still changing.

What I learned as a banana

I learned that it doesn’t really matter who or what race you date; if you do not love yourself as an Asian man first, you cannot begin to love anybody else. It took me almost 30 years to realize this important fact but once I did, I became so much happier and was able to have deeper relationships. Now, although I find all races attractive, I just happen to like being “sticky rice.” I met another Pinoy online almost five years ago and have been in a relationship since.