'Mr. Wong's Dong Emporium': Racism and the Gay Community

Published: September 28, 2011

Gay people love to talk about the diversity of our "community." But sometimes our actions fail to measure up to our words.

Recently, the queer Asian community in New York City was outraged by plans for a new gay party to be called "Mr. Wong’s Dong Emporium." The event, conceived by Joey Izrael and the gay rapper Cazwell, was advertised using highly offensive language and stereotypes about Asian Americans, including a "Sum Hung Boys erotic dance troupe" and a "Happy Ending massage den."

To add insult to injury, when members of the queer Asian community spoke up and objected to this party, many non-Asian gay men dismissed these concerns by saying that it was just campy fun and that we needed to "lighten up."

Fortunately, the Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY) refused to be silent. GAPIMNY published an open letter to the party promoters explaining why this party was so offensive to the queer Asian community.

To their credit, the promoters apologized and changed the name and theme of the party. Whether or not this becomes a teaching moment for the broader LGBT community remains to be seen, however.

As an openly gay Asian-American man, I often feel like a stranger in my own queer nation. A number of news articles in recent years have documented the widespread racism against Asians in the gay party scene, as well as in gay cyberspace.

The "Dong Emporium" incident is just one of many racist incidents that have angered the queer Asian community over the years. Twenty years ago, in the spring of 1991, the queer Asian community protested a New York City fundraiser by Lambda Legal that was held at the Broadway musical Miss Saigon, which had used white people in yellowface to play Asian roles.

In 2000, queer Asians were enraged by a Hotlanta circuit party that featured a "Year of the Dragon" theme and used offensive Asian stereotypes like a "china doll" pageant competition, a "fried rice" dance party, and an "ancient Chinese secret: boxers or briefs" event. Around the same time, there was a post on a circuit party website that complained about being "harassed by tons of creepy Asians" and only being into people with "eyelids and real noses."

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