Pride & Joy Day 3: Fat Femme Asian

[Today’s donation was made to People of Color Against AIDS Network. Click here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

“No fats, no femmes, no Asians” are a common criterion on gay hook-up apps. I also use it as my blog address and as the title of a chapter in my debut nonfiction, Gentlemen Prefer Asians: Tales of Gay Indonesians and Green Card Marriages, about my own insecurities when I realize I’m all three of them.

While I’ve always been comfortable with my femininity, it took me decades to come to terms with my Asian features: the wax-apple nose, the brown skin, the brown-black hair. I was so obsessed with getting lighter skin that I went to the dermatologist to get whitening glutathione injection (it stopped working after a while). But you reach a certain age and unless you have the time and money (and high pain threshold), you begin to understand there are some aspects of your physical appearance you can’t change.

I was really skinny, even borderline underweight. “I could eat everything and not gain weight,” I used to brag. Then my metabolism slowed down and I had to work hard to achieve and maintain a certain body type. Some days, I feel like the sexiest vixen on the planet. Other days, I can’t even see my naked reflection in the mirror.

When I first started taking HIIT bootcamp classes in Pasadena in March 2018, my HIIT trainer asked me what I wanted to look like.

“Kylie Minogue,” I said.

“I think that would require more than exercising and dieting,” he said.

“OK, then Janet Jackson, Rhythm Nation era,” I said, and he made sure I did lots of squats and glute work.

For a long time, bootcamp was a routine. I’d go every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, and Saturday morning. It kept my weight in check. I felt stronger, more energetic, more confident in my own body. Then the pandemic hit and the bootcamp closed. I have to make time and push myself to work out alone, and it’s just not the same. I’ve made friends at bootcamp over the years and I miss everybody, even the douchey guys.

I’m still far away from looking like Janet in 1989. I’m what the gays call “skinny fat” – when your limbs don’t look overweight but you have a belly pouch containing all the delicious calories and the carbs because you just can’t stop eating white bread with Nutella at one in the morning.

But today, I want to feel proud of my body. Today, I’m owning my wax-apple nose, my limp wrists, my affection for all things pink and girly and camp, my cellulite, my muffin top, and the arms I’ve worked so hard for.

The pink cropped tee I’m wearing is 100% cotton, Gildan shirt whose sleeves and a third of the bottom hem I cut off. I used several dozen Swarovski crystals for the bold, glittery words. And the fact that this shade of pink looks good on me makes me love my Asian skin even more.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.