Am I ugly? No I am not. It's a battle though.
Several years ago while Linsanity was a thing, someone wrote a column in the New Yorker about whether Jeremy Lin’s potential as a sports icon/hero was being diminished by “the fact” that he was ugly. This was but an opening salvo. The columnist went on to disclaim meritocracies of business C suites, citing statistical advantages of tall white men and the general appearance of ostensible health in leadership at almost every professional sector. There was mention of FDR’s disability and the mutability of public media at the time. But it began with the possibility that Jeremy Lin’s potential was being muted by his ugliness. I’ve wrestled with this column for years now. I got what they were saying (Lin wasn’t about to front a boy band), but I felt a little sick at the idea that Jeremy Lin, a fucking NBA pro, was not successful somehow?
Years later, Lin would do an interview on 60 Minutes that rocked me emotionally. A seemingly facile exchange left me profoundly affected. Asked whether racism factored in denying or paving access to his own success, he flatly, unapologetically, matter-of-factly replied:
I developed MASSIVE GOODS alongside Graham Kolbeins with one unique credo: To create more iterations of the large Asian masculine in this world, so people could see how beautiful Asian men are and hence everybody is. We threw around concepts like fat positivity and gender abolition. To create more awareness of queer Asian masculinity would be to fix America’s totally broken idea of masculinity generally. I wanted everybody to hear it over and over: queer bodies were absolutely capable of gigantesque presence but we also needed to get over our obsession with size.
And yes perhaps I’m making this work sound more important than it actually was. The net total of my work was simply that I brokered gay Japanese porn into the West, and there was already a great fandom for it on the internet. The sum total is a bunch of books of porn and some clothes. But yield me a little self-importance and I can admit to being wistful, as the zeitgeist seems to appreciate the splendors of queer Asian masculinity with or without me. With or without a body of work I poured 100% of myself into for close to a decade. Maybe I miss the work. Maybe I don’t. I am glad it’s out there. I also hope I get invited back to the orgiastic after parties of this work. Would that they return with equal ferocity, though.
This Summer, I have published book 20 and 21 of a career revolving around this floating idea of beautiful men, but I am too tired from my day job, my new persona, and all of the other parts of my family, to properly promote this work. That’s what I tell myself, at least. Five years ago I would be touring with Tagame, Chip and Graham promoting the fuck out of them. Doing my best to grab attention at the latest hour of the hottest parties.
I still want to tell everybody to pay closer attention to the queer Asian masculine, as a bell weather for human intimacies at large. The body is a part and it is a whole in the universe, and if we neglect one we neglect all. You would never tell me I am ugly, would you? So think twice before you disparage an appearance of someone who could be my kin.
I see my work everywhere now. That’s the difference. Stuff like this is meant to be diffuse. I see my work in the world manifest in so many important ways, and I am so pleased with some of the progress we’ve made as a physical, visceral, lust-filled, naked and primal whole. I am happy to be a minor RNA strand in the cultural helix.
And I can now admit that I once thought Jeremy Lin was indeed ugly. That is no longer the case and I am proud of myself. I picture Jeremy Lin raw, liberated. Even with silly hairdos. I can imagine the filthiest abstraction of beauty. I can feel the pugnacity of beauty. I can feel beauty pulsating and thrashing me to a pulp of raw material for the universe. All of this vicious beauty between us. You are so beautiful I become nauseous and simultaneously overwhelmed with appetite for pure sublimation, to meet exquisite thresholds of exquisite bodies. Can you imagine what would happen if we let beauty take over?
You can buy Our Colors at a bookstore near you. My favorite is Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, if you wanna support an online business.
The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame is probably a little harder to get your hands on because it’s full of *cough* stuff. But this link will get you there.
And please support queer literature extra mucho right now. The book bans you hear about on social media are real, and they’re really awful.