From a Gay Asian Man

The following are my insights, as a Gay man of the global majority, as I try to embrace work on discharging oppressor material1:

This Women’s and Men’s Workshop was not easy for me, but I’m glad I was there. I got to notice what it’s like being on the other side of the equation—the oppressor side. I got to try to identify what I have been trained not to notice. I’ve watched white Co-Counselors grapple with the oppressor role as they try to embrace the work on ending racism. It was incredibly useful to get to do this myself, full-out2 and undefended.

As a person of the global majority, I have been very involved with RC work on ending racism. I have not focused much on oppressor material. I can see now that this has been a mistake. Attending the workshop changed my understanding of liberation work in some way that I can’t fully explain yet, except to say that it’s a more complete picture of facing where we don’t much like ourselves.

CHOOSING TO WORK ON OPPRESSOR DISTRESSES

We all carry oppressor material. Nobody seems to easily choose to work on it. I’ve been having sessions since the workshop on choosing to work on it. I’m having some re-evaluations. I notice how the literal recordings3 of being oppressed also play out4 in my oppressor role—all of the things that were done to me (for example, being dominated) are recorded and sometimes play out at others. It feels mentally unpalatable (not fun!) to work on this material. When I work on being oppressed, I can at least feel grief and outrage and a sense of not having lost my integrity. But for me, working on oppressor recordings feels “dead.” It feels like the most uninteresting thing I could ever think about. These recordings do not want to be directly challenged. My mind can’t stand to look there. This reaction must conceal a huge hurt to my intelligence. That hurt must take up a huge part of my ability to think, and it is invisible to me. I can’t stand to notice it.

The oppressor pattern requires such ongoing dishonesty! The workshop helped me understand this for myself.

UNCENSORED INFORMATION FROM WOMEN

I got a fuller picture of how women have been hurt by sexism and trained to accommodate and always be second to men. When you’re at a workshop where the women as a group have decided to challenge this, it suddenly becomes very obvious. You walk into a room, and the women don’t focus on you. I also saw more clearly how this runs5 for Asian women. I finally began to understand its horrible impact.

Barbara Love6 worked with the people of the global majority in a morning group on sexism. First the women had a minute each to say how sexism had affected their lives. Then the men had a minute each to say how they had witnessed sexism in their families and elsewhere in their lives. We got real, uncensored information. I saw the women in a way they hadn’t been able to show before, or that I couldn’t see. I had to look at the tacit agreements between us. Barbara asked each of the women to require something of the five men in regard to ending sexism. Each of the guys was asked to agree to and promise to move something forward. This led to some real conversations about our unspoken relationship agreements.

I started thinking about all my relationships with women, in particular women in my family. I felt embarrassed and ashamed for having gone along with the oppression for so long. But I also knew that it must be bigger than me. It wasn’t just a personal failing. I wondered how I could keep from just falling into feeling bad, going into that feeling of “deadness.”

How can we let someone serve us, knowing that it hurts and disrespects that person? How can we allow ourselves to go along with it? Barbara used the phrase “servitude of women.” I heard that, finally, too. It suddenly occurred to me that I had devoted my life to openly fighting against people being made to be in servitude but had seen this primarily as a racism issue. I hadn’t acknowledged how it affected women in relationship to men.

How could I not understand this? What happened to me here? I started remembering all the ways that the women I knew had been in servitude to me. There is a pull here to be defensive and want to think of all the ways I have tried to do right in this regard. However, I can see that I have not considered eliminating sexism and male domination to be as important as eliminating racism, and thus how confused I have been about liberation for all humans.

CONNECTING WITH MEN OF THE GLOBAL MAJORITY 

I appreciated the chance to connect with the men of the global majority. I had a mini-session with one man about my realization that sexism killed my mother. As an East Asian woman, my mother was raised to forgo herself in order to care for other people. She raised five children, had seven or eight pregnancies, waited on my father, tended to her four boys, took in sick relatives, and worked a job. She ran a homeless-shelter program for over twenty-five years for homeless elderly men. She helped run a support program for teen girls trying to have their babies. She also did many other things. She was always exhausted. She eventually died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). She gave herself away. I finally got a clean shot at7 my grief and despair about her death, after seven years. I also got a clearer picture of the rage my sister feels when she is around our family.

I recently spoke at length to my brother about my re-evaluations about sexism and male domination patterns in our family, and the oppression of Asian women. We discussed the injustices that had been perpetuated. He also shared how angry his wife is about it. We began shifting something in our own family. Instead of colluding with and trivializing sexism, we tried to have an honest conversation about what had actually happened in our family. Something must have changed: Since the workshop my sister has brought up male domination in every conversation with me. I’m just listening (it’s still hard), trying to understand her experience.

SEXISM AND MALE DOMINATION, AND BEING GAY

As a Gay man, I also discharged at the workshop about how, early on, I rejected mainstream heterosexual male identity. I had been dominated a lot by the older males of my family and was sexually abused by an older white male. I have a clear memory of deciding that I would not be like these males. After years of discharge, it has become clearer to me how deciding not to be like them was a big part of my struggle to find an identity as an adult male. It certainly figures into my decision to take on8 a Gay identity.

It was at the workshop that I really understood that I had attempted to escape sexism and male domination. And I realized that despite my early decision, I had in no way escaped being an oppressor. I understood that with my internalized oppression from being a Gay man (and my early sexual hurts), I was not only set up to dominate women but also to still be dominated by men sexually (given my sexual compulsions).

Then I really started to understand how ending sexism and male domination were completely interwoven with my re-emergence and liberation. The “trivialization of sexism” that is part of how men have been hurt and confused had not allowed me to see this clearly before.

FOCUSING ON BEING AN OPPRESSOR 

I also figured out something about my own power. I had a chance to decide that, regardless of restimulations about being oppressed by racism, I would not identify as an oppressed person at the workshop. I decided that I would not be distracted from my decision to work on being an oppressor, that I could actually choose how to respond. I have been trained to not notice my oppressor patterns, and this is what I wanted the opportunity to figure out.

I’ve noticed that when we are challenged to look at our oppressor material, what comes up is feeling angry about how we were oppressed. Many of us men feel very victimized and angry at times. I was furious a couple of times at the workshop. I tried my best to keep the upset in sessions. As an Asian raised in the United States, keeping it in a session initially brought up huge feelings of having been targeted by racism and then silenced and made to feel invisible. However, I held on to my personal policy to remain identified as the oppressor for the duration of the workshop.

As the weekend progressed, it became clear to me how angry we men are about the disrespect that was aimed at us as children. It often came from our female caretakers. The intersection of hurts from my mother, and being dominated by the males in my family, is a good place for me to work. As I work there, it becomes clearer that men are often confused that women are oppressing them in the present. Sexism gives men full permission to blame and target women with this confusion, while also enforcing patterns of “trivializing” the effects of sexism and male domination on women.

I listened to women in a topic group on reproduction. It was horrifying to me. It was the first time I had actually heard uncensored stories of what women have endured regarding abortion. They talked about the terror, the fear, the reality of dying from procedures, the grief over their aborted children, and the stigma and isolation they experienced. I kept wondering, how is it that I’m a health-care provider who treats women and thinks about their reproductive health and I have not understood this? I have generally felt that I was a conscious and understanding person. Since the workshop I have been thinking about how I have not been aware of it, after nearly five decades on the planet.

A TURNING POINT IN MEN'S LIBERATION WORK 

On Saturday evening the men met separately with Tim. For me, it was a sea change—a turning point—in men’s liberation work. It looked like this group of men finally saw a path forward for men’s liberation. And it happened because we were trying to figure out how to truly own the oppressor work on sexism. I had not foreseen this, yet it seems so clear in hindsight that the change couldn’t have happened without this added challenge.

Tim talked, and we gave feedback about, what we wanted to see happen. He discussed the possibility of a man working on sexism and male domination in front of the whole workshop. Tim said that it was still impossible for anyone to do that and not try to gain the favor of the women—to be a “good guy.” He also said that at the same time it was important for us to try to do the work just for ourselves. He asked us to do a mini-session on trying to put ourselves at the center of ending sexism and male domination, including noticing how they had ruined our lives and not given us full access to being human.

It seemed like something shifted in the group. Perhaps it was the right circumstance of having this group together with the women so focused on their liberation, having Diane and Tim leading us, and having a group of men who had worked on these issues. My sense was that something shifted.

Tim also spoke about the need for every man to back9 any man who would courageously step up and show himself and work openly on this topic. He said that the man would not be left alone feeling isolated from and abandoned by any other man in the room. That we would solidly stand with him, no matter what he said or decided to work on. Nobody would back away from him. That he would be able to look out and see all of us there with him. This principled statement affected us deeply and offered a clear way forward. It gave me a sense that we would do the right thing no matter what, as difficult as it might feel. It was a chance to get it right.

And we would go forward together. No great proclamation was made. Something just shifted. It was a baby step, but deeply important. For me, something different felt possible that hadn’t felt possible before.

Thank you to Diane and all of the women for holding out these realities for so long. You have been deeply generous. I’m going to try and run with this, now that I have a glimpse of what it is and how hard the oppression has been on everyone, including me. Thank you to Tim and all of my brothers for all of your support and understanding and help along the way here.

AFTER THE WORKSHOP

I just led a Regional workshop for people of the global majority. Having recently attended the Women’s and Men’s Workshop, I had a whole different thought process about my own workshop. I consulted with Azadeh Khalili,10 and we discussed the work she and others have been pushing forward in my Region11 on ending sexism and male domination. I felt awkward and uninformed. It occurred to me that the creation of a new Area in Harlem to be run by black women, and the fact that half of the leadership of the people of the global majority in our Region is female, requires that sexism and male domination be addressed as a central liberation issue in the people-of-the-global-majority work. It would be a contradiction12 for a man targeted by racism to propose this and to follow the lead of the women here.

There is much to learn and figure out still, but let’s get started, right?

"Masayoshi"
USA


1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Full-out” means without restraint.
3 Distress recordings
4 “Play out” means are acted out.
5 “Runs” means operates.
6 Barbara Love is the International Liberation Reference Person for African-Heritage People.
7 “Got a clean shot at” means had an unobstructed path to discharging.
8 “Take on” means assume.
9 “Back” means support.
10 Azadeh Khalili is the Area Reference Person for the Brooklyn Gardens, New York City, New York,
USA, RC Community.
11 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
12 Contradiction to distress


Last modified: 2017-04-06 16:01:36-07