Colorsplained – The Struggle of Being Mixed-Race in China’s Queer Dating Market

To best get an understanding of what I am about to discuss, I feel it’s essential to introduce myself. My name is Reggie, and I was born in Manilla, Philippines. My Mother is Filipino and my Father is British. I lived in the Philippines for the first 8 years of my life before moving to England with my Father. I’ve experienced and learned much about both cultures so a bit of this and that will be conveyed through my personality. I am neither one nor the other.

Simply put, I am me. However, it is through this that I feel I lack an identity here in China, especially as a Gay man. I never came here with the inclination that I’ll be viewed as a foreigner, nor did I come expecting to be treated like a local but somehow the reality dish I was served made me feel something I never anticipated.

I remember my first week here in Beijing: So full of excitement and nerves due to claiming complete independence over my life living so far away from home. My new friends and I went on our first tourist trip to Tian’anmen Square where I gained my first experience of the staring and the gawking one is likely to experience from the locals – and the not-so-subtle camera in your face, filming and taking pictures of you. 

“Unhealthy love is two people stoking a shared fantasy of desperate beauty, weaponizing passion and desire.”
― Qiu Miaojin, Notes of a Crocodile

However, during this trip, there was a moment that, at the time, didn’t really linger in my mind but, after thinking about it now, should have made me stop and say, “wait a minute…” A Beijing local approached our group and asked if he could take a picture with the foreigners. We all immediately agreed and started to group up for the picture, as did I… until he gave me his phone. I looked at him and he gestured for me to take the picture. I didn’t fit into his notion of what a foreigner looks like. 

He knew I wasn’t Chinese as he never tried to engage with me in Chinese and only used hand gestures or played a game of charades. Due to the excitement of just being here though, I casually brushed it off and took the picture, thinking nothing more of it. Until it happened again, and again. Out of all the pictures we took with Locals that day, I was probably included in half of them. Once again, I never thought much of it but I did make a mental note. 

Not in Kansas Anymore 

Now lets us up the scale some more and introduce the “Gay” element. Trying to date or find someone in China as a mixed-Asian Gay man was a hurdle I could have never prepared for. In basic essence: My identity is incredibly niche. I am not “foreign-looking” enough to earn the privileges of a foreigner looking to date but I am also not Chinese or Asian enough to be able to speak to the ‘Asians only’ crowd. 

I’m not even in the gray zone in between; my zone is the faded color or the exotic shade that people would HAVE to be searching for to even be found. I can’t count how many times guys have started conversations with me on dating Apps with “Are you a foreigner?’” to which I reply “Yes, I am mixed British-Filipino.” To which the invariable response back is it explains why I look Asian but asks whether I would be in a position to introduce them to other foreigners – in short, those who stereotypically look foreign. 

While two things can be true at the same time, the simple truth can be explained in one sentence: I am simply hoping to fake it until I make it. 


The first time this happened, I was incredibly confused, but after the second time it happened and after I acknowledged my anger, I began to understand it would be a common occurrence. So I began to use the block button and laughed the absurdity of such requests off. My mother always warned me against standing out – a common feature in South East Asian parenting styles. But I soon found out that, for me, to even be able to exist here, I needed to do my best to do the opposite and stand out as much as I could. Otherwise, I would be invisible. 

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This is when I thought to myself, “Is this the worth of my identity here? Should I really be defined by the way I look or the passport I hold?” And so I denied and defied that reality: I made sure to be as present as I could possibly be; I’d be out every weekend, sometimes even weekdays; I’d do my best to make as many friends as I could; I’d post on social media a lot; I’d go shopping for new clothes regularly and buy as many skincare products as I could just to make myself more presentable; I did just about anything to get my name out there, to get it known. I refused to be rendered invisible, and so I worked harder than my other foreign friends to reach a level of access that came naturally to them by simply just existing and embodying a stereotypical Western aesthetic. 

Taking Stock

Please, don’t take this the wrong way: I wasn’t fighting to be noticed; I was fighting to not have my identity erased and molded into something that fits the perspective of other people simply because they have this one-track mindset of what a foreigner should be. 

Now, doing all this clearly would have some detrimental effect on one’s mental state and I wasn’t an exception. I first came to China as “a confident little twink” as I often joke with my friends, ready to take on the world, but day by day my confidence dwindled as I felt I still wasn’t skinny enough after seeing daters on Apps proudly display their impossibly low weight numbers and so I comfort ate, and soon enough the weight began to pile on and I caught in an endless cycle of self-hatred, wondering if I’ll ever be truly enough for the brutal and cold standards that the Gay society here is reinforcing. 

“No one will ever know about your tragedy, and the world eluded its responsibility ages ago.”
― Qiu Miaojin, Notes of a Crocodile

To this day, I am learning to fight back: Re-learning to love myself first, to find my confidence, and get back up on my feet knowing my worth is defined by me and not by other people’s expectations of what I should be. 

Anyone who knows me and is reading this might think “but you’re such an extrovert and always seem so confident.” While two things can be true at the same time, the simple truth can be explained in one sentence: I am simply hoping to fake it until I make it. 

It’s better to be perceived as this other than as something broken. 

There’s a saying back home that “no one hates the gays more than the gays” and I feel like this truly and utterly resonates here in China. We are just SO destructive to each other. Why can’t we just let each other exist? Why is there such competition? To what end will we finally realize that we are living through other people’s ideals and not for ourselves? We starve ourselves to lose an inch or two or force ourselves to the gym because that one hot daddy you like says “into muscle only.” 

I say this, knowing full well that I’ve fallen for this trap. Now I fear that, in fighting for an existence, I’ve fully lost my sense of self. 

About Author

Reggie is a British-Filipino educator based in Beijing. He is also a part of the international Queer community in the city.

Photos: Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Colorsplained – The Struggle of Being Mixed-Race in China’s Queer Dating Market

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