The Making of a Gay Asian Community
(Rowman & Littlefield, 2002)
In this unique oral history, gay Asian Americans talk frankly about their struggle for self-determination and independence. For the first time, in their own words, pioneers in the Los Angeles movement discuss the gay scene in Southern California and the development of a distinctly Asian American identity. Dr. Amy Sueyoshi, Dean of College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, wrote that this book “plays a foundation role in queer Asian American history.” (“Queer Asian American Historiography” in Oxford Handbook of Asian American History, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
The Making of a Gay Asian Community convincingly demonstrates that these patterns are legacies of both a racialized hierarchy of desire and racial exclusion from the mainstream gay community. Using a cultural studies lens to interpret the rich oral narratives he collected, Wat shows how a dominant sexual ideology can influence our desires and contradict our memories. He follows the development of "specialty" bars that at once reinforced this dominant ideology and highlighted its contradictions. By documenting the founding of the first gay Asian organization in Southern California (Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays [A/PLG]), the author powerfully portrays the ways gay Asian men confronted these contradictions publicly and struggled to reconcile them as they fashioned a coherent identity and community based on both their race and sexuality.
The stories and analysis in this book return gay Asian men to the center of their lives and celebrates the power of individuals working collectively to define their desires and to change what is unjust around them. As living history, their voices are valuable and overdue.
It is a fascinating story that ranges across many peoples and subjects. A fascinating work for all students of gay politics.
Committee on Lesbian and Gay History Newsletter
The oral histories [Wat] presents are essential reading for any Asian-American studies or LGBT class.
Dr. Amy Sueyoshi, San Francisco State University, Journal History of Sexuality
A significant and trailblazing work.
It demonstrates effectively how both external and internal contradictions can fuel the formation of group identity....
The book is a valuable resource, both for its accessible collection of primary sources and for its appendix and methodology, which may prove useful for students embarking on oral histories. Perhaps most importantly, in recounting their personal journeys with insecurity, racism and homophobia, the narrators of Wat's oral histories are inspiring. As I finished reading this book, I yearned to hear more voices, view more photographs, and learn more of the fears and hopes of a scholar who has opened pathways to a community long neglected.
Journal of Asian American Studies
An important book that fills a long-standing gap in gay community history―the documentation of the emergence of Asian American gay communities... Lucid, cogent and well-organized... A triumph.