The Making of a Gay Asian Community: An Oral History of Pre-AIDS Los Angeles / Edition 1

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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. Despite its size, until recently the gay Asian American community in Los Angeles was fragmented and marginalized. Gay Asian men separated into their own ethnic cliques and preferred whites as sexual partners. Eric C. Wat 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. Wat's analysis returns 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Gay Times
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.
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.
Journal History of Sexuality, Volume 12, No. 3 July 2005 - Amy Sueyoshi
Making of a Gay Asian Community is a significant and trailblazing work. It demonstrates effectively how both external and internal contradictions can fuel the formation of group identity; even as A/PLG was disbanding due to irreconcilable differences, GAPSN was emerging from that very conflict. 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.
Consciously modeling the title of this work after E.P. Thompson's , the author argues that communities, like classes, are not just an aggregate of individuals forming an ahistorical category, but in fact can only be seen, as Thompson said, "over an adequate period of social change," in which "we observe patterns in their relationships, their ideas, and their institutions." It is with that observation in mind that the author presents oral histories exploring the formation of the Asian gay community in Los Angeles, with a particular emphasis on the founding of Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays in late 1980. Interpreting the oral narratives, he analyzes the racialization of sexual desire and the dynamics of power in relationships and communities. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742511101
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Series: Pacific Formations Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric C. Wat received his M.A. in American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. He lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Before the Beginning Chapter 3 Caution and Abandonment on the L.A. Nightscape Chapter 4 A Fascism of Desire Chapter 5 The Call from Morris Kight Chapter 6 Old Scars on a New Body Chapter 7 The Next Generation Chapter 8 Afterword Chapter 9 Appendix I: On Methods and Methodology Chapter 10 Appendix II: Interviews Chapter 11 Bibliography Chapter 12 Index

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