“Who do you find attractive?” I asked my former boyfriend while looking at the three Filipino men on a DVD cover of a local gay-themed indie film. He pointed to the one on the left; and then he asked me the same question. I pointed to the one on right. He fancied the brown islander while I preferred the lighter half-breed. My boyfriend is Australian and I am, of course, Filipino.
“Are you dating me just because I’m white?” he asked me then, and I shot back: “Are you dating me just because I’m Asian?” Laughter broke out as we again had a discussion on our self-tags – of him being a rice queen and me a potato queen.
I was always curious about this topic, so much so that I have made this racial attractiveness a staple issue when I meet friends from different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities. And my non-scientific data gathering has been revealing an interesting trend so far: We usually like what we don’t have. Growing up in a neo-colonial developing country, where culture and the concept of beauty is very much Westernized, my eyes would be usually drawn to lighter skin, aquiline noses, and scruffy faces. I suppose this fascination is reflected in ubiquitous practices around me – from the whitening soaps, domination of mixed race celebrities, and the fame of Vicky Belo.
“I find that guy’s face that you like, boring. You see those features everywhere in Australia,” my former boyfriend told me then.
“And I find that guy’s features that you like, common. As you have noticed, you see them everywhere here,” I retorted.
Interestingly, a Filipino-American friend who lived most of his life in the US, echoes a rice queen’s lines. Even as a brown Filipino, he is drawn to fellow Filipinos, so that technically categorizes him as sticky rice. Considering he grew up in a Western country, he may be bored with what’s always around, and is therefore curious with something new and unfamiliar.
When I was in Europe, I found the same occurrence. My German heterosexual female friends fancied southern European men for the features German men don’t have. My African heterosexual male friends fancied blonde European women. If we make use of the tags gay men do, I do not know what to use for them: pasta queens and wurst kings, maybe?
What I found to deviate from my perceived trend was with friends in Geneva and Brussels, both very transient cities due to the United Nations and European Union’s presence, respectively. These are friends in development and human rights work who have traveled much of the world and have experienced various cultures. When I asked them of my racist questions, they just tell me that it doesn’t matter. Beauty is beauty, regardless of skin color or ethnic profile.
This drew out my latent understanding that all this racial attractiveness profiling is just one delusion. It is the lack of exposure or understanding that we are all the same. I noticed my former boyfriend in the club and – admittedly – I may have initially acted on being magnetized by his apparent race. But I realized that being truly attracted to someone goes beyond the awe of his blue eyes and manly scruff. It’s always been the sincerity, the beautiful humanity inside. Because once we peel off our layers of judgment and ignorance, and then we start to see what people are really made of. The world does not just serve potatoes, but is actually one grand international buffet.