Written by Sam Riedman
This first appeared in the December 2020 Issue of The Asian American Arts Zine
This month I was fortunate enough to sit down with Geoffrey Gaurano, founder of Gaysian podcast, which is centered on “the life of a recovering closeted person, coming of age and coming out, and the state of being simultaneously Asian and gay.” During our chat we got into the nitty-gritty of vulnerability, intersectionality, and Asian America. His podcast is more than just a vehicle for self-identity, it is an invitation to allies to join in the united fight against white supremacy.
When discussing what compelled Geoffrey to make the podcast, he stated “First and foremost, it was really for me; for me to work through some of what I have, and am currently dealing with. It was to see if I could really do it.” Additionally, it was to “create a space for something that I didn’t see. I’ve been looking for literature and examples of the gay Asian experience and I didn’t see those examples so I had to do it for myself. I wasn’t seeing my story fully represented.” Other Asian-led podcasts certainly exist, but nothing with Geoffrey’s exact narrative or spin.
From the jump, I was hugely impressed by Geoffrey’s willingness to be vulnerable, opening the first episode of his podcast by identifying and discussing his fears and how they have informed his decision making. “[I really do believe] that every single person has a set of fears, and so I wanted to address it, and connect with others and also reassure others that their fears are legitimate as well, and they shouldn’t expect themselves to get magically healed, but instead, to be aware and acknowledge our fears and really know how they play out in our lives and the choices that we make.” Additionally, “I wanted to show a humanity— especially as an Asian American, living under these overarching stereotypes-where we are made to feel like we don’t have humanity, or are not allowed to. So, I wanted to showcase that, as a human being first.” In Geoffrey’s willingness to discuss the things that scare him, he’s pushed the bounds of his comfort zone, inspired by the words and actions of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that “You’re scared, but when you decide to work though that fear and look at the path, then it becomes bravery and courage.” In his willingness to open up about fear and how they’ve affected him, he invites the listener to be brave enough to do the same— to see how our fears immobilize us. He does this from a place of tenderness, as opposed to judgement.
If you didn’t get it from the title, Gaysian is an intrinsically intersectional, leaning into the messy complexities of the totality of our lived experience, rather than silo them into easily digestible courses. “I’m not a straight Asian person, or a white person, I’m a gay Asian person. I think it’s important to remember that the purpose of intersectionality is to make visible what’s usually invisible because we’re stuck in defaults, default identities— identities of power. For example, to bestraight and white, those are just the norm, because the default to gay is white and I’m not a white gay male. So, it was really important for me to put those two things together to make sure there isn’t any question about who I am, given that we have my own identities because of the system of white supremacy. To further define myself as Filipino is important too. I don’t want people to have any assumptions or questions about who I am. I don’t want to leave it up for interpretation.” Geoffrey’s intersectional approach to his identity allows him to get into the specificity and incommensurability of his lived experience in a way that creates a whole picture of who he is— not just how he is othered.
A big motivating force that compelled Geoffrey to be so open about experience “comes from me being closeted for so long— not only closeted for so long but pretending to be straight. And in lots of spaces I was able to pass [as straight], and when I look back, what I see is that I wasn’t able to define myself based on who I am in terms of my identity.” Stepping out of the shadows of our fear allows empowers us to love and appreciate ourselves, with all our foibles and contradictions; “when I am able to define every single part of who I am, whatever identities people want to confer upon me, it’s easier for me to be able to say no to that, or reject what is projected upon me because I’ve made it a point for myself to define who I am.” Recognizing that “everything’s changing, and so you know what, I don’t have to be the same person. I get to change as well”, letting go of the internalized messages that may not serve us. Geoffrey’s advice offers a lot to young people who feel like a walking contradiction and must choose a single side.
Gaysian is an extremely humanizing listening experience. Even if you do not walk in the same shoes as Geoffrey, you still know what it feels like to need better arch support. While Gaysian is rooted in the intersections of being both gay and Filipino, the feelings that Geoffrey discusses are universally human. We are able to understand and relay to similar experiences in our own lives. Upon initially hearing the name of his podcast, one might be “expecting this hypersexualized fun gay life in New York City. It’s funny to see the reactions of ‘Where’s the fun gay Asian stuff?’ and we can never really escape the paradigm of being either asexualized or hypersexualized and I think that’s very much a part of the Asian American stereotypes. Specifically, the model minority stereotype where Asians are thought to be docile and studying all the time. For me, it’s about saying ‘no, I’m not one or the other.’ I am a person, and it’s not just about gay fun experience, and it doesn’t always have to be hypersexualized if someone is outside of the white/hetero norm.” Linking his experience to the exotification that people can relate to is a common experience all across the Asian American diaspora. It was a breath of fresh air to listen to someone talk about what it feels like to be Asian, rather than what it feels like to be orientalized— where our identity is based off of someone else’s perception or definition of being Asian. When you’re listening to Gaysian, you won’t know what to expect. You’re getting the real Geoffrey, unlike any stereotype that comes before him.
Gaysian is rooted in Geoffrey’s lived experience, and is supported by his knowledge of Asian American history, specifically, the history of resistance, a history that has been intentionally obfuscated because its very existence refutes the model minority stereotype. Listeners can find empowerment in learning the history of Delano Filipinx (Manong) farmworkers’ resistance and interracial solidarity with the Cesaer Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the United Farm Workers. Listeners can see themselves rooted in a history of resistance and cross-cultural solidarity is essential to taking action today. Realizing that “the Asian American experience isn’t a monolithic experience, and that Asian America is for everyone, it’s even for allies who believe in dismantling systems of white supremacy. Allies who are interested in dismantling stereotypes that pit Asian Americans against other communities of color.” Geoffrey sees Asian America as part of a larger movement for liberation, further stating that: “Yes, Asian American is a racial category in this country, but it’s a movement, made up of mindsets and the objective for justice and equity for all people. A fundamental part of Asian America as a movement is the belief that coalitions across communities of color is important and fundamental in the work to make society equitable. People need to be reminded that it’s more than a racial category, it’s a mindset and a movement towards social justice, and in that way it’s for everyone. Asian America is more than just a celebration of diversity, it’s to fight for something, and to fight for social justice.” Through his podcast, Geoffrey invites listeners to take part in that fight. He doesn’t alienate allies and activists on the fringe – he invites them in.
I could take up our entire December issue, talking about all the amazing points Geoffrey made in both our interview and in his podcast, but I won’t monopolize the zine— so you’ll just have to go check out Gaysian podcast for yourself, you won’t regret it!
New episodes released weekly!
Available on Spotify and iTunes
Visit https://linktr.ee/gaysianpodcast/ for more information