My name is Plum. I came to Belgium when I was eleven years old. With my sweaty palms and nervous smile, the plane landed. The excitement for the unknown rushed through my body. I remembered I was expecting a snowy landscape during the ride to my new home and got really disappointed when there was none. Of course not, it was late spring. Nevertheless, it was still exciting because I got to wear my new winter coat for the freezing temperature of 15 °C. Another week went by and it was the first day that I had to go to school. The moment I entered the school gates, I felt like I was in a Teletubbies scene. ‘So much white children around here’ was my first thought.

Needless to say, the language barrier was quite an obstacle to make friends, but those white kids were very interactive and kind. Yet, it was still difficult. Coming out again was another hindrance. I was already aware about my sexuality from the very young age and was quite open about it. It felt natural to be myself and to make friends as a gay kid in Thailand as I was growing up in a tolerable environment. However, Belgium was new and uncertain. This natural feeling vanished and being myself became a task. Feeling comfortable is challenging when you know that you are the only Asian and gay kid on the playground. The feeling pushed me to the point where I, sometimes, wished that I was white. Nonetheless, this task became less burdensome the more I came to term with myself. I could even say that I accepted and embraced my queerness and my Asian roots as part of my identity.

Besides making friends, I also wanted to make love. Whenever I go out, I’m hardly ever the guy who will get hit on by a handsome stranger, neither will I be the one who’s confidence enough to approach someone. Even through apps are convenient way to meet people, the attention that I was getting was quite limited. I used to get a lot of rejections, which cause my self-confidence to plummet. ‘Sorry, I’m into a real man’. ‘Sorry, I don’t like brown people’. ‘Sorry, I’m not into Chinese’. Those are some of the phrases which left me feeling unlovable. ‘What do I need to do to feel loved, to feel attractive?’. I became ‘easy’ and put up with every red flag when a guy was giving me the attention.

However, these confirmations were never sustainable, I was just their Asian fantasy. I started to lose myself again and devaluing my worth just for the sake of the confirmation and the desire to have this teenage fantasy like all the white, straight kids around me. Up until today It is still a journey to feel lovable. It became less about the confirmation from the others. Rather it is more about my state of mind. I wanted to bloom open and be myself, with all my queerness and my Asians, but also, I wanted to be valued beyond those traits.

During the shoot it felt unusual to be naked in front of a camera, but also kind of familiar. Strangely, the insecurity about my body disappeared and flashed away with every click. I was lost in my thoughts while searching for some guidance. How can I be sexy? Do I need to hide my ugly body parts? What should I not do? With vague instructions, my body started to move. I feel the most desired when my ass is on full display, so the first instinct was to bend over. Ass up and try to be sensual, try to be vulgar and hope that this shoot will give me the confirmation that I needed so much. Being brown, Asian, feminine and submissive were never the standards, quite the opposite.

ese were either the undesired traits or the exotic ones. Exotic enough to stand out, but never enough to steer away from the stereotypes. Whenever someone showed any interest, I tend to hide behind my wall. I don’t want to be someone’s fetish again. On the other hand, feeling high of being desirable often gets beyond my head, but never in the right place. I always felt ashamed afterwards for perpetuating these stereotypes and felt the need to be a part of something that will redirect these clichés. But I cannot do that. I should not the one who’s going to alter these clichés. People need to understand that I should be valued beyond these stereotypes. These traits are not exotic. These traits are not undesirable. These traits are who I am.