”YELLOW FROM THE OUTSIDE, WHITE FROM THE INSIDE”
Interview: Paul Hofman
Besides being a journalist and a writer Pete Wu is also an ambassador of Pride Amsterdam this year. That he is one of the six surprised him. He’s looking forward to it. Who is this guy that recently wrote an autobiography about how it is to grow up between two worlds as a Chinese-Dutch gay. His mother calls him a ‘banana’, yellow from the outside, white on the inside but he doesn’t care about that word, he sees it as a nickname.
On the day that the world stopped turning because of the coronavirus, we talked to Pete over the phone. He tells us about his childhood, education, his parents and his challenge to be a Pride ambassador.
Pete grows up as the son of Chinese immigrants. His parents opened a snack bar in the south of The Netherlands after their arrival. As a little boy, you could find him between the frying pans most of the time. His parents don’t pay that much attention to his brother and sister: their life is all about their jobs. “Material wise I had no complaints.” He doesn’t have any ambition to take over the business of his parents.
After high school Pete doesn’t have a clear idea about what or who he wants to become. He has tried different bachelors like American studies, journalism and philosophy. After graduating he worked as a journalist, writer, editor and producer. “I am working on an online documentary series for the VPRO at the moment. It’s becoming a series of three episodes that is all about love and dating as a Chinese Dutch person. It’s the filming of a part of my book called love.”
Not that long ago his debut book came out under the name The banana generation. He talks about his personal story and those of his Chinese Dutch peers. Wu also included the stories of his ‘fellow bananas’ who just like him struggle with being a Chinese Dutch person. They talk about subjects like generation clashes, dating, discrimination and loneliness.
When he looks back, he sees that he has to fight a battle against the norms of the outside world, as a gay Chinese Dutch person. Ever since he was a child he struggled with his homosexuality. In his very well-received book, he emotionally tells about his coming-out. He is thirty years old when he comes out to his parents. That is kind of late, I notice.
When he was 22 years old, he told his best friends about him ‘being different’ but made the choice to not tell his parents yet. That was a step too far. He explains: “They are not only from a different generation, they had to give up the dream to give their kids a better future.” His parents want what is best for him and hoped that their kids would be successful and lead a hetero-normative life. “I’ve always felt the pressure from my parents and my environment to fit in that hetero-picture.”
The moment he told his mother is something he’d never forget. “I was on a holiday in Turkey and texted my mother that I wasn’t attracted to girls.” His mother had always tried to hook him up with a girl. Pete was done with it. A whole weekend his mother had been crying. His father fell silent. “I was already relieved that they didn’t say they never wanted to see me again.” His mother tried to match him with a girl once more, but she didn’t succeed. His father gives him a year to become straight. At the moment they don’t even talk about it anymore. They are keeping the subject of homosexuality under wraps. “My parents don’t even know that I am a Pride ambassador.”
Pete is driven in everything he does. He still asks himself why he was asked to be a Pride ambassador with his East-Asian roots. “Now I can do what I’ve always said: show people that you are there and that it matters that you are a gay person with a migration background. “The ambassadorship is a great public platform. It sounds like something small, but I feel like it’s something big. When I grew up, I could have never imagined that someone with an East-Asian face would be seen at Pride.”
How does Pete remember his first Pride? That was back in 2012. To me that was more of a ‘they’ feeling, instead of that I felt I was part of it. I hadn’t accepted my sexuality yet.” Now he looks at it as a big party where you can be different.
PRIDE week means to him having the freedom to be yourself and be visible. “I want to improve the inclusivity and better representation of East-Asian Dutch people from my generation.” We are the group that was born here but literally grew up between two worlds. A generation that is mostly forgotten in media, politics, education and sports and daily life. Diversity alone isn’t enough. “We don’t want to be invited to the party alone, we want to dance at that party and have a say in which music we all listen to.”
What is he going to do as an ambassador? “I am going to give lectures and talk about the subjects I wrote about in my book like love, dating, activism and how it’s like to grow up as a Chinese Dutch person and the racism in the gay community.
That last thing is there for sure, he emphasizes. He tells us what that means to him. It seems that on gay dating apps that Asia men are seen as feminine and are seen by a part of the community as gays who are at the bottom of the social scale. They have to be very masculine.
Visibility is just as important according to Pete. He is going to use his ambassadorship to change the stereotypes. With more than 100% he will put his effort into it. “Let the Pride season start!”
Pride Ambassador since 2021.