In 2005, I received my Bachelor's degree and got a job as an English teacher in Japan. As a result, I had to quit my job as a male stripper for almost two years.
Although I studied Japanese at college, I still didn't know everything about the culture. I experienced several varieties of culture shock over there. The one the stood out the most was the average Japanese girl's perception of Western men.
Before I left for Japan, I was seeing three American girls at the same time. When I arrived in Japan, I didn't get laid for almost half a year. I wondered why. I still looked the same as I did in America when girls were paying me to strip.
Then I made a shocking discovery: Most Japanese girls thought I was gay.
At first, I was clueless. Several of my Japanese coworkers made gay jokes with me, but I simply thought they were joking. Then, some female students asked me outright about my sexual orientation. After awhile, I realized that everyone was serious--they actually thought that I was gay.
In America, this kind of mistake would never happen. I have the Southern Drawl when I speak. Most of my normal clothes consist of jeans, t-shirts, wifebeaters, and workout gear. I love guns and hunting.
A lot of young Japanese males dress in a style that some Americans call "metrosexual." I've seen many Japanese men wearing anything from tight, flashy jeans with white belt dotted with rhinestones to expensive hair perms. Yet, the Japanese girls thought I was gay.
For awhile, I thought someone at work hated me and was spreading false rumors. Then, I finally discovered the source of this misconception during a conversation with a Japanese coworker named Mizuho. She asked me what kind of men I liked. By now, I was beginning to get pissed.
"Where did you get the idea that I was gay?" I asked her.
"You're not gay?!" Mizuho said, surprised.
"No!" I said. "Who told you that bullshit?"
"No one," she said. "It's the way you dress. You wear tank tops."
"Tank tops?" I asked, a little confused at this point.
"Usually Western men who wear tank tops, work out, and have muscles are gay," Mizuho said.
I laughed at her. I have heard many stereotypes in my lifetime, but this topped my list as one of the most absurd. According to her logic, I guess most Western athletes are gay. I waved her over to the window and gestured down to the street below where hundreds of Japanese were walking. "See those young men there," I said, pointing to a group of teenagers who were dressed too flashy for even a gay club in North America.
"People in America would assume that they're gay."
"Uso!" she said.
"I'm not lying. Let's call in Ann," I said. Ann was my coworker from Texas. We called her in and I showed her to the window. "Ann, which would you is gayer: Those guys down there in the street, or me?"
Ann raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
"Because Mizuho thinks I'm gay because I wear tank tops and work out."
For a moment, Ann looked at me like I was telling her a bad joke. Then, she burst out laughing. "Dion...gay? No, Mizuho. You got it wrong. Dion is a redneck! Repeat it after me: redneck!"
From that day forth, I made some slight adjustments to how I dressed over there. Almost instantly, the local girls' gave me the reactions that I had in America. Who would have thought that a culture would equate homosexuality with working out or bodybuilding. The Japanese culture books never mentioned anything on this...