The Scoop: JT Tran started a dedicated Asian dating coaching service called ABCs of Attraction to uplift and inspire modern men in the dating scene. His work focuses on building confidence as well as conversational skills that can make a big difference in forming new relationships. JT said he’s particularly sensitive to the stigma and challenges faced by Asian men in American society and hopes his one-on-one and group coaching work can start a new narrative of social empowerment for Asian Americans.
JT Tran knows firsthand how hard dating as an Asian man can be. “I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 20,” JT told us candidly. And he isn’t alone. According to one ResearchGate study, Asian American respondents reported experiencing their first kiss almost three years after their white counterparts.
Due to a variety of factors including external and internalized racism, cultural norms, and unflattering stereotypes, Asian men face a disadvantage when it comes to dating, a disadvantage JT used to feel keenly, despite his financial and professional success. Speed dating, online dating – JT tried it all, with little luck.
“I started thinking,” said JT, “Is dating something that can be controlled and learnable? Or am I just going to be a loser for the rest of my life?” That feeling sent JT on a personal journey of dating and discovery that culminated in his founding ABCs of Attraction, a dating coaching service that has helped hundreds of Asian American men build self-esteem and improve their dating game.
The Birth of ABCs of Attraction
After graduating college, JT Tran felt lost. Sure, he was successful – “I had a good job,” says JT. “I drove a luxury car, I was living on the beach, but I was a complete non-entity in the dating world.”
Then JT found the world of pickup artistry, which he describes as problematic but eye-opening. For the first time, JT says, he realized that seduction capability was something that could be improved. He started the Asian Playboy blog, at first as a place for him to simply document his dating adventures and misadventures.
But his journey took a transformative turn when JT got a call from a Chinese-Canadian mother whose son had been harassed by Neo-Nazis.
“She had been following my blog,” JT said, “And asked me, Hey, can you come up here to Toronto and help out my son, because he’s just stuck in his room, not making friends.” Not only did JT respond to the call, he went above and beyond, traveling to Toronto to spend three days mentoring the young man, becoming the “big brother he never had.”
This experience inspired the ABCs of Attraction, what JT describes as a holistic approach to dating designed for Asian men, who frequently have a very different dating experience than men of other races.
The Trials and Tribulations of Dating While Asian
JT said he believes that experiencing prejudice throughout their lives can cause some Asian American men to develop warped views of race as it pertains to dating. “A lot of Asian guys feel like they either only want to date Asian girls, or that they’re not worthy of dating outside of their race. They might go so far as to put white women on a pedestal.”
That’s why JT takes different tactics when coaching Asian-born Asians as opposed to American-born Asians. For Asian-born Asians, JT normally focuses on external factors, including fashion sense, elocution, and education on Western dating norms.
“That’s easy to fix,” HT tells us. “That’s learnable.”
More difficult is teaching American-born Asians, many of whom JT said, “have been raised to believe that they’re second-class citizens,” particularly when compared to white men. “That’s a tougher nut to crack,” says JT. “Because they may be six foot tall and good looking but still feel like they are not equal to others.” That’s where JT’s concept of “inner game” comes in.
A Holistic Approach to Dating
JT Tran wants to be clear about what he means by holistic dating coaching. “Not in the hippy sense or new agey sense,” he says, “but meaning well rounded.”
The core of ABCs of Attraction’s teachings is its boot camps, during which JT and his team of coaches accompany students out into the field to give them real-time feedback on their game. JT believes these bootcamps are the fastest way for students to improve their pickup skills.
His teachings also focus on improving a single man’s inner game, which ABCs of Attraction defines as the “mental strength, confidence, and identity you’ve formed from your previous experiences in life.”
JT’s multifaceted approach is designed to give his clients the foundational tools necessary to build their self-esteem and confidence, not just their pickup skills.
Navigating Racial Dating Dynamics as an Asian Man
Inner game is of particular importance for Asian-American men. They are likely to struggle with it due to the complex and often unfair dating dynamics they face, which can in turn impact their self-image.
Therapist Sam Louie states that his Asian male clients “often describe their self-esteem as “shot” and feeling “inadequate” compared to their white counterparts.” Asian men in the U.S. are often stereotyped as “weak, shy, and lacking initiative.”
JT Tran is aware of these stereotypes and encourages his Asian clients to be confident “because they are Asian, not despite it.” He advises his clients to employ more straightforward dating tactics, such as approaching women in person instead of on dating apps to help combat the preconceived notions others may hold.
“I definitely encourage Asian guys to present themselves in a more direct romantic sense, as opposed to playing the long game,” says JT. “I think it’s better for Asian guys, especially if you’re not classically good-looking or someone with a Eurocentric appeal, to present themselves in a more romantic light from the beginning.”
Dating While Asian in a Post-COVID Landscape
The landscape of dating as an Asian man has changed in both positive and negative ways. On one hand, the increased popularity of K-pop, K-Dramas, and movies such as “Crazy Rich Asians” have helped create what JT calls a “new, positive sexual archetype for Asian men.”
On the other, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way America views Asians, especially East Asians. Though hate crimes against Asian Americans dropped in 2022 for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn’t mean anti-Asian racism is a thing of the past. A 2023 poll from AAPI Data and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reported that approximately one-third of people who identified as Asian American or Pacific Islander reported having encountered a racially or ethnically motivated act of abuse within the past year; and approximately 15% of these individuals have been targeted as victims of a hate crime at some point.
JT Tran has witnessed this racism firsthand. “I’ve been attacked twice on the streets,” he says. “There have been clubs that wouldn’t let my students in because they’re all Asian, so they assume they have COVID.”
Due to multifaceted concerns about student safety, ABCs of Attraction has shifted its bootcamps online so it can continue to provide education and encouragement to its students in the COVID era. The team is hopeful it can bring the bootcamps back in person soon.
At the end of the day, JT said he is confident in his skin, and he wants to help other Asian men feel that way too. “As I always say,” says Tran, “as much as I might have wanted to be born tall, dark, and handsome, I can settle for being short, stunning, and smooth.”