By Keish Kim | New Organizing Project blogger
I want to let you on a little secret. This blog should have been posted during the Thanksgiving week. It would have been perfect timing since it is about being thankful for our families and friends. I still think this post is relevant and will always be so. Today, I want to talk about our LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) communities; “Our” meaning the Asian Pacific Islander American (API) communities.
Working in various social justice sectors with people of diverse racial and social backgrounds, I meet so many LGBTQ community
members who are out and taking charge of their identities. For example, in immigration reform, we have UndocuQueers, building alliance and community, and creating space even within undocumented population for support.
But in API communities, particularly the Korean communities, the LGBTQ voices and spaces are so repressed and limited. It is always difficult to find safe-space as an API LGBTQ or as a Korean LGBTQ. Although one may find a small group of friends they can come-out to, it is a whole different story for LGBTQ individual to come out to their families or church friends.
It may be the traditional and historical background of the Korean culture in particular (I am not familiar with other API histories) that reject the topic of sexuality. Maybe it is the instilled idea of maintaining the family bloodline. But the homophobic sentiments are very real. LGBTQs in Korean communities are largely suppressed and silenced.
In the recent exit poll taken by Minkwon Center, they found that in a pool of 260 people from Flushing, New York, a whooping 78% oppose or strongly oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples. Only 12% strongly supported or supported marriage equality, while 10% answered that they do not know. Although most surveyed were over 50, even those between 18-49 opposed or strongly opposed same sex marriage.
So how are we to create a conversation about sexuality in our communities? What can we do as a collective to strive to provide safe-space for LGBTQ members?
The good news is that this is slowly changing. Although larger API LGBTQ organizations are mostly on the West Coast or NYC, there are internet communities and media spaces that foster dialogue, not just between LGBTQ individuals, but between families as well. Parents are encouraged to share how they felt learning about their child’s sexuality and opening up to it. It’s also a space for API LGBTQs who need the courage to come out to their friends and family members about their sexuality.
As part of this dialogue, I have collected a small list of organizations and websites that share stories and create spaces for these much-needed conversations:
This is a heartwarming story about a transwoman Korean adoptee who searched for her maternal mother in Korea and coming out as transgender: The Beautiful Daughter: How My Korean Mother Gave Me the Courage to Transition
A beautiful video by Deen, a South-Asian transman and his story of coming out to his friends and family: I AM TRANS… (Deen)
Q-Wave– New York, NY
APIMNY is the Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of NY
One of my favorite find was the Dari Project
Korean American United for Equality- KUE LA
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander- NQAPI
Ignite with Spark Reproductive Justice– Atlanta, GA
The Audre Lorde Project– Brooklyn, NY
As you can see… there are so many communities out there trying to bring change one step at a time. So my sisters and brothers, take courage, you do have a community that loves you and supports you for who you are. Many of these organizations have facebook groups/pages. Please reach out, email, message and even donate to their cause!
As allies, small things like using the word “partner” instead of gender specific “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” are always appreciated.
If you are unsure about someone’s sexuality, please ask them, “What is your preferred gender pronoun?” Their answers may vary and you should respect that.
Often times, the oppositions comes from fear. Fear and misunderstandings. By educating and informing our APIA communities, through these stories and workshops provided by different organization, we can open the door for positive discussion. And if you know other amazing API LGBTQ orgs and safe spaces or TIPS for allies please let me know!