Shared by AARP AAPI Community
Videos with Chinese, Japanese, & Korean subtitles are also available in the Multilingual section of our website
"There are an estimated 325,000 Asian Pacific Islander (API) adults in the United States that identify as LGBT. Unfortunately, in the API community, young people often see coming out as an act of shaming and dishonoring their parents and their ancestors, but staying in the closet takes a greater toll, causing isolation, depression, and even suicide. Our call to action? Let’s encourage API parents to offer their LGBTQ child a lifeline, support their coming out, and keep the family strong and unified."
Dear SGV API PFLAG Family and Friends,
Hi everyone! I wanted to share these pictures of me because you only know me as the guy that I look like here but inside me is my other, better self and I thought that seeing her might give you more insight into who I am when you see me at our meetings and events.
Lori has been with me for as long as I can remember and has been my best friend through all of my life's ups and down's. She has stood by me through all the fear, anger, denial, shame, addictions, depression, a failed marriage, and all the other consequences of my inability to deal with being transgender in a more positive way.
Because Lori never gave up on me, I can't give up on her. While I can't say where our path will lead, I no longer travel alone, thanks to all of you, my PFLAG family. I hope that if reading this story helps someone in any way, then Lori and I are happy.
Love to all of you,
Lori Kathryn Song
p.s. Below is a link to my friend Chynna D. Lee's doctoral dissertation which I was a part of as an interviewed subject. I hope it will in some ways help our community.
API LGBTQ Stories
Read their stories, click here
Sharing My Journey of Healing and Hope
"I have chosen to write this book for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and their families as a tribute to all who have decided to love their children in spite of their fears, and as a message of hope to all who are still fighting the fear that this journey has brought into their lives. May the thoughts I am sharing encourage you to continue to love your child no matter what and may this book serve to inspire you to release the fear and embrace the love you have for your child.... Finally, the most important reason... is to serve as evidence of the fact that although this road we chose to take was not easy, it is filled with amazing experiences that I would never have been able to behold had I cowered in shame, fear, or anger. This journey has been healing. It has lifted my awareness and has opened my eyes to the wonders that were always around me, but I had failed to recognize. I walk in the world taking beauty and acts of love less for granted. I walk in the world recognizing acts of courage, compassion, and acceptance more often where once I moved through that world unconsciously. I may not notice every one of these incredible moments, but I certainly recognize and appreciate more of them than ever before."
A Letter to My Son the Day After
"My dearest son,
Less than 24 hours ago since you shared with me about being gay, I have thought over and over again these past waking moments about how I responded to you yesterday afternoon. Nothing has changed about the way I feel about you as my child. I really need to refer to you as my adult son, but in my own heart, you are still the beautiful newborn I cradled 28 years ago; my firstborn son, whom I have vowed to always protect and nurture for as long as I live.
Your very existence had changed my life in such a profound manner. It is an indescribable feeling for me to relate my deep attachment to you. From your earliest years, even before you began to walk, I knew in my heart that great things would come from you. Magical milestones that your own creative, loving, and keen intellectual spirit would evolve into… to grace the world, and most especially my life.
As your mom, I will always worry about your personal safety, your feelings of belongingness to the world at large and within our extended family. One thing I knew and could control was that when you are with me, I have always been vigilant in conveying and showing you my love and devotion, and in so doing, that you would never ever doubt how much you are loved by me; or ever think twice that I would ever think any less of you; or for you to ever even fathom that I can ever be disappointed by any of your choices or actions, and most especially by who you are.
Your revelation yesterday was not a surprise for me. I already knew for a long time that you are gay. I just waited for you to find the time to tell me. It is a mother’s intuition. From a mom who loves her sons as deep and infinite as the universe; who loves her sons more than her own life. You have always been a part of my soul.
If I had asked you before you told me, I thought that the action of asking you about it had a connotation of expectations of “judgment” about sexual orientation. It is as if my mom or anyone for that matter had asked me if I were heterosexual. What difference would it make for the person who asks me? I also respect and realize that we live in a world so ignorant and intolerant of diversity. And, I know you are well aware of that fact, just by the nature of the color of our skin. I knew that you, as a thinking and feeling human being, need to come to terms with your identity in your very own timeline about sharing who you truly are with your loved ones. I feel very honored and also very filled with positive, joyful emotions that you would feel free now to tell me that yes, you are gay. I am so proud of your courage, that inner strength, that indestructible resilience you have within yourself. You are your own person, and you have always been so!
The only aspects now that I am coming to terms with are my worries about protecting you from the horrid members of our society who remain judgmental and discriminatory and oppressive. I want to learn all I can about the gay world. By that, I want to foster better understanding about how I respond; that I gain better clarity, so that I can continue to be a willing participant as I have always been in aspects of your life and our lives. I want you to be free to share the joys of finding love, as well as being able to seek my advice or even just my listening and understanding ear to any hurts or issues that you ride through in life. For me, being gay is another aspect of who my son is, and I am privileged that you are now free to share it with me. I only regret that you had not felt it the right time until now, because personal freedom is a right, and I am a very fervent believer in that. I want you to continually find and experience joy and I want to be a safe haven in your world when some people let you down or confuse you. I also want to celebrate your freedom with you.
I look forward to the coming days, months, years of our lives. I am always here for you, my son. I love you with all of my might. Thank you for your life. Thank you for who you are!
- Carol Mannion
A Filipina-American Mother's Story
I am a proud Filipina-American mom of a gay son. As I write this, it has been two years since my son “came out” at the age of 28. This short story marks an exciting new chapter in my life. In order for the reader to understand the beautiful relationship I have with my son, I must relate my background.
I was born in the Philippines as part of the Baby Boomer generation. I was the eldest child and only daughter. In 1971, my family left our homeland before President Marcos declared Martial Law. We settled in Southern CA and were the first from both clans to immigrate to America. Three important aspects of my upbringing are key to my parenting style: early awareness of racism, recognition of hypocrisy in organized religion, and experiencing sexism.
The task of assimilation began early, yet my parents had no concept of what negotiating cultural adaptation entailed. They carried with them the Filipino “colonialist mentality”; this Eurocentric ideal of beauty, inconsistent and clashing with their own misconceptions of the “Americanization” of their daughter.
My exposure to racism was two-fold; at home and in school. I was born with olive complexion and loved the outdoors, so I was often tanned in my youth. My parents did not appreciate my browner skin in comparison with my younger brothers. I was referred to as the “Morena”. Girls are supposed to be fair. So critical were they that they had me bleach my forearm hair to lighten my skin. At school, my classmates were predominantly White, as I attended private Catholic schools in upper middle class areas. I learned then that to be darker in color was to be treated unfairly or to be ridiculed. Racism was so embedded in my psyche that when my first son was born, the first question I had uttered was “Is he dark?”
When I lived at home, we had a Sunday obligation to attend Catholic mass. It became a mundane and passive ritual and it wasn’t too long before I began to silently question why kindness and morality had to be based on a man-made book, and not from common sense and development of one’s moral conscience. I didn’t agree that God was punitive and judgmental. I still ponder to this day how I developed resiliency.
My birth order and gender was also influential to my parents’ expectations. I had an enormous role to fulfill based on being the eldest born, within my immediate, our extended family, and because I was the first generation to grow up in American society. I learned from the time I stepped into this “Land of the Free”, that it really was not free for me as bicultural and female. I felt that I was imprisoned within the confines of my parents’ Old World obsession of maintaining the Filipina maiden image of me. In understanding the progression of each of their individual marginalization, I had to establish a new foundation from which to work on.
Because we came here alone, and were so the first 2 decades, not losing my family was so important to me. I realized that to survive and maintain my connection to my family, the only way was for me to marry young. That would serve as my escape without severing family ties. I did so at 20. I became a mom at 22.
Becoming a mom was a life-saving grace. As I felt the baby inside my womb gently somersaulting, I talked to this life. I made a promise to break the cycle of emotional abuse; solid vows that I would keep. This sacred vow involved unconditional love and absolute protection; that the threat of emotional abandonment would never be. I would ensure my children would be guided to their highest potential with consideration of their own individuality. I made a vow that my children would never have to learn for themselves how to navigate racist or sexist stereotypes, nor to feel that spirituality was dictated by an unfounded patriarchy. Rather, I vowed that I would raise my children to become free thinkers, as I believed was part of God’s intelligent design.
My son grew up to be that creative, adventurous, witty, and bright wanderlust. I knew he was different from his earliest childhood years, but based on my upbringing, I had no inkling what sexual orientation was about. By the time he entered puberty, I was sensitive to his change in personality. He became socially-isolated. I struggled with how to help him. I thought maybe it was because he skipped a grade. Or that I divorced my two sons’ biological father, and that he had not been a part of their lives. He was not forthcoming with how he was being bullied at his all-boys’ parochial high school.
He completed his undergraduate studies, and quickly dived into doctoral studies. An internship in NYC gave him the opportunity to experience life in the East Coast for a few months; so different from the suburban environment of home. Upon his return, my husband and I noticed that he had found his niche in Manhattan life. We encouraged him to pursue his dream, even if it meant living so far away. So he did. His life fell into place. I missed him immensely. He flew back home a year after his move, on one summer weekend that would change my life.
I remember that moment clear as day. I knew something was up when he flew home after I had just visited him in New York the month before. Before driving him to the airport for his return flight, he had me park the car. We sat in the car, just he and I.
He said, “Mom, I have something to tell you. I had wanted to tell you when you were with me last month, when we sat for awhile at that park near Ground Zero. You started to cry about not wanting to be a long distance grandmother someday.” “I had to hold off telling you.” He sheepishly smiled and said, “Because that may never happen based on what I’m about to tell you.” “So, I came to see you.” “But before I do, I just want you to know that you did not cause this, and you cannot blame yourself, or feel that there was something you should have done.” “I’m gay.”
After he said those last two words, tears of joy just automatically welled up in my eyes. I looked at him lovingly, held his hand, and told him that I was so happy that he finally told me; because to me it meant that he was setting himself free to be who he is, and that was all I wanted him to be. I gave him a hug across the seat of the car. He knew that I was very proud of him.
I asked him when he realized this and if he was safe from work discrimination. I told him that I was only worried about his personal safety and of finding love. He said that he can’t remember when he realized and reassured me that they were gay-friendly at his job; that New York is probably one of the safest places for a gay person to live in! He also said that he’d let me know if there was someone special in his life.
At the airport, I gave him an even tighter embrace, and did not want to let go. That very evening, I wrote him a letter. Because he was far away, I wanted him to be able to read his mom’s unchanged feelings and the immense pride I had of him.
I had not predicted that the next two months would be a grieving process for me. I went through feelings of not being a good-enough mom because I felt that perhaps I should have asked him; then maybe I would have spared him the social isolation he went thru during his adolescent years. My worries for his personal safety escalated even more and I felt so powerless to protect him because he was so far away from me. I felt that I had failed in role modeling for him “how to be gay”. How and where would I even know how to communicate about the “birds and the bees”? How could I have not felt the urgency to learn about sexual orientation? Why did it take him until he was 28 to come out? I examined my past parenting years; about what I could have done differently. I sobbed by myself, feeling that I had let him down. But I also began to realize that in following my instincts, I had also respected my son’s timeline for revelation.
In time, I “outed” him to his younger brother and to my husband. They were both unquestionably accepting. They were the only ones I could talk with. I had no other people to turn to. I just wanted to tell the world, because for me to be silent about it was to exhibit shame, and I was not ashamed of my son. But I also wanted to meet other parents of gay children. That was when I found the closest PFLAG chapter, where my husband and I began attending a support group. It was a place where I could freely talk, unabashedly cry, and learn from other parents of gay children and also my first exposure to truly getting to know gay individuals.
In April of 2012, I marched proudly with my husband and my straight son at our first Pride parade. It was this event that would introduce me to a newly-formed, culture-specific PFLAG group: the San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander PFLAG, which was then a satellite program of PFLAG-Pasadena. SGV API PFLAG had just begun meeting two weeks before I learned about it from another Asian couple at the Pride parade. The following month, in May, my husband and I attended this new Asian-American PFLAG support group. Seeing parents and young adults who looked like me and had very similar cultural values was comforting. I also felt that I needed to reconcile my Asian-ness and discern ingrained misconceptions of shame, honor, and dignity amongst my own ethnicity. My husband and I decided to shift attendance from a PFLAG mainstream chapter to the SGV API PFLAG. Thus, began my active involvement with SGV API PFLAG.
Just as I assimilated in America as a necessity, this new chapter in my life meant that it was imperative that I rapidly immerse myself into the LGBT culture. I needed to delve into a new self-discovery. I began my “practicum” by searching on the web about Asian Pacific Islander LGBT activist organizations and contacting as many as I can; inviting myself to their events and meetings. They all welcomed me with open arms and hearts. A mentor, Marsha Aizumi, who is one of the founders of SGV API PFLAG and the first Asian-American PFLAG National Board member, encouraged me to go beyond the local arena. Within two months of PFLAG groups, I attended a National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) conference in Washington, D.C., participated in their first parent convening panel, mustered up the gumption to do PSAs and some writing for the Asian Pride Project, and got to meet so many wonderful API LGBT leaders from all over the nation!
Hearing the LGBT’s stories of “coming out”, of family rejection, of their fight for equality, of finding love and commitment, and merging their experiences with the stories from parents, placed me on a very vulnerable emotional state. I realized that vulnerability was not a weakness, but a process of achieving authenticity. I cried many tears of both joy and sorrow. Joyful tears emanated from stories of triumph and deepening of relationships. Then there were tears of heartache from feeling the pain of others who experienced discrimination and isolation. No one deserves to be judged, rejected, and condemned for who they choose to love and for who they are. I felt that I, too, “owned” the hurts they felt. My maternal instincts and hope for humanity began to reverberate in my new “life practicum”.
I moved immediately to out my son to my own mom and younger brothers. I continually create moments for conversations with family, friends, and strangers. With the founders of SGV API PFLAG seeing my passion, they tapped me into leading the group. In May 2013, we became an independent PFLAG chartered chapter.
Through my mission to celebrate my child’s life, my activism has provided me a new extended family within the LGBT community. I consider them my new “sons and daughters”. Hearing their stories and gaining their trusts gives me another chance to continue being a mom; a mom who accepts her gay son; a mom who knows that nothing has changed, but only that my life has been enriched.
- Carol Mannion
Stella's Story of Self
Article shared by PFLAG-China
Why I made a documentary about the SGV LGBTQ community
Having grown up in the San Gabriel Valley, I knew little about the queer community here, as gender and sexuality was just not something that was discussed within many Asian households. This changed after I discovered my sexuality at college, and heard about the protest against marriage equality in San Gabriel last year, which led to my first documentary project about LGBTQ Asian Americans in the SGV.
Read More... www.alhambrasource.org/stories/why-i-made-documentary-about-sgv-lgbtq-community
‘My One and Only'
Marketing Administrator Janet Uradomo courageously shares the story of her transgender child
July 07, 2015
Nine years ago, Janet Uradomo became a mother—a dream come true for the Incentives Administrator in Toyota Motor Sales’ (TMS) Marketing department. But neither she nor her husband, Dave, could have predicted just how much this child would transform their lives, as well as those who’ve come to know their “one and only life blessing.”
Their child, you see, was born a boy but now identifies as a girl...
Read more... http://toyotadriverseat.com/team+members/janet-uradomo-transgender-child.htm
How Our Journey Began
"Twenty years ago, our then 20-year old daughter Valerie told us she was gay. As a sansei from Hawaii, raised in a socially-conservative Japanese American culture, Valerie’s announcement devastated us. At that time, we were woefully ignorant on issues of sexual orientation, including that being gay is not a choice. As part of that ignorance, we were saddened that we would never see our daughter get married or have a family. Fortunately, we were referred to an organization called Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). We were the only Asian Americans in PFLAG, but it became our lifeboat, guiding us in our search to understand a topic that none of our Japanese American friends or family ever spoke about.
In 1990, we were asked to share our experiences with a group of gay Asian Americans. That meeting was a turning point for us. After we spoke, we were moved by the tears on the faces of the audience. They told us of the pain that gays and lesbians faced. In turn, they opened up our minds and hearts, and we decided to help break the silence in our community. Supported by other straight allies, clergy and churches in the United Church of Christ, and PFLAG, we spoke out at conventions and to church groups and college classes.
Reaching out to the Asian American community has been difficult. We have found that our community does not like to deal with subjects that are “uncomfortable” or outside the normal scope of daily conversation. Thus, as parents of a gay daughter, we were amazed and touched when the national JACL endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples in 1994. It was a bold and courageous decision – and one that profoundly inspired us. To both of us, it was sign that our otherwise closed community might be cracking open the door ever so slightly to gays and lesbians.
Since 1994, that door has been pushed wide open. Just as the society has become more accepting of gays and lesbians, Japanese Americans and Asian Americans more generally have also become more accepting. In part, open support for gays and lesbians from community organizations, elected officials, and others as well as positive media stories have helped shift public opinion. For example, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center found that 63% of Japanese Americans voters supported marriage equality for gays and lesbians and that between 2000 and 2008, Asian American voters shifted the most in favor of marriage equality. That support for the freedom to marry makes us very pleased. Ellen and I have been married for 44 years. We think of our own wedding day, when we publicly declared to the world our love and commitment to each other. It was a day we cherished and shared by our families and friends.
However, it was a day that I never thought our daughter Valerie would be able to celebrate. When the California Supreme Court gave the right to marry to gays and lesbians in May 2008, our daughter gained something that is both precious and common – the basic right to marry the person of her choice. Her mother and I were thrilled that our daughter could marry!
Sadly, the passage of Proposition 8 took away that right just a few months later. Fundamentalist church groups donated much of the funding that helped to pass Prop 8 and deny full equality to a significant group of people, including our daughter. We vow to help regain Valerie’s right to marry, starting with repealing Prop 8 in California. The fight begins with building support for marriage equality in both Asian American and Christian communities – a difficult battle, but not an impossible one. But a fight that needs other parents, siblings, friends of gays and lesbians to get involved.
- Harold and Ellen Kameya
A Japanese-American Father's Story
I was born in 1940 on the island of Maui. The population was very small at that time, perhaps only 30,000. My early days as a child were spent on a farm, and hard work by my parents, aunts and uncles was the norm. Life seemed to be simple and uncomplicated. After graduation from high school, I studied engineering in Oregon
When I first heard the words “gay” and “gay rights” in the 1970s, I was puzzled. I didn’t know anything about sexual orientation. I assumed that, of course, all men were physically attracted to the opposite sex. Then, in addition, gay men were also attracted to the same sex. That was too difficult for me to comprehend then, and since our family didn’t fit Freud’s concept of an overbearing mother and a cold father, I pushed the subject out of my mind.
In 1988, I saw evidence that our daughter might be gay. I asked for a family meeting with my wife and daughter while our two sons were out of the house. After some preliminaries, I asked my daughter if she was a lesbian. She was caught by surprise and I could see gears spinning in her head. She finally said yes. Although half-expecting the answer, it was still a shock to me, and a complete surprise to Ellen.
Looking back, I can compare our swirling emotions at that time to being tossed out into the open sea. We were flailing away in the water, concerned only about our survival, and not paying attention to our daughter’s well-being.
After a year and a half of emotional pain and tears, we finally found our way to a PFLAG meeting where our healing and education began. As the only Asian parents in the LA PFLAG, we soon found ourselves speaking to church groups and other organizations. Our aim was to break the silence on the issue and to state that sexual orientation was not a choice.
Though nervous at first, we were urged by our ministers to go out and speak the truth as we knew it. Eventually, supportive Asian ministers also were found. Since the Christian church has been responsible for causing the most grief, pain and suffering of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders throughout the centuries, we wanted to speak to churches. We have been invited to speak at a number of churches who wanted to learn about a topic previously treated with silence by the Asian community.
For more conservative churches, ministers are reluctant to discuss the topic of sexual orientation. They might be afraid that the devisive issue would split their church, or perhaps their jobs would be jeopardized. I therefore urge all Christians to find their own pathways in reconciling their personal religious beliefs to the reality that sexual orientation is NOT a choice.
- Harold Kameya
My Story as a Parent
I was born and raised in Hawaii. I was raised to believe that I was but ONE member of our huge extended family. Everything I did (negative or positive) reflected on my entire extended family.
I attended Japanese language school and Christian Sunday school, which solidified values I was taught at home. Life felt in sync in all areas of my life.
I had always dreamt of a comfortable life by following the values I had been taught. Everything was great until my daughter Valerie came out to us in August 1988. Our life was in shambles. We needed to rebuild our family life.
When I talked to my Asian doctor about homosexuality, he said ”It’s a sin. Your daughter is very selfish to cause you such pain.”
We were referred to the LA PFLAG by the counselor at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood. There I met parents and gays and lesbians who shared their stories. I understood and became an activist in educating the public, targeting the Asian Pacific Islander community.
It was difficult in opening my mind to new ideas, but I did so and now came to new conclusions. As a parent, I learned that my fears were unfounded; there were straight allies with NO gay kids, my kid’s generation has a different understanding of LGBTs, so the problems we encounter are nil.
It was difficult overcoming the irrational fears of how our family life would change with a gay member. It was difficult to figure out how to come out to family, extended family, Asian friends and co-workers, and the community.
People now say “Your are so brave to do what you do, going in public on such a controversial issue!”
I say, “You would do the same if it was your child. It’s about love.”
The best thing about coming out as a parent of a gay child is the freedom to live an authentic life and not a double life. Family and extended family can embrace me and my gay daughter and become part of the progressive movement.
Straight allies now march in the 3 parades each year: Christopher West, Long Beach and the Lunar New Year. Therefore, we currently march proudly with our Asian Pacific Islander GLBTs every year.
After over 20 years of advocacy, we have seen positive moves that make things better for young people. As gay people and their parents come out and demand equality, minds will be changed and legislation will follow.
- Ellen Kameya
About Our Proud Asian Parent Signs
By Harold Kameya
Our 20 year old daughter came out to us in 1988. We were bewildered and lived in fear and ignorance until we found the Los Angeles PFLAG in 1990. Being the only Asians in the Los Angeles chapter, we were introduced to Asian groups and began to speak to classes in college, to gay groups and a few churches. However, with our Asian roots and cultural feelings of Asian shame, we avoided public events. In time, we found the progressive First Congregational Church of Long Beach which marched in the Long Beach Pride parade. We timidly marched with them for the first time in 1995 and years thereafter.
In 1997, we read articles about the Nakatani family of San Jose who tragically lost all 3 of their sons, 2 through AIDS, and one through an act of gun violence. A book was written about their family’s story, and they were coming to Los Angeles on a book tour. We eagerly anticipated meeting them to share stories.
A week or so before their arrival, we received a call requesting us to appear with the Nakatanis on a panel at the Centenary United Methodist Church, following their book signing at the Japanese American National Museum. The request frightened us, as we knew that their appearance would be covered by the Rafu Shimpo, the Los Angeles Japanese American newspaper. But we could not deny this request; it was time to be public.
However, the weekend of the panel with the Nakatanis was also a weekend that our parents from Hawaii were going to be in town for our sons’ graduations from college and law school. The panel would mean that we will need to come out to them about Valerie. When my parents arrived on a Tuesday night after some preliminary small talk, I asked them what they knew about homosexuality. It caught them by surprise, and I proceeded with a Homosexuality 101 summary. At the end of my lesson, I then told them about the Nakatanis, and our participation on a panel that Sunday. I asked my parents if they would like to attend the panel presentation, and my mother answered awkwardly, “I don’t know. We might be busy.” The following night after work, I continued with part 2 of my Homosexuality 101. After a final segment on Friday night, my mother asked about the schedule for our panel on Sunday. She said that she would like to be there. Ellen’s widower father was there also. My mother’s main reaction following the panel was the relief that I was able to speak in public. I was a severe stutterer in high school, and she had not heard me speak in public since. Coming out to our parents was a wonderful experience, for indeed the truth had set us free. We no longer were hesitant to march in the huge Los Angeles/West Hollywood Gay Pride Parade!
In the 1997 LA Pride parade, I observed a few Asian men on the sidelines who saw us coming, but who turned their gaze away from us as I got closer. I might have resembled an uncle or relative perhaps, and their uneasiness made them look aside. Thankfully, after almost 20 years of marching, that no longer happens! Asians especially, cheer us on!
Marching with our First Congregational Church of Long Beach, and often being the only Asians in the group made our presence important. For many years, we were also the only Asian parents marching with the Los Angeles PFLAG group. Some years ago in the early 2000’s, Asian LGBTQ organized and had their own marching contingent in the LA Pride parade. Eventually we joined them with our Asian PFLAG contingent. At times, the Asian contingent, led by API Equality, numbered almost 200 people!
Over the almost 20 years of marching in the gay pride parades, we experimented with various messages on our signs. One year, Ellen requested a sign that read “PROUD ASIAN MOM OF A GAY KID”. Because of the debilitating effect of Asian shame that we had felt in 1988, the words proud and Asian were important words for Ellen to proclaim. The reaction that Ellen received could be described as ‘electric’. Many young women walked out to her with tears in their eyes, hugging and thanking her for her message. Others came up to pose for photos along her. Cheers were a common reaction from people lining the street. The following year, I carried a matching sign and received similar reactions. Like all PFLAG parents, we are regarded as special people simply for proclaiming our love and acceptance of our children! This situation was created by a world populated by many who fear what they don’t understand, and who have not made the effort to understand.
Recollections of Activism
Although the New York City’s Stonewall Inn incident occurred in 1969 and the American Gay Movement started in the late 1970s, gay Asians began to organize in the LA area in 1980.
I recall the first time I met Paul Chen n the middle or late 1970s. We both lived in Orange County then. I told him about the River Club, the first so-called “rice bar” in the LA area. Actually, it was a disco, not exclusively catering to Asians. On the weekends, on section of the club near the pool area became dominated by Asian clientele, with another section by Latino. This itself was a first, as most other clubs were catering to the mainstream White male clientele then. The River Club was great fun for the Asian boys and men, located nicely on Riverside Drive in the Los Feliz area.
One day in 1980, Paul called me and is other gay friends to a meeting at his apartment in LA. He and his partner, Chris, had moved to LA after their college education. About 35 people of all races, but predominantly Asian, showed up. Paul and a fearless lesbian by the name of June Lagmay facilitated the two-hour long meeting. A non-Asian attorney questioned the need of forming an Asian Gay and Lesbian organization, but throughout the discussion, hope, enthusiasm, and camaraderie among the Asians were persuasive.
This first get-together was followed by many well-attended meetings. The name Asian/Pacific Lesbians and Gays (APLG) was adopted. Long-time gay activist, Morris Kight, founder of the LA Gay and Lesbian Service Center, gave us a needed hand. We met many times at his place on McCadden Place in Hollywood, a venue with a large open living room that can hold up to 50 people.
Roy Zukeran, Asian lover of Morris Kight, started putting out the APLG newsletters at the end of 1980. They were well put together, especially for a volunteer group at the time before the computer was commonplace. (Anyone interested in seeing these rare original early issues may ask me and I’ll be happy to show you my collection.) These newsletters chronicle the many activities undertaken: the first “pi-pa” and Oriental brush painting demonstrations in December 1980, the first gay Oriental brush class, conducted by yours truly, took place in January 1981, the first 3-day retreat on July 31- August 2, 1981, in the San Gabriel Mountains, were among these events.
Thus began the first gay Asian organization in Southern California. It raised awareness and pride among gay Asian and Pacific Islanders. It showed that these people, in spite of their great diversity, can unite for a common cause. The rest is history.
- Andre Ting