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The Last Bias: How & Why We Tolerate Gay Anti-Asian Prejudice -- & Its Pernicious Effect on Our Community

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Contributor
Sunday Aug 22, 2010
’Gay or Asian?’ Details’ misfire spells out the problems facing gay Asians (& Asian-Americans)
’Gay or Asian?’ Details’ misfire spells out the problems facing gay Asians (& Asian-Americans)  

In the first part of this multi-part story, EDGE examines the experience of one of the most common scapegoats of the gay male dating and socializing scene: gay Asian men. I’ve tried to reach beyond the various stereotypes and phrases sometimes applied to men of this ethnicity (e.g., "rice queen").

Anti-Asian sentiment remains one of the last prejudices tacitly if not overtly condoned in the gay community. Even more than anti-fat, anti-aging or the other "anti’s" (racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, even geographic snobbery), prejudice against Asians seems to be endemic in the wider community, especially American gay urban affluent men.

What are the sources of this anti-Asian stigma? How does such sustained hostility affect the self-esteem of gay Asians? What other harm does this hostility wreak in our world? How do non-Asian gay men contribute to an atmosphere that is all-too often unfriendly to diversity?

As an article published here last month similarly addressed, LGBT communities, despite having long histories of themselves facing (and fighting) discrimination, isolation and inequality, are far from immune to the racism that permeates modern society. Bowing to a heterosexual, white upper-middle class-headed hierarchy that pits minority groups against each other in a "divide and conquer" strategy, queer white folk are not innocent in fostering a queer culture that turns its back on people of color -- when not being actively or at least covertly hostile.

The ways in which some gay men, in particular, continue to perpetuate certain racial stigmas can prove doubly dangerous to our queer brethren who share our sting of homophobia while being hit from the other side by an ideology that both overtly and subtly devalues or even rejects men of color from social spaces.

Note: In the interest of coherence and brevity, our story focuses on men within the Asian and Pacific Islander (or API) communities whose heritage takes root in Eastern nations of the sprawling continent including but not limited to China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Queer men from other parts of the continent, as well as women and transgender people, encounter social stigmas and experiences largely unique to their identity groups, though some overlap is to be expected. Still, for the purposes of this article, I have restricted myself to the Pacific Rim and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand), which does not include ethnicities of the Indian Subcontinent.

Rice, pandas and ’Princess Tiny Meat’
Odds are, if you’ve been both gay and awake in the last decade, you’ve heard something like this quote somewhere before: "I know what they’re thinking [when they see us at the club]. They think that I’m a potato queen," Jimmy Chen, a gay Asian man in a relationship with a white man explained to Tyra Banks on an episode of her talk show devoted to interracial dating back in 2006.

A potato queen is," Chen explained, "somebody who is like a gold digger who hates themselves and who, you know, is Asian," Chen explained. "And they see him [his partner] as a rice queen ... An older gay white man who is ugly and fat and they are attracted to, like, people like me and objectify me."

The name-calling Chen described is a common experience for queer API men. For Anglos, such terminology is seen not as hateful, but as playful -- as seemingly guileless terms like "panda hugger" would suggest. According to a 2007 study commissioned by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, however, the result is anything but harmless: 78 percent of API LGBT people experience racism within the predominately white LGBT community.

Anti-Asian racism manifests itself in varying ways. Asian men routinely confront the common "No Asians" disclaimers found on many profiles on gay dating and hookup sites. More publicly, some bars in large metropolitan centers resist the label of being seen as a gay Asian hotspot by limiting Asians or at least not making them feel as comfortable as their Anglo counterparts. It’s not uncommon on list serves that serve party boys to read disparaging about how a Circuit party or a particular bar has "too many Asians" or "has been invaded by Asians" or "there were pockets of Asians everywhere."

And, of course, there’s the most common, widespread and perhaps pernicious stereotype of gay Asian men, which makes a broad (and ridiculous) generalization: disappointing penis size. According to sources interviewed for this story, such abstractions serve to emasculate gay Asian men who, via mainstream media depictions, are already painted as more feminine, scholarly and submissive. It paints them as universal bottoms and as in thrall to Anglo (and black) men’s presumably more massive members.

Such caricatures often make it difficult for the men to land a date, find a community and feel welcomed to the queer "table" and can lead to lowered self-esteem and an upped risk of isolation, opening the door to all the emotional and physical problems, like depression, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, that stem from these concerns.

Anti-Asian bias may even be a contributing factor to earning potential. A 2006 study on same-sex API couples from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation & Public Policy found that, based on 2000 U.S. Census data, couples comprised of two Asian LGBT people earned, on average, $3,000 less than non-Asian couples annually and over $20,000 less than inter-ethnic couples.

Discovering the (Deep) Roots of Anti-Asian Bias
Patrick Cheng http://www.patrickcheng.net/, an assistant professor of Historical & Systematic Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., has written widely on the experiences of gay Asian American men and partially faults a lack of positive media coverage of queer Asian lives in explaining the biases API men face.

"We’re often either completely ignored or completely fetishized," explained Cheng, who is also ordained in the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church denomination. "I think this issue of visibility -- and what’s being depicted as being attractive or not -- is real."

Cyrus Hernandez, a 24-year-old blogger of Filipino heritage at The New Gay, has written about his own experiences reconciling his Eastern ethnicity and "Western" sexuality. He draws a parallel with the way in which Asian women are one-dimensionally fetishized in American media. But he believes that more forces are at play with the way queer Asian men’s sexuality has been presented.

’We are perceived as sexually passive, compliant and very effeminate men who seek romantic relationships with largely with Anglo men.’

"We are perceived as sexually passive, compliant and very effeminate men who seek romantic relationships with largely with Anglo men," Hernandez said. "In furthering that perception, sexual agency for queer APIs is relinquished as not necessarily one’s own, but one defined in relationship to male access."

Cheng notes the feminized depiction of gay Asian men simply doesn’t mesh with queer nightlife venues and media, which seem to place higher value on more "macho" depictions of gay life: Club posters and web ad campaigns are centered on bulky white bodies with chiseled abs. Gay club promoters or magazines were not the first to invent or popularize such images, however.

"I think all this stems from something larger than the queer issue, but rather this ’Orientalist’ notion of East vs. West," Cheng said. "In order for the West to assert its masculinity, it needs something to be feminized, and this ends up emasculating Asian men. We’re already seen as less masculine in movies where we’re either nerds or Zen masters, but never just the guy next door -- or a stud."

This ties in with a much wider anti-Asian prejudice that is an integral part of American history. In 1862, California enacted the "Anti-Coolie Act." As the name implies, it limited Chinese manual labor and immigration. In 1882, the U.S.’ "Chinese Exclusion Act" effectively became the first law to suspend immigration from a foreign population.

Ways in which "the inscrutable East" were shown to be anathema to the West European-orented Americans is graphically demonstrated in 1873’s "Pigtail Ordinance," which forced prisoners in San Francisco to cut off their distinctive braids. Chinese were stereotyped as spitting, opium-using deviants.

The instances of Asian stereotyping are still very much with us. (Take a look at Rosie O’Donnell’s controversial Chinese imitation on The View circa late 2006.) But the most pernicious anti-Asian movement came in California during World War II, when Japanese-Americans were rounded up, their livelihoods taken away and they were placed in "internment camps" -- the only instance of a foreign population placed in concentration camps (comparable to our deplorable treatment of Native Americans).

Gay Asian Men in Media

Chong-Suk Han looks at depictions like a feminine gay Asian man on the Grey’s Anatomy’s episode "Where the Boys Are" and a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ad showing an Asian man as the spouse -- rather than the soldier -- with a critical eye. The assistant professor of sociology & anthropology at Middlebury College is one of the leading researchers of queer API men. Han said such images contribute to a cultural devaluing of gay Asian male sexuality.

According to GLAAD, 86 percent of the LGBT characters on the national airwaves in the 2008-’09 television season were white; only 19 were of Asian descent, usually playing more minor roles. LGBT media articles, like Out Magazine’s "How to Gab in Gaysian" in February 2005 are also seen as perpetuating a perception of Asian gayness as foreign and outside the norm.

"The media is perpetuating an image of anti-femininity and the LGBT community has bought into this idea that being masculine -- and the way the straight community defines that -- will make us better off," Han told EDGE.

"It reflects a deep-seated insecurity among a lot of gay men that there’s something wrong with not being just like the straight people we see walking down the street," Han continued. "The problem lies much deeper than just with gay Asian men. It just happens to be that we often become the scapegoat of that line of thinking."

All of these negative semiotics came to a head in 2004, when hundreds of LGBT New Yorkers were joined by Asians and anti-racists at the headquarters of Details. The men’s magazine published an article called "Gay or Asian?" that was meant to be funny. The protesters found it anything but.

A letter authored by Asian Media Watchdog and signed by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered student groups on several college campuses said the column "suggested Asian men cannot be both gay and Asian. Or that we are both and therefore should be mocked."

The magazine ended up apologizing for its double insensitivity, and the incident eventually led to the firing of its then-editor. But the incident served to galvanize Asian-Americans and gay Asians into a new sense of activism. No longer, they said, would they be stereotyped as nerdy, slightly effeminate science whizzes who lacked a sex life and a normal-sized penis.

The battle was officially on. But gay Asian-Americans faced -- and are facing -- an uphill battle to fight what seems to be ingrained prejudice in the larger community.

In the second part of this story, coming out next week, we will take a look at the limitations and problems posed by cultural and linguistic barriers and how this internalizes inadequacy. Also we look at what might and what has already been done to foster a queer community that both accepts and lavishes in the varied backgrounds and traditions of its members, and the role that the Internet has played with this issue.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more.


How Can Gay Asian Men Conquer Internalized Inferiority?

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Contributor
Sunday Aug 29, 2010
    Asian men: in need of being ’redefined’ as hunks?
    Asian men: in need of being ’redefined’ as hunks?  

    Last week, the first of this three-part series addressed anti-Asian bias and racism within the LGBT community -- particularly how "sexual racism" (in the terminology of gay activists) manifests itself for queer Asian men within an alpha male-obsessed dating pool. Facing a gluttony of derogatory stereotypes and misconceptions, many gay Asians struggle to find confidence, a community and romantic connections.

    While gay Asian activists have made great strides in recent years, major obstacles to progress remain firmly entrenched in the LGBT community. Only some of them may include the external influences of the broader community discussed in part one.

    Owing to the power of years of anti-Asian bias within both the LGBT community and society as a whole, the feeling of being "less than" has been directed inward for many gay Asian men. This makes organizing for change all the more challenging amid such internalized racism evident, as well as the language barriers that can impede outside acceptance of this vast and varied sub-community within the gay world. In this article, we more closely examine how these "internal" obstacles’ impact on the experiences of gay Asian men.

    Note: In the interest of coherence and brevity, our story focuses on men within the Asian and Pacific Islander (or API) communities whose heritage takes root in Eastern nations of the sprawling continent including but not limited to China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Queer men from other parts of the continent, as well as women and transgender people, encounter social stigmas and experiences largely unique to their identity groups, though some overlap is to be expected. Still, for the purposes of this article, I have restricted myself to the Pacific Rim and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand), which does not include ethnicities of the Indian Subcontinent.

    Obstacles to Organizing
    The community -- gay Asians and Asian-Americans in general -- was galvanized by an offensive Details Magazine article titled "Gay or Asian?" in 2004, which managed to equate being an Asian man stereotypical feminine gay qualities. After that protest, which was successful in getting the men’s magazine to admit blame, queer Asian men bolstered their efforts nationwide to combat anti-Asian racism and bring their sub-community together.

    Groups like New York’s Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York (GAPIMNY), Chicago’s Asians and Friends, and dozens of others have flourished in their efforts to foster a safe space for gay Asians engaging with their heritage in a queer-positive, non-fetishized ways.

    GAPIMNY has been particularly hard at work as of late. They’ve initiated a project earlier this month to collect reports of discriminatory nightclub admissions policies, which spokesman Jason Tseng says are "on the rise" as some club promoters seem to fear a "white flight" from their clubs when men of color begin to show up.

    The group’s goal is to ultimately bring the reports to the owners and managers of clubs that have discriminated against Asian men. The group also has made inroads of garnering queer visibility in mainstream Asian spaces by participating in this year’s the Lunar New Year parades, held in the traditional urban Chinatowns.

    "The Details mobilization was a big move for us in the Asian community, because we have tended to shy away from being overtly political," Tseng told EDGE. "But I think it’s important for queer Asian men to be connected with other queer Asian men for that sense of critical mass and having that safe space to meet, check in and support each other politically and socially."

    But organizing is not necessarily easy for a sub-community that’s been deeply "programmed" to feel inferior, according to Angel Abcede, spokesman for Asians and Friends Chicago, a group that sponsors gay-targeted monthly dim sum events and other gatherings. He said a lot of work has yet to be done in undoing the internalized racism gay Asian men experience.

    "A lot of these issues are self-imposed because you have to accept you’re not good enough for someone else to have any power over you. You can enslave yourself to these vestiges or you can do things that will start and break them down," Abcede said. "I think we can pull out of this, but we have to do so actively and with commitment. A lot of us are glamoured and don’t understand that. We’re living under a spell."

    What Attracts a ’Rice Queen’? (& Vice Versa)

    One dimension of that spell is what Tseng describes as the "paranoia" he’s felt attempting to cultivate a romantic attachment with an Anglo that doesn’t feel steeped in exoticism -- the notion that some men, described as "rice queens" in the gay world, are only interested in dating Asians as part of a sort of geisha man-on-man fantasy. It’s a paranoia so pernicious he says it can contribute to a competitive feeling toward other gay Asians as well.

    "It’s a very difficult line to walk to find a partner who is not a fetishist, overly attracted to your culture or race to the point where it supersedes the other characteristics of your person and it can be really exhausting emotionally," Tseng said.

    "That air of suspicion can not only directed toward white or non-Asian men, but it was also directed against other Asian people in terms of who would be able to snag the one-in-a-million white guy who is non-problematic and genuinely interested in you," he continued.

    "Even the men who say they like Asian men usually like Asian men for all the wrong reasons -- the stereotypes of gay Asian men being more submissive, a docile femininity," admitted Chong-suk Han, a leading researcher of anti-Asian racism within the LGBT community. "So it’s not a great honor for these sorts of guys to say they ’prefer Asians.’"

    The feeling of being in competition with other men also makes it difficult for many gay Asian men to build friendships and bond with each other, and ultimately manifests itself in the choice of many to avoid dating other Asians.

    Patrick Cheng, an assistant professor of Historical & Systematic Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., who writes on queer API issues sees a direct linkage between that choice, the broader LGBT community’s cold shoulder to people of color and the feelings of inferiority many men internalize.

    "We take in this message that we’re not as good or attractive and it gets translated into feeling bad about ourselves or preventing ourselves from seeing other APIs as being attractive too," Cheng told EDGE. "When the message is sent that the queer API community is just not welcome or is not as attractive, you have to de-program yourself from everything you’ve learned."

    The Language Barrier
    Language also presents an important factor in organizing efforts for queer Asian men, as the resources offered by the vast majority of LGBT organizations, API-centric groups included, are produced only in English. According to the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s 2008 report on LGBT Asians, only 50 percent of survey respondents indicated English was their native language, which means a barrier to pertinent information may also be a factor for many members’ ability to connect with a group.

    Further, language barriers reinforce the differences in experiences of many gay Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants. It is a matter Tseng said is often not addressed by LGBT groups, many of whom do not have the resources available to produce materials and create programming covering the vast array of languages Asian men speak.

    "Gay Asian men who may not necessarily speak English are even more underserved than those who speak the language well," Tseng said. "Not only do you face the obstacle of pure racism, but also the xenophobia of that language barrier and that is often overlooked."

    Jonipher Kwong, director of API Equality Los Angeles, a coalition that works toward progress on LGBT issues within Asian communities, also emphasized having strong English language skills is a major factor in many gay Asian mens’ sense of confidence within the dating scene and other facets of life.

    "Many guys feel the better one’s English proficiency is, the better the likelihood of getting a white partner, as if that’s the ideal situation," Kwong described. "This poses problems for our self image and feeling of desirability or even what’s erotic or beautiful or what isn’t. There’s a perception that there’s glass ceiling here to break through in order to get a job, date and find a partner."

    But through the work of groups like GAPIMNY and AFC, not to mention community role models including activist Lt. Dan Choi, actor George Takei and comedian Alec Mapa, just to name a few, gay Asian mens’ glass ceiling has been showing more and more cracks in recent years. And while the battle is certainly far from over, it seems our community are stepping in a more progressive direction.

    In the final part of this series, running next week, we examine the impact the Internet, and specifically online dating and social networking, has had on gay Asian mens’ experiences of racism. Pointing toward possible solutions will be a discussion of what efforts can and have been made by a growing number of activists and allies to create a more supportive environment for gay Asian men.I

    Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more.

    Gay Asians reveal racism problems

    By Sanjiv Buttoo
    BBC Asian Network

Gay Asians in Yorkshire say they are discriminated against
Gay Asians in Yorkshire say they are discriminated against

Gay Asian men living in Yorkshire say they are facing increasing racial abuse from within the gay community.

They claim the problem means that some of them are fearing for their own safety and have decided to stay at home or just suffer in silence.

Naz from Wakefield explained that when he goes out on to the gay scene in Leeds and Bradford he always sees or suffers from racial abuse.

"I have a fear now when I go out that there will be racism directed towards me and my friends," he told BBC Asian Network.

"It makes us feel very insecure and I don't think its worth going out because of the problems we face."

Ali from Bradford is a regular on the gay scene in the North of England.

He goes out every week and tries to ignore the insults but says, inevitably, the racism does get to him.


Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 3"

Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 28"

Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 38"

Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 39"

Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 39"

Dang, Alain and Mandy Hu, "Asian Pacific American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: A Community Portrait a report from New York's queer Asian Pacific Legacy Conference, 2004, page 40"

Gay Anti-Asian Prejudice Thrives On the Internet

by Joseph Erbentraut
EDGE Contributor
Monday Sep 6, 2010

    Over the past several weeks, EDGE has dug deep into an issue often overlooked within the LGBT community: Racism - manifested both subtly and overtly - against queer people of color. In this specific series, we have delved into the experiences of gay Asian men, who typically face a pronounced stigma marked by stereotypes of femininity, docility and exoticness at the hands of other, usually urban American gay men.

    As Part One of this series discussed, terms like "rice queen" and other stereotypes are closely tied in with the broader Asian American experience, as Asian males’ sexuality has typically been either ignored and belittled as feminine by mainstream media.

    As described in that first article, the simmering stereotypes against gay Asian men came to a head in 2004, when Details Magazine ran a controversial "Gay or Asian?" feature. It ignited the community--gay Asians and heterosexual straight male Asians--into action with a raucous protest at that magazine’s New York headquarters and an embarrassed "meal culpa" from the editor.

    Today, as Part Two addressed, gay Asian men’s groups can be found in most major American cities. But organizers still face obstacles in their efforts to overcome bias, battling language barriers and at-times deeply internalized feelings of inferiority within the community itself.

    As a result, many gay Asian men refrain from associating with or dating other men like them. Unfortunately, such self-protection may be empowering but it also further isolates the community and reinforces existing stereotypes.

    In this, the final installment of this article, we ask the question of what influence the Internet has had on gay Asian men’s self-esteem and organizing. The ’Net has been described as "the ultimate democratizer" of modern society, but its anonymity can also provide the final frontier for prejudice to rear its ugly head.

    Finally, this article strives to arrive at the final question: What can be done, both by the entire LGBT community and gay Asian men themselves, in order to foster a more inclusive and diverse queer nation? Are such biases an inevitable byproduct of a community that insists on defining peopleby preference for physical and racial typecasting? Or is change possible?

    Please note, as in previous articles, in the interest of coherence and brevity, this story focuses on men within the Asian and Pacific Islander (or API) communities whose heritage takes root in Eastern nations of the sprawling continent--including, but not limited to, China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Queer men from other parts of the continent, as well as women and transgender people, encounter social stigmas and experiences largely unique to their identity groups, though some overlap is to be expected. Still, for the purposes of this article, I have restricted myself to the Pacific Rim and Oceania (excluding the British Commonwealth countries of Australia and New Zealand), but which does not include ethnicities of the Indian Subcontinent.

    Social Networking, Hook-Up Sites Aid-Even Foster-Prejudice?
    Many progressive activists have praised the Internet for its unprecedented potential to share information and connect otherwise separated people. The reality of many gay Asian male users of dating and hookup sites, however, falls far short of Utopia.

    It is not at all unusual to come across one particularly exclusionary triad: "No fatties, no femmes, no Asians." The "not into Asians" is virtually a mantra in personal ads, as Internet users hide behind their virtual anonymity to use racially-charged, taunting language.

    Such experiences mirror that of the discrimination against many men trying to get into nightclubs because bar owner fear a club’s reputation will suffer if it becomes "too Asian"--a trend New York City’s GAPIMNY is attempting to document and, ultimately, prevent.

    Patrick Cheng, a Cambridge, Mass.-based theologian and writer on a variety of queer Asian topics, argues there’s more substance behind such "instant disqualifying" exclusions of API men than simply an issue of personal preference. Such instant rejections go a long way in contributing to a segregating force within the queer community.

    "There’s nothing worse than to see a blanket exclusion like ’No Asians,’" Cheng says. "People respond that it’s not racist, that it’s just what they prefer, but I think sexual types are much more fluid than that and can evolve depending on how good you feel about yourself or other people."

    The danger of the "No Asians" disclaimer is that it prematurely bars the feeling of any sort of "sparks" before other facets of attraction--such as a strong intellectual or emotional connection--can even be assessed, according to Angel Abcede, spokesman for the queer API advocacy group Asians & Friends Chicago (AFC). Instead, Asian men are often sent back to square one purely on the basis of their ethnicity and sweeping generalizations about penis size, sexual roles and sexual activity (or lack thereof), among other stereotypes.

    "The Internet and social networking haven’t erased some of the basic things that need to happen in terms of people connecting with each other and looking for that physical connection with another person," Abcede said. "I don’t think the Internet erases any of the negativity within the larger LGBT community or within ourselves and how we feel about each other."

    All Queer Men of Color Suffer From Such Ostracism
    Internet dating, while making community among gay API men possible, has probably caused more harm than good for many queer people of color, notes Chong-suk Han, a prominent researcher on LGBT Asian issues at Middlebury College in Vermont.

    Queer men of color in particular, Han argues, not only face exclusionary messages in predominately white queer communities online, but also do not see others like them represented in promotional and advertising images on sites like Manhunt and other LGBT news and entertainment sites.

    This points to larger issues than solely the concerns of queer Asian people.

    "The Internet is spreading what the LGBT community considers to be the ’ideal’ gay person, and yet no one looks like these young, very white men. But the idea of these images is that’s the way you should look if you are gay," Han told EDGE. "You could argue these images further alienate gay men of color who are not seeing people who look like them in these images. It might make them feel even more alone, like they don’t really belong here [in our community] either."

    Queer people of color have frequently been scapegoated via urban myths launched from both the LGBT community and socially conservative forces. Black men having sex with men "on the down low" is blamed for the spread of HIV in the African-American community. Following the passage of Prop 8 in California, several prominent gay political voices, including Dan Savage, almost immediately pointed their fingers at black and Latino voters, despite polling data to the contrary.

    Such myths are just two examples of many contributing to a widely difficult environment facing LGBT people of color hoping to live openly queer lives while also honoring their ethnic backgrounds.

    "It’s very difficult for all gay people of color to come out of the closet because we have more to lose," Han added. "We enter into a gay community that isn’t the most welcoming to us, so if we do lose the support of our families, we are left with fewer places to turn. The fear is we might end up with nothing."

    It is also worth noting that Black and Latino men also combat stereotypical expectations of their sexualities, in their case an often hyper-masculinized set of biases that sometimes make it tricky for men to find a foothold in community. Their seemingly opposite problem from gay Asian men, it could be argued, shares a similar root cause.


    Sexual Racism / GAM pages

    Sexual Racism / Gay Asian Male (GAM) pages

    Racism is a pretty loaded term and it's also a hard concept for people to deal with. I think we like to see ourselves as pretty free of prejudice, but of course, we're not. We make judgements all the time, and often this happens before we meet someone, or before a situation happens. This can be a good thing - a process of critical thinking and choice - or it might not be a good thing, if our preconceptions are preventing us from seeing or taking part in the world in a complete way, or if they hurt other people.

    Since about 2002, I've been raising the issue of sexual racism on the internet, and I discovered that others were as well. So, we've joined forces, aiming to raise discussion on the issue, and to make the internet, and maybe by extension, the gay community, a safer and friendlier place for everyone, no matter what colour you are.

    The use of internet services for dating and meeting up with other men has gone up and up and UP. Places like gaydar.com.au or gay.com or aol.com or any of these gay profile sites may be the most powerful force shaping gay male sexuality today. They are certainly among the most important ways we meet each other and talk about who we are.

    Along with the rise of these services (which stretch beyond national borders to a truly international meeting place and phenomenon) have arisen new forms of old prejudices. This is the issue we want to address and it relates to these phrases:

    No fats, no fems, no Asians. Not interested in arrogant, effeminate guys, asians or guys with attitude. Seeking other similar goodlooking masculine guys, no fems, no asians please No GAMs (no Gay Asian Males)

    We're calling this: "sexual racism".

    Some people relate racism only to the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups. They think that racism is only when you hate other races or when you think your race is superior. But racism is also about prejudice based on race. It often involves the first definitions but is much more subtle.

    Since I'm assuming that most everyone who is reading this is gay, I ask you to think of your own experience of being gay. It didn't take people to actively hate me in order for me to feel uncomfortable. It could just have been their discomfort or distaste. And I don't think any straight person ever told me that they were superior to me - but I did feel marginalized for not having the same equal rights. So, just as homophobia and heterosexism need not be blatant to be harmful, it's the same with racism.

    If you're surfing the internet looking for friends, or dates, or shags, and you read profile after profiile that excludes you on the basis of something you have no control over - race - , how does it make you feel? No GAMS is only one letter away from No GAYS. Think of it that way. How about if you walk around in your workplace or your neighbourhood and occasionally, or more often than you think, you see a sign that says "No Gays."

    We know that prejudices don't go away easily so while we hope to make people think, the prime aim of this campaign is practical and concrete. What we're working towards is eliminating language from public space that makes gay internet sites unfriendly and unwelcoming to not only Asian men, but to other men who are different. We recommend that men word their ads positively, to specify who or what we're looking for, rather than who or what we're not looking for, i.e. looking for slim guys, rather than "no fats."

    It's become so easy and so common in Sydney (and some other places) for men to write the terms -No Asians, No GAMs, No Gay Asians - in their profiles. I hope that gay asian guys who use the internet for dating and meeting people, as well as our friends and supporters will join in a campaign to get these phrases out of public spaces where they create an environment where the people think it is acceptable and where it is hurtful to those who encounter it.

    This campaign is specifically aimed at those who use these services. While you may support these issues, I certainly don't expect you to trawl the internet for sexual racism to respond to! But for those who do use the services, and run across this language on a regular basis, why don't we do something about it?

    This is a complicated issue. We don't want to make it seem easy. That's why we're encouraging discussion. Check out the other writing on the site, and the Sexual Racism Sux site. Tell us your comments.

    I think that we as gay men have experienced enough prejudice to understand a bit about it. Why add to it? Why don't we all work towards something called a "community" chock-full of respect, responsibility and kindness?


    On Saturday, Sept. 25, the Washington Shakespeare Company held its annual benefit with an evening entitled "Shakespeare in Klingon." The evening's special guest was Star Trek's original Mr. Sulu, George Takei. The openly gay actor sat down with Metro Weekly the morning following the benefit to discuss his life as a gay man, and the impact Star Trek has had on his life, and weigh in on his favorite of all the Star Trek movies.

    Two LGBT teams raced in the 9th Annual D.C. Dragon Boat festival Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16, on the Potomac River. Out to Paddle, which won a first-place finish in the 2009 races, was joined this year by a new team, Rainbow Connection. Continuing a tradition that stretches back thousands of years to its origins in China, the Dragon Boat races featured 55 teams racing along the river from the starting point at the Thompson Boat Center. Out to Paddle took bronze in the 250-meter Open ''A'' division finals, and silver in the 500-meter Open ''A'' division finals.

    Go East!

    The Queer Asian/Pacific Islander Community Gets Proud

    by Will Doig
    Published on May 15, 2003, 12:00am

    Some say that gay jokes are the last socially acceptable form of discrimination, but most people think nothing of laughing at 7-Eleven and "free egg roll with purchase" cracks. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have long been marginalized members of not only the gay community, but America in general. Simultaneously idealized and belittled, their plight as a minority is unique.

    And the lack of attention and resources devoted to the queer A/PI community is both a reflection of, and a fuel for, their continued marginalization. It wasn't until three years ago that local organizers began to hold an annual event each May, which is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, to recognize the A/PI LGBT communities, and even then, it was only a one-day affair.

    This year, a series of events running from May 16 to 29 will make up Pride and Heritage: A Celebration of the A/PI LGBT Communities. The series is spearheaded by four local groups that specialize in LGBT Asian and Pacific Islanders: The Asian and Pacific Islander Partnership for Health (APIPH), A/PI Queer Sisters (APIQS), A/PI Queers United for Action (AQUA), and Asians and Friends Washington (AFW).

    "In years past, we've always had at least one event," says Joseph Truong, co-chair of AQUA and a member of the Pride and Heritage planning committee. "This year, we wanted to tackle all of the issues that at once -- health, immigration, arts and culture, social events -- and we've done it all on relatively short notice."

    One of the major components of the series will be a focus on visibility. While simply holding the events will contribute to the visibility of the community, some of them speak specifically to that issue. Happy Together, a gay-themed film starring Hong Kong actor Lesley Cheung, will be shown along with a discussion featuring film academic Dr. Gina Marchetti. Cheung, a popular actor in Asia who recently passed away, was one of the few willing to star in films with gay themes.

    "There's a lack of role models for Asians even in the [mainstream] media, and this trickles down even further in the A/PI LGBT media," says Kevin Lee, co-chair of AQUA and Pride and Heritage planning committee member. "There's a lack of visibility compared to other ethnic groups."

    The problem of invisibility is intertwined with the problem of resources, of which there is a dearth when it comes to what is available to the queer A/PI community, according to Truong.

    "There are a number of organizations that continually struggle to find adequate resources for our needs," he says. "It goes back to organizational structure. We're involved in so many things -- our day jobs, events like these -- that we don't put one hundred percent of our effort behind one visible campaign."

    That's what the Pride and Heritage series is hoping to change. Washington, D.C. has one of the largest Asian and Pacific Islander populations in the country. This fact, combined with the fact that many gays and lesbians lack a real awareness of an A/PI LGBT community, only underscores the need for such a series.

    "There's a lack of role models for Asians even in the [mainstream] media, and this trickles down even further in the A/PI LGBT media. There's a lack of visibility compared to other ethnic groups." -- AQUA co-chair Kevin Lee

    "Despite that D.C. is one of the top five U.S. cities for Asian population, we're still always going to be struggling," admits Truong. "I can't imagine how they do it in other parts of the country."

    Also of concern are healthcare issues, an area in which LGBT people are chronically underserved, but which, in some ways, affects queer Asians and Pacific Islanders uniquely.

    "A lot of us are just trying to figure out exactly which health issues we're facing," says Richard Tagle, a founding member of the A/PI Partnership for Health, an organization founded in 1993 to address HIV/AIDS in the queer A/PI community. "My belief is that D.C. has a strong infrastructure for healthcare services. You don't need an A/PI-specific provider. Anyone -- an Asian person, a black person, a Native American -- should be able to walk through the doors and receive healthcare services."

    The District government does not keep track of information about A/PI health specifically, according to Tagle. But Ann Surapruik, a former co-chair of APIQS, says there are some health issues that concern Asians and Pacific Islanders specifically. For instance, breast cancer is the leading cause of death in Asian women aged 45 to 54, and A/PI people are at higher risk for Hepatitis B and cervical cancer.

    "Cervical cancer occurs at a rate five times higher in Vietnamese women than in white women," she says. "That puts Vietnamese lesbians at particularly high risk, since many doctors assume that lesbians are low risk for that disease."

    "These were things that surprised even me," Truong says. "I called my mom on Mother's Day and told her she needs to get checked regularly."

    In addition to these issues, the series will feature a special workshop on immigration rights, something particularly pressing for a community for which no home country makes concessions for gay and lesbian immigrants. There are currently fifteen countries that allow for immigration rights to be bestowed upon gay and lesbian foreign-born nationals with a partner overseas, and with the possible exception of Australia and New Zealand, none could be considered part of Asia or the Pacific Islands.

    "People think, ‘I'll just go to Vermont and sponsor my partner,' but that's not how it works," says Eric Nelson, DC Chapter Coordinator of the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force. "Immigration law is very complicated, and when you're gay and abroad, there's a lot to understand."

    Nelson's own partner is from Russia. He's been living in the U.S. for ten years, changing visas frequently before finally finding an employer to sponsor him for a Green Card. Nelson says that for LGBT couples, this method is their best bet.

    "And that's not easy, especially in the current economic environment," he says. "A few years ago, tech companies were searching desperately for people overseas. That's not the case anymore."

    Pride and Heritage will seek to address dilemmas like these on an individual level, and to give tangible substance to a community often reduced to a cultural stereotype.

    "Because of the culture we come from, a lack of support from the A/PI community can be an issue," says Truong. "With the Pride and Heritage series, we're taking things a step further."

    Pride and Heritage runs from May 16 to 29. For information about events or sponsorship, call 202-986-2393, e-mail pride@apiph.org, or visit www.apiph.org/prideandheritage.


    Chop Suey
    writing and stuff

    Since my last update on these pages was Sept 2003, I'm not doing a good job of keeping things up-to-date. But I'm putting a few new pieces up so have a read!

    Personal-ad activists won't swallow racism (Aug 2006)
    A feature article in the Georgia Straight, Vancouver's weekly entertainment newspaper, by Craig Takeuchi.

    Questions and Answers (updated Oct 2005)
    A few questions and answers about the campaign , a mild political manifesto and a teeny disclaimer.

    Questions and Answers (updated Oct 2005)
    A few questions and answers about the campaign , a mild political manifesto and a teeny disclaimer.

    New Stereotypes for a New Century (Feb 2005)
    In Feb 05, I wrote an article for http://www.fridae.com, the Asian gay and lesbian news portal and personal ad site. It was in response to an article about racism against Asian men in the gay community which I thought was both outdated and unhelpful.

    It created an unbelievable amount of response. You have to be a member of fridae to read them - (and someone said it took him two hours to do so). I found it difficult to read since there were a lot of personal attacks on me and misinterpretations of the article, but it is a fascinating snap shot of white-asian gay relationships - and around the world, where this website focuses on Western cities.

    Sexual racism or discernment (Oct 2005)
    This is a response that Tim has made to a posting on the sexualracismsux yahoo list. It deals with a lot of issues but I think it's a good illustration of both some common negative responses to the campaign, and how complex it is to respond to them. Though Tim does a damn fine job.

    The Form Letters (April 2003)
    Show someone you care! Well, show someone that you've noticed their ad is worded (perhaps unintentionally) in way that is unnecessarily hurtful. We've found that webmasters and companies don't want to take up this issue, so it's really up to us. Back to the grassroots. On this page, you'll find a few model letters you can use. You can just cut and paste it into a message from you. I'm going to try and work out a form so you can just enter their address and it will automatically send it to them.

    Nastiness about being HIV Positive (April 2003)
    While the focus on this website is racism on the net, there's also some nasty shit on the web re: HIV status. I quite liked this response (link posted with permission)

    I don't have a racist bone in my body (December 2001)
    I wrote this article for the magazine CRANK about internet racism. It was my first attempt to put my thoughts down on the issue, and I'm happy with the way it turned out.

    Getting It If You're Asian (Spring 2002)
    I wrote this piece for RICEPAPER magazine's "the SEX [-y/ual/ualized] issue" published in Spring 2002. It's about being Asian (man, woman, gay, straight or bi) and getting it. Wink wink. Nudge Nudge.

    Kinds of Racism (April 2003)
    Asian men who say "no whites". Whites that say "Asians only". HIV Positive men who are looking for other Pos guys. More thoughts about preferences and prejudices.

    Advice to an Advice Columnist (April 2003)
    More on personal ads and race. Dan Savage wrote a reply to a reader who'd written in on this issue. I think his advice needs some advice.

    Responses to the Campaign
    We've had lots of good responses, and a few negative ones to this campaign. We keep 'em at the sexual racism sux site.


    Sexual Racism Sux!
    This is my inspiration. My pal Tim (well, now he's a pal, I didn't know him when he did this) noticed these No Asian ads and decided to start a little campaign using his website. Through it, you can put a stylish banner on your personal ad that says "Sexual Racism Sux". It has a list of supporters, an explanation of why sexual racism sux, and is just generally an all-around cool place to hang out. Tim is hosting these page on his website too. I encourage you to spread the word about this and get people of all races to join the campaign!

    SRS Yahoo Groups
    Join the discussion. As of October 2005, about 250 members!

    Andy Quan's homepage


    Visibly Proud

    Celebrating Pride and Heritage with the GLBT Asian/Pacific Islander community

    By Sean Bugg and Will O'Bryan
    Photography by Todd Franson
    Published on May 4, 2006, 12:00am | 0 Comments, 0 Tweets

    In many ways, Pride is about being seen, being visible. And that's one of the goals behind Pride & Heritage, D.C.'s annual celebration of the GLBT Asian/Pacific Islander community.

    "Pride & Heritage is about visibility, celebration -- recognizing all the talents and contributions of gay Asian Americans in our community," says Linh Hoang, one of the organizers of the event. "By bringing folks together, we can recognize people for their contributions."

    The seventh annual Pride & Heritage celebration this Saturday at Club Chaos will honor Gita Deane, one of the plaintiffs seeking equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians in Maryland. Deane, 45, moved to the U.S. from India to attend graduate school, where she met and fell in love with her partner, Lisa Polyak.

    As an immigrant, Deane's story reflects one of the common themes for many Asian/Pacific Islander gays and lesbians. Without the option of marriage to bestow legal status on her relationship, Deane felt compelled to keep her life with Polyak secret, lest it disrupt the complex and precarious process of immigration.

    "We were both so terrified," Deane says.

    Over the years, the couple increasingly came out to their friends, families and co-workers, culminating in their role in the Maryland marriage case. Whatever the outcome, Deane seems satisfied that change is coming. "Win or lose, we've created visibility, we've taken a step forward."

    That visibility applies to the gay and lesbian A/PI community as well, which makes the recognition by Pride & Heritage particularly special for her.

    "I feel like there are layers of invisibility," says Deane. "If you're minority and gay and lesbian, you're even more invisible. To know that there are people out there watching who come from a culture that's even more repressive [than mine] yet are able to come together and be out -- that's really significant for me."

    "This is very incredible because rarely do you see Asian people at the forefront of gay civil rights," says Pride & Heritage's Hoang. "We're applauding her courage in stepping up and challenging the institutions."

    Pride & Heritage is also honoring efforts in visibility by Asian Pacific American (APA) Film, a D.C.-based group that has continually worked to include a range of gay and lesbian voices in its film programming, particularly in the annual D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival.

    "They always dedicate one section to a focus on...films that are produced by LGBT people or have LGBT content," says Hoang, lauding APA's efforts at inclusivity.

    Hoang himself shows another aspect of the diverse A/PI gay community. He jokingly refers to himself as 1.5-generation -- born in Vietnam, he moved to the U.S. in 1993, when he was just 10. Even though his family settled in the San Francisco area, it wasn't until he arrived in D.C. to attend Georgetown that being gay even entered the realm of possibility.

    "You're not supposed to date or have a relationship until you're out of high school," he says. Now 23 and actively working to increase the visibility of A/PI people within the broader gay community, Hoang is still looking for the right way to come out to his conservative family. That process helps inform his involvement in Pride & Heritage.

    "This event is really special to me because within the Asian community, there's a challenge between being gay and Asian," he says. "It's sometimes a challenge to connect the two together.

    "We're celebrating our sexuality and are open about it, but at the same time we're celebrating our culture an heritage."

    Pride & Heritage is a collaboration by a number of organizations, including three prominent groups that focus on gay and lesbian Asian Americans, and who are profiled on the following pages: Khush-D.C., Asian Queers United for Action (AQUA), and Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters (APIQS). They're joined in their efforts by the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (D.C. Chapter) and the D.C. Men of Asia Prevention Study (DC-MAPS).

    The stories and experiences of GLBT Asian/Pacific Islanders are as varied and diverse as the people who make up the community. But they share a common thread. The desire to be seen, to be a valued part of the GLBT community, to celebrate their own heritage while celebrating the heritage of this shared community -- to be visibly proud.

    Rebecca Sawyer

    Celebrating a Community

    Pride & Heritage

    At first glance, one might think Rebecca Sawyer's story is part of a traditional American gay and lesbian narrative: Raised in the South by conservative evangelical Christian parents, she left home for college, where she was able to explore her own sexuality, and then moved on to the big city where she pursued her work for GLBT rights.

    But as is often the case, a glance doesn't tell the whole story. Sawyer's mother is Korean, her father Caucasian. Her personal heritage has led her to pursue a social justice path that includes both queer and Asian/Pacific Islander issues. And that means working to make queer Asians more visible.

    "For those folks who are having difficulty with coming out [to their families], if only their parents saw that there were other queer APIs out there and understood the communities a little more," says Sawyer. "Visibility will only improve the lives of queer API."

    Sawyer, 25, knows of what she speaks, having gone through the difficult process of coming out to her own parents.

    "We're still working on it, slowly but surely," she says. "It was definitely one of those things that I had to do. There was a bit of relief, to know that I am who I am regardless."

    Sawyer first got involved with Pride & Heritage last year, as part of her work with the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. Now a member of the Pride & Heritage Planning committee, she's focusing on working with local mainstream, Asian and GLBT media on issues of inclusion and visibility of GLBT Asian/Pacific Islanders.

    With the event in its seventh year, Sawyer expects to see Pride & Heritage continue to grow, both as a part of the U.S. government designated A/PI Heritage Month every May and as part of the annual June celebrations of gay and lesbian pride.

    "It's growing steadily from year to year," she says. "My expectation is that it will grown even more so in the next year."

    In addition to increasing visibility, Sawyer says that fighting stereotypes and racism within both the mainstream and GLBT communities is also a goal.

    "It's stereotypes of how people perceive [for example], Asian-American women," she says. "The image of Asian-American women being docile -- more of the geisha and less of the dragon lady stereotype.

    "I think what makes the problem of racism more difficult to deal with in the GLBT community is that it's not usually direct -- it's very indirect.

    "There needs to be more education and awareness."

    That's why Sawyer is excited about this year's Pride & Heritage honorees.

    "The lack of recognition for your work makes the work unnecessarily difficult," she says. "Being able to recognize Gita and APA film is what will be most personally satisfying." -- SB

    Paresh Gajjar

    South Asian Solidarity


    In June of 1994, two Washingtonians of South Asian descent went to New York to speak at an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It was the first time Atul Garg and Yassir Islam met. There, they struck up a plan to bring to D.C. something akin to New York's South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association.

    KhushDC was born.

    The group has a three-point mission to provide a safe and supportive environment, promote awareness and acceptance, and to foster a positive cultural and sexual identity for ''lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and additional gender or sexual minority'' South Asians in the D.C. area. They throw a pretty good party, too.

    The first Saturday of every month finds members enjoying dinner, drinks and dancing at their signature ''Chutney Saturday'' events. They also hold potluck dinners every other month, and the monthly ''Spicy Asian Crunch'' happy hour, held with other area GLBT Asian/Pacific Islander groups, at Halo. With their full social calendar, it's no wonder KhushDC is responsible for Pride & Heritage's biggest party, ''Jalwa.'' The phrase is Urdu -- the national language of Pakistan -- for ''splendor'' or ''display.'' The name certainly suits this year's Jalwa theme: Bollywood, a tribute to the huge Indian film industry nicknamed as Bombay (Mumbai) meets Hollywood, and known for its extravagantly colorful, melodramatic musicals.

    ''Last year was the first time it was called 'Jalwa,''' says current KhushDC president, Paresh Gajjar. ''Prior to that, it was called 'Monsoon Nights.' This year, we are going to have a performance early in the evening. As we move into the heavy dance hours, it's going to be strictly dancing.'' Arrive early to catch the male belly-dancing.

    Though socializing has been a mainstay of the KhushDC agenda, Gajjar says the organization is trying to evolve in a way that is more inclusive and more political.

    ''We're not at a point where we do have a large membership base, so for political cause or political events, we have to make a determination as they present themselves,'' Gajjar says, adding that KhushDC has about 45 dues-paying members, more than 300 listserv subscribers, and a new affiliate group called KushDC-Girls. ''For example, one of the things right now is immigration reform. We had a discussion, and our membership feels as though we should be taking a stance. We're exploring ideas on what we might be able to do.''

    In a sense, though, simply existing makes a political statement for South Asian gay people. Consider Gajjar's recent trip to India. Though born in New York, Gajjar has plenty of extended family in India. For his first trip back since he was an adolescent, Gajjar, 32, tried Mumbai's Voodoo Pub. Billing itself as the only gay bar between Bangkok and Istanbul, that doesn't leave many options for GLBT people in South Asia.

    ''I was expecting it to be far more open,'' Gajjar says of his night out, and the gay scene in Mumbai in general. ''It's still very closeted. I'd heard that people were much more open about their sexuality nowadays. I expected it to be more like D.C. or parts of New York. I did not find it to be like that.''

    Though the real world may not be welcoming, the KhushDC listserv can at least offer GLBT South Asians a sense of virtual camaraderie. ''People overseas, they might sign up for the listserv, just to see what discussions are happening,'' says Gajjar. And if they make it to D.C., they'll certainly know where to find a friend. -- WOB

    Trang Duong

    Sharing Sisterhood

    Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters

    Born in Vietnam and raised in California, Trang Duong took the road less traveled -- to Anchorage. Her godparents lived there, and enticed her to make the big move north.

    ''It's actually a great community,'' she says of Anchorage. ''It's a small, very close-knit queer community.'' It wasn't, however, very diverse. She explains that as far as the Anchorage milieu was concerned, any conversational reference to ''the Asian lesbian'' always meant her.

    Moving to the D.C. area in 2002, Duong, now 36, says she was impressed by the diversity she missed in Alaska. ''Being here, it's totally different. You've got a lot more numbers, especially with queer women.''

    D.C.'s diversity also includes some Western touches she's fond of -- Country-Western two-stepping, in particular. Between boot-scoots, she met another dancer, Kim. ''She said, 'Have you heard of APIQS?' She became my partner.'' Kim, it turned out, was a former co-chair of the group.

    APIQS is the acronym for Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters. And today, Duong is one of the group's co-chairs.

    ''We're primarily a support group,'' says Duong of the group, first started in 1987 as D.C. Asian Lesbians [DCALs], participating in the GLBT March on Washington that year. DCALs was reorganized in 1998 as APIQS "to be more inclusive."

    The APIQS mission is to serve as an organization for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning women, focusing on ''queer issues, education and sisterhood,'' through outreach, education and raising the visibility of Asian/Pacific Islander queer women. The group is affiliated with the national umbrella organization Asian and Pacific Islander Lesbian, Bisexual Women and Transgender Network, which uses the acronym APLBTN, or ''apple button.''

    While APIQS has been around in some form or other for nearly 20 years, it doesn't have a reputation for infrastructure. Duong says they're trying to change that.

    ''It hasn't been very regimented. Because we don't have an office or staff, it's totally volunteer-driven. Over the past few months, we've been trying to do at least a monthly potluck or dinner. We're looking now at restructuring and getting APIQS more active. We're constantly challenging ourselves to see how we can make [APIQS] better.''

    One concrete step in that direction should give the group a better handle on its constituency -- both in numbers and need. ''We know we don't reach out enough, [but] we're creating a survey to send out to members and potential new members. What do you want APIQS to be? It will probably go out around [Capital] Pride.''

    This push to recruit new members and identify the needs of both current and potential members may ultimately lead APIQS to be a dues-collecting organization. APIQS's primary goal, however, is 501c3 status. With this IRS designation as a non-profit organization, APIQS would be able to apply for grants with an eye to increasing capacity. That, says Duong, would mean doing more work like their new partnership with the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Project (DVRP).

    ''One of the issues that we want to address is same-sex violence. We want to start addressing that, and to help DVRP build their capacity to help same-sex female couples,'' she explains. ''I think [our goal] is just getting more involved in issues beyond being social. We're just starting to get ourselves more organized to do that sort of thing.''

    Still, Pride & Heritage will demand Duong put her social skills front and center. After all, she's going to serve as one of the event emcees.

    ''We're very involved this year,'' Duong says of Pride & Heritage. ''This is very important for us. It's a way to build community and bridges, especially with our queer brothers. And to celebrate that we're not only queer, but of API descent.'' -- WOB

    Bhangra, 'Boxer' and Brunch

    Pride & Heritage 2005 celebrates the gay Asian community

    By Will O'Bryan
    Published on May 12, 2005, 12:00am | 0 Comments, 0 Tweets

    With the flowers blooming and the calendar filling, it's clear that GLBT pride season is upon us. From April's Youth Pride celebration to Memorial Day Weekend's Black Pride to June's Capital Pride Festival, it's the time of year the community shows its colors.

    And although it may not come with as much fanfare as those long-established events, Pride & Heritage 2005 is well underway with its sixth year of celebrating the LGBT Asian/Pacific Islander community.

    Pride & Heritage is a month-long celebration sponsored this year by Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters (APIQ), Asian/Pacific Islander Queers United for Action (AQUA), and KhushDC. The D.C. Men of Asia Prevention Study -- run by Frank Wong of the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies and focusing on the health of Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese men who have sex with men -- is also lending support.

    de Guzman
    (Photo by Todd Franson)

    While the month began with a happy hour at Halo on May 3, organizers say the best is yet to come.

    APIQS will be offering a women's brunch on May 15, while Reel Affirmations will screen Beautiful Boxer -- the story of a Thai transgender kick-boxer -- on May 20. The highlight comes May 21, with the First Annual Pride & Heritage Awards.

    ''The celebration is evolving from what has historically been a more cultural celebration to one that's looking into the queer Asian/Pacific-American community and honoring those members and allies who've done much to advance the visibility of our issues and concerns,'' says Rebecca Sawyer, APIQS co-chair and a member of the Pride & Heritage 2005 planning committee.

    ''The awards dinner on May 21, honoring community activist John Tinpe and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), does just that by honoring Tinpe's activism work and celebrating the importance of allied organizations like NAPAWF," she says. "Last year, NAPAWF was one of the handful of primarily straight Asian/Pacific-American organizations that led the charge in supporting marriage equality for LGBT Americans.''

    Tinpe, meanwhile, is the openly gay chair of Mayor Anthony Williams's Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.

    ''It's the first time we've very explicitly decided to use our marquee event to recognize people and organizations,'' says Ben de Guzman of AQUA, and a member of the Pride & Heritage planning committee. ''It's more important than ever to recognize Asians and allies … to more officially recognize the ways in which they've helped the community. Our criteria was honoring individuals or organizations that raise awareness around Asian/Pacific Islander issues and concerns. It can be a person who is openly gay or lesbian and Asian, or straight Asian organizations that have been supportive, or mainstream LGBT organizations that have embraced a need to expand their own diversity.''

    Though not an honoree, Theron Gilliland Jr. fits the description of someone embracing a need to expand his own diversity. He's a member of the board at KhushDC, an organization for the local South Asian LGBT community and allies. But he's not Asian.

    ''I got involved [with KhushDC] because I was dating an Indian,'' he explains. ''I wanted to know a little more. I got to meet a lot of people from different countries, different cultures. I think that it's healthy for everyone to reach beyond your personal experience.''

    A good primer for such a reach will be be KhushDC's after-party, ''Jalwa,'' following the award ceremony. This annual fundraiser for the group will bring Pride & Heritage 2005 to a colorful close.

    ''‘Jalwa' is Urdu for ‘splendor' or ‘display,''' Gilliland explains. ''People will show-off, dance and have good time. We're hoping for 300 to 500 people. There is going to be a belly dancer, Mark Balahadia. We're having a really good DJ from New York, Ashu Rai. The theme is a Bhangra Bollywood global mix.''

    Gilliland says ''Bhangra'' is ''India's version of hip hop.'' And Bollywood is a refernce to the lavish, vibrant and colossal Indian film industry.

    Though the month is coming together on schedule, de Guzman cautions that Pride & Heritage 2005 was nearly the celebration that wasn't.

    ''In some ways, this almost didn't happen this year,'' de Guzman says with a relieved laugh, crediting the devoted members of the planning committee navigating the daunting maze of logistics to arrive at a method that seems to be an improvement on the past.

    ''That first year, it was primarily AQUA and APIQS. Through the years we've added more partners. Some have come and gone. The reality is that a lot of the organizations, historically, have not had a lot of capacity," he says. "Having done this for five years, we've finally gotten this right -- putting the onus on participating organizations to take the lead on satellite events. In a lot of ways, this year has been really great for us. In the past, people have known we're around, but this is the first year we've been able to utilize the relationships we've built over the years.''

    For a selected list of Pride & Heritage 2005 events, see the Community Calendar. For a full listing of events, go to www.dcprideandheritage.org.


    Ben de Guzman - Pride And Heritage Hero

    by Will O’Bryan
    Metro Weekly
    Thursday May 20, 2010
    Ben de Guzman (Photo by Todd Franson)
    Ben de Guzman (Photo by Todd Franson)  

    Few embody the intersected identities of being gay and being of Asian ethnicity as vividly as Ben de Guzman. Whether serving for a time as co-chair of the local Asian/Pacific Islander Queers United for Action (AQUA) or doing work on behalf of Filipino WWII veterans - recognized by the Philippine Embassy - de Guzman wears his hats well.

    Really, de Guzman is the embodiment of an invested American. Growing up in Paramus, N.J., where he acted in all the school plays and learned his way around a volleyball court, to undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, to earning his master’s at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Spanish and communications, de Guzman is arguably as well-rounded at the volleyballs he’s still spiking.

    He’s also very grounded, choosing to live in Springfield with his twin brother, sister-in-law, and new nephew, Jack.

    ’’It’s just comfortable where I’m at,’’ he says. ’’I love taking the kid to day care and changing a diaper -- when it’s convenient for me. It’s been really great watching him grow. And it’s easy. It’s easy to have someone to come home to. It’s a family.

    ’’And I’m the crazy uncle they keep locked up in the basement,’’ he adds with a laugh.

    His work with the relatively new National Queer API Alliance (NQAPIA) means he may not get as much time at home as he might like. Serving as the organization’s co-director, he finds himself routinely visiting with member groups of nationwide LGBT-Asian federation.

    On Saturday, May 22, four local organizations - Asian/Pacific Islander Queer Sisters (APIQS), AQUA, Khush DC, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum-D.C. Chapter (NAPAWF-DC) - will present the 10th anniversary Pride & Heritage celebration as a queer contribution to Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. And what better way to celebrate than by honoring Ben de Guzman?

    METRO WEEKLY: Tell me about your history with Pride & Heritage.

    BEN DE GUZMAN: I was there when it first started.

    Helen Zia used to be the executive editor of Ms. magazine and is very big in the Asian-American community. She was doing a book tour at the time, going to all the federal agencies [for] Asian Heritage Month, but not talking about the gay chapter in her new book, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (2000). I remember very clearly she would never talk about Chapter 9, which was the gay chapter.

    We were like, ’’The next time she comes here, we’ll just make her stay an extra day.’’ And she did, and she did a reading for us. We put it together in like a month. We had a pretty good turnout and we decided to just keep doing it every year. We felt like it was our duty to do something gay during Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month.

    We have three local Pride & Heritage coalition members: essentially AQUA, APIQS and Khush DC. Those people kind of stayed together to do the Pride & Heritage stuff.

    MW: Let’s go beyond D.C. and talk about your national work with NQAPIA.

    DE GUZMAN: I am co-director for programs there. We started - again, depending on how you count these things - our first kind of convening was in 2005. But we’ve sort of officially been staffed since 2007.

    MW: And, as with Pride & Heritage, you had a hand in forming NQAPIA?

    DE GUZMAN: Yes. For the longest time, we’ve all sort of known each other. [The Asian/Pacific Islander-American LGBT activist community] is a small community. Even back in 2000, during the Millennium March, our local groups did a reception for all of the Asian folks who were coming into town during that time. We’ve all know each other forever, but we’ve never really committed to doing national work together until we decided that it was time in 2005.

    MW: So a few e-mails went back and forth? There was a weekend retreat? How did the structure form?

    DE GUZMAN: We had been talking for a long time informally. We’d all see each other at Creating Change, and there were conversations. But at Creating Change in 2005 we intentionally did a convening to think about what we were going to do together. Did it make sense to form an organization? That was the weekend where we kind of came altogether.

    We didn’t want to form a national organization just to form a national organization. We wanted it to mean something. We wanted to make sure that it was grounded in the work that was alrea dy h appening. So that’s why the idea of doing it as a federation made the most sense to us, because our local groups were the ones that were already very active.

    MW: Is NQAPIA simply a progressive coalition, or specifically LGBT?

    DE GUZMAN: It is specifically LGBT. In essence, the core members, the voting members, are like the AQUA, APIQS and Khush members around the country - whether they’re ethnic-specific, multi-gender, pan-Asian or whatever. We also have affiliate membership if there’s a group that’s kind of a project of a larger group, that sort of thing.

    We have foundation funding, primarily Arcus Foundation and Astrea [Lesbian Foundation for Justice]. We’ve gotten money from the Gill Foundation in the past. We’re trying to get back on their docket.

    MW: Granting you’ve got your bias, how successful has NQAPIA been?

    DE GUZMAN: It’s been really good. I think it’s come at a time when LGBT national organizations are finally trying to come to grips in a real way with the kind of racial and ethnic diversity within the community, in terms of walking the walk. I think they’ve tried to talk the talk for long time, but this is the first time where you’ve seen more intentional efforts. It’s also come at a time when there’s just been more access. The discussions around LGBT folks have changed so much in the last five years.

    MW: There has been an internal critique I’ve heard that there are too few people of color in the leadership of our national LGBT groups. Do you share that perception?

    DE GUZMAN: I think people of color feel that a lot more directly: the absence of our presence at the national tables. And I think - it’s not a ’’but,’’ it’s an ’’and’’ - the national groups kind of realize that now more than they used to. It takes a leap to think about not just who is at the table, but who’s not at the table. I do think they’re more cognizant of the need to make sure they’re being inclusive. Plus, there haven’t been our groups before. We’re being asked to be at a lot more tables.

    MW: An NQAPIA project you’ve been working on is promoting the 2010 Census. Why is that important?

    DE GUZMAN: It’s funny. I was just talking to somebody about how when you first get invited to the table, you’re very gracious. You’re just happy to be there. [Laughs.] Then, as you get comfortable, you sort of figure out, ’’Okay, what do I really need to do? I’ve just gotten in the door, now how do I push?’’ In some ways, we’re still at the ’’just happy to be here.’’ The census is putting resources into the LGBT community for the first time, but does it make sense for them to just put out T-shirts and videos? Is that the best use of their money? I don’t know. [Laughs.]

    Regardless, it has an impact on our community, just because we happen to be folks who live in a particular area. In that sense, it’s not any different than the impact it has on straight folks. It’s just where we live.

    Behind the scenes, we’re just nipping at the edges, but we’re also pushing in a more real way to get toward a gay question. I see it moving in the right direction. Part of me feels like we have 10 years to get it right. [Laughs.] I think we could have a gay question by 2020. There are smarter heads than mine in those conversations, who are more engaged than I am. But I think that the push is important behind the scenes, even if the public face is more genteel.

    MW: NQAPIA’s second focus is on immigration, where a genteel face is hard to find.

    DE GUZMAN: It’s one of our - if not our top - legislative priorities.

    The conversation has always been about Latinos. The percentage of Latinos who are foreign born is like 30 percent. For Asians, it’s like 60 percent. So, technically, these things affect us more directly than Latino folks. I think Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic group. For us, it’s always been a matter of standing in solidarity with Latino folks on these issues, but also trying to assert our voice in it. It’s always been hard to dislodge the frame that’s placed on it in the public arena.

    MW: Does the debate give you a chance to build partnerships? Is there a lot of solidarity?

    DE GUZMAN: I think there is. At the local level, our groups engage Latino organizations. We’re beginning to better have those conversations with the local Latino community in terms of AQUA, APIQS and Khush DC. But I think just the fact that we exist as national entities so that we can have the conversation at the national level is important, but it just replicates what happens on the ground. Across the country, our groups realize that immigration is an important issue.

    Sometimes the process is working with them to recognize that there’s a connection to the discussion, because it hasn’t included us. Even folks like me - my parents came here as immigrants - I never really thought about immigration, but I recognize the fact that Filipinos have the longest backlogs in the world for family petitions.


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