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Coming Out: Acceptance and Support

On this page are third-party educational resources that may serve as a starting point to generate greater cultural awareness and exchange of multicultural ideas. Asians & Friends Denver is not responsible for content and the following is for informative, education purposes only.

Coming Out: Step by Step

Coming out is frightening. I know this because I came out to my parents JUST LAST WEEK! I thought, "They'll hate me." "They'll be so disappointed." "They won't want to talk about it." I was ashamed, scared, nervous, and terrified when I thought about the prospects of coming out to them even though I was the lesbian pride representative in all other areas of my life. If you're feeling this way, it goes without saying that you're not alone. Especially when one or both of your parents are Asian, you start to think that it will never be a good time to tell them.

There are so many factors that affect a person's decision to come out or not. Let's talk about them first:

  • Gay role models in your life
    • Having supportive gay friends or adults in your life makes it much easier for one to come out
  • Age
    • It might be easier to come out when you've left your house
  • Being in an open-minded environment
    • A liberal college for instance is the place where many people come out for the first time
    • A friendship might give you the space to open up
  • Falling in love
    • Loving someone might motivate you to want to tell your parents or others
  • The type of relationship you have with your parents
    • Having a close relationship with your parents doesn't necessarily mean they'll be good about your coming out, however, it's important to come out to your parents when things are relatively conflict-free between you and your parents. It's never a good idea to come out to them out of anger or just to spite them.

    Not having some of these things on your side might make you feel unprepared to come out. However, remember that Asian, Gay and Proud is a safe and supportive space for you to share your ideas and ask questions. If you think you're the only gay Asian in your physical community, don't worry! There are lots of us all over the world!

    Whether you've decided that you're going to come out to your parents tomorrow night after dinner or whether you're 10 years away from coming out to anyone, including yourself I want to tell you the following facts that helped me build up the courage to tell my parents:

    1. Life is way too short to be living a double life
    2. The only difference between coming out and not coming out is the truth. In other words, before you told them, you were doing the same things as you were doing after you told them. You're the same person!
    3. No matter what they say, they still love you. Being Asian doesn't change that. Every mother and father, no matter what their race, loves their child. If they react negatively, it's because they know about the prejudices out there, and they're scared that you'll be hurt.
    4. The worst reaction is always the first. Things always get better with time.
    5. You are perfect the way you are and being queer is just one of the ways you're you! You're happy being queer!

    But one can only be so positive when you know what could potentially happen when you come out to your parents.
    1. Anger. Your parents might be angry with you, but it's because they've had dreams for your future and they've simply chosen anger to be how they express their disappointment.
    2. Tears. Well, I'm sure you've assumed that your parents might cry, but like I said above, it's probably the manifestation of their disappointment that you won't be leading the life they've envisioned for you.
    3. They could possibly ignore you for a while, but they're going to have to start talking to you eventually.
    Here are a couple of ways to start your conversation with your parent(s):
    1. Mom, Dad I have something important I've been meaning to tell you for a while. I'm attracted to boys/girls(it's best not to say strong words now that they might associate with their stereotypes, such as "homosexual" or "lesbian").
    2. Mom, Dad I want to completely honest with you two. I love you two and so I feel it's really important for me to tell you how I'm feeling right now. I'm attracted to boys/girls.
    Things you can add to your conversation (Remember, these are just guidelines! You can always change the wording to something you feel more comfortable saying):
    1. You loved me two minutes ago before I told you, I hope that two minutes later you still love me just as much.
    2. The only difference now is that I've been honest with you about how I've chosen to live my life.
    3. This is a great chance for our family to show each other how much we love each other.
    4. I'm still the same person!
    5. I know that you're worried about how people will see me, but I'm more concerned about making sure I live without any regrets.
    6. I know this doesn't align with the dreams you have for my future, but this is my life and I'm happy the way I am.
    Most importantly, coming out is a life long process. It doesn't have to be stressful though, and depending on how you handle it, coming out can be extremely rewarding and liberating. While the majority of people would agree that coming out to their parents was the hardest hurdle to jump, there are many different situations in which queer people have to decide whether or not to come out. Here are some different coming out situations.
    1. Yourself! Some people have always known, others when they were 60, and many many more sprinkled in between. It might be super easy or really hard but this is the most important person to come out to :)
    2. The first person to know. Whether it be your best friend or your guidance counselor, the first is a momentous event.
    3. Attending your first pride parade. Being surrounded by so many other proud queer people is actually nerve-racking (and exhilarating) when you've never done it before.
    4. Telling someone you think might be upset by the news. A conservative grandparent? A homophobic friend?
    5. Telling your parents. The biggie!
    6. Telling everyone at school, your workplace etc. (whether that means wearing a gay pride shirt or nonchalantly telling your friends about your new girlfriend)
    7. Holding hands with your lover on the streets. Who said coming out to strangers was going to be easy?
    8. Telling your boss. Remember, you're not your sexuality but at the same time, you wouldn't be you if you weren't also queer! Try to figure out if your boss knowing you're gay will affect your working environment.

    Which leads me to this:

    You and only you are the decider of who to come out to! If you think that you're in any possible physical danger, it's best not to be so obvious about who you sleep with. Don't come out if you're pressured into doing it, or feel uncomfortable. So despite the fact that I think coming out is an extremely important process, you should feel absolutely ready before you do it!


    Happy, Healthy GLBT Asians: Self-Acceptance and Personal Pride

    Self Acceptance and Support

    Asian GLBT can have bright futures

    Positive Asian GLBT Role Models:

    Positive Asian GLBT Role Models:

    FAQs about Coming Out

    Posted on this Website in February 2003 with Permission from Curt McKay, Co-Director of Office for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns and Assistant Dean, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    The information was adapted from articles in Nancy J. Evans and Vernon A. Wall (eds.) Beyond Tolerance: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals on Campus, American College Personnel Association, 1991.

    What is Coming Out?

    A generalized definition of "coming out" involves an acceptance either of one's attraction to and orientation toward others of the same sex or of one's orientation as the 'opposite' gender -- an acceptance of one's identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (G/L/B/T). In the case of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, one likes, is attracted to, and is intimately involved with others of the same sex. In the case of transgendered individuals, one can feel like, dress, or identify as members of the opposite gender. Coming out is a process that happens again and again. It occurs initially when one acknowledges to oneself (the most important and often the most difficult aspect of coming out) and to others that one is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. One claims a GLBT orientation as his or her own and begins to be more or less public with it. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals come out repeatedly as they move through their lives and share their identities with others. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals are forced to come out repeatedly because of heterosexism and gender normativity, or the assumptions that everyone is heterosexual and that everyone identifies as the gender which corresponds to their biological sex. Because most people have these assumptions, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals have to come out to others if they choose to share their true identities.

    Coming out to themselves is one of the hardest steps in developing a positive GLBT identity for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals. It involves much soul searching and introspection, as well as a good healthy sense of self-appreciation and acceptance. Coming out to others involves risks and difficulties depending on who that person is coming out to, how engaged they are with them, how much power they have in the relationship, and how accepting they are. For gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals, coming out always has risks involved in it.

    Why "Come Out"?

    Coming out is a necessary part of developing a healthy and positive identity as a GLBT individual:

    It can help a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered individual feel more positive about themselves.

    It can help reduce isolation and alienation and allow for increased support from other GLBT people.

    It can make friendships closer by sharing such an important part of one's life.

    It can free a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered individual from the "hiding game." Living a double life -- one gay, one non-gay; one trans, one non-trans -- is emotionally and physically draining. Being completely honest with significant others in their lives can be a very enriching experience for a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered individual.

    What Stages are Involved in Coming Out?

    There are many stage development theories that attempt to describe the process of coming out; Cass is the most widely known and used. Her model (designed for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals but more or less applicable for transgendered individuals as well) includes the following six stages, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive:

    •  Identity Confusion

    Conscious awareness of GLBT orientation and that it has some relevance to self, but at same time is confused about the issue. "Maybe this information about homosexuals pertains to me, maybe it does not."

    •  Identity Comparison

    Aware that feelings of sexual and affectional attraction are for the same sex persons and that these attractions are different from peers, family, and society at large. Begins to have "relationships" with same sex partners, but rationalizes it with "this is a special case. It is not because she is a woman, but because she is the person I love."

    •  Identity Tolerance

    Increased contact with the gay community, but continues to believe and perpetuate stereotypes and myths about GLBT individuals. Is ambivalent about meeting other GLBT individuals and is reluctant to embrace gay culture. Thinks "I am probably GLBT, but I'm not sure I like that idea or can accept it."

    •  Identity Acceptance

    Actively seeking out GLBT culture and contacts and an increased involvement and commitment to being GLBT. Finds validation in contacts with other GLBT and feels at home with others like them. However, continues to "pass" and keeps closeted about orientation to fit into the majority culture. "Ok, I'm GLBT and I am comfortable as long as I keep that life separate from my straight friends and people in the outside world. It is not anyone's business how I live my personal life."

    •  Identity Pride

    Strong sense of belonging in the GLBT community and wants to be political and active. Has a strong sense of loyalty toward GLBT and anger toward the straight world and people. Immersed in GLBT culture and community and wants to separate from straights. "I am GLBT and proud of it. I prefer to have as little contact with straight people as possible. We are better than them and I cannot be close to them. I do not trust them."

    •  Identity Synthesis

    No longer feels the need to separate from straights and renews trust in straights. Awareness that orientation is but one aspect of a more integrated person. Is comfortable with both straights and gays. "I am GLBT, but that is just one part of me. I am comfortable with people, gay or straight, as long as they can be comfortable with me."


    Welcome to Asian, Gay & Proud, a safe space for Asian Pacific-Islander American (APIA) members of the LGBTQ (and questioning) community. Check out our tabs for queer APIA coming out stories, links, and other resources.

    -Have you ever wondered why all the gay and lesbian celebrities were white? (Where was the token Asian actress in The L Word?)

    Did you ever feel like you couldn't possibly be gay because you never heard it discussed about at home?

    -Have you ever felt like you were the only gay Asian person in your entire community?

    -Are you afraid to tell your Asian parents about your sexuality because, well let's face it, you've never even talked about sex with them?

    -Have you ever felt enraged by all of the porn that comes up when you type Asian and Gay in a Google search?

    Well, these are the questions we should be asking! But we're here to let you know that we DO exist, and in large numbers. We deserve a voice and we can only do so if we share our stories and experiences with each other. Being Asian-American already puts us in the minority, and being queer on top of that makes it even harder for some of us to come to terms with our identity. We are a diverse group of people with a wide range of beliefs, but the reality is that America and many of its citizens will put us in the same box.

    If you're visiting this site, you've probably come out to yourself (or are considering it) and that's good news for the rest of us! Share your story, and let the rest of our community know about your unique experiences. The focus of this website is on coming out and letting the people around you know that you're queer and proud of it! But first, you need to come out to yourself and know that you're perfectly fine the way you are and that while there will be people who might discriminate you for your sexuality, there's nothing more important than the love you give yourself. The love you have for yourself always outweighs the negativity and prejudices of others.

    Asian, Gay and Proud's Missions:
    1. Create a safe space for Asian or Asian-American LGBTQ to learn about the coming out process
    2. Provide accurate and diverse information about being an Asian member of the LGBTQ community
    3. Share stories and opinions with each other

    We're currently calling for submissions from Asian or Asian-American LGBTQ on their coming out stories. Please send all submissions through the Contact Us page in the tabs above.


    Invisible No More
    By John Caldwell
    The Advocate
    15 March 2005

    It’s been a year since an offensive feature in Details inspired unprecedented activism and visibility among gay and lesbian Asians. So how much has really changed?

    While Andy Wong has gotten over what he calls "the biggest mistake of my life"—joining the Mormon Church in high school—he still struggles with being gay in his traditional Chinese immigrant family. Now living in San Francisco, the 24-year-old activist grew up in a conservative neighborhood in San Diego. When he came out at 18, he says, his mother at first accepted his homosexuality, then backed away. "She desperately wants me to have children and has mentioned more than a few times that she wished I would turn temporarily straight so that I could conceive a grandchild for her," he says.
    Filmmaker Quentin Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong before immigrating to Montreal, has faced his own demons. "Long Duk Dong traumatized my entire generation of Asian males," says the 34-year-old, referring to Gedde Watanabe's extreme Asian stereotype in the 1984 John Hughes comedy Sixteen Candles. Twenty years later, young gay Asians looking for people like themselves still have few choices, Lee notes: "Asian men are often left out of popular culture, and gay Asian men are nonexistent."

    That invisibility is one reason both gay and straight Asians were outraged by Details magazine's "Gay or Asian?" stab at humor. When Wong first saw that April 2004 feature he was offended but not surprised by the sarcastically captioned photograph of a young, spiky-haired Asian man dressed in metallic shoes and a V-neck T-shirt. Portrayals of Asian men as sexually ambiguous or purely feminine are still quite common, he says: "This is an issue that the gay Asian community has faced time and time again. There's so much ignorance."

    Nearing the one-year anniversary of the Details article, Wong says little has changed for gay Asian people. Yes, studies have been done and pro-Asian programs implemented, "but there's still a lot of work to be done. We need to really speak out on our own invisibility."

    Glenn Magpantay, cochair of Gay Asian and Pacific Islander Men of New York and a staff attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, agrees. He helped organize a high-profile protest outside the Details office in Manhattan that resulted in a full-page apology from the magazine. "[But] we are still finding homophobic articles in the Asian-language press and anti-Asian caricatures in the gay media," he says.

    The Details controversy did shed light on the pervasive stereotypes and general lack of positive representation that Asian men continue to face. Despite the success of gay Asian stars like Alec Mapa and B.D. Wong, "gay Asian men are still not perceived to be popular," says Lee, who has featured young gay Asian characters in his independent films Drift and Ethan Mao.

    Gay Asians are still perceived as passive or exotic, says Alain Dang, 28, a gay Asian activist in Manhattan and a member of the New York API group. "The Details article really perpetuated the 'rice queen' phenomenon," he says, referring to gay men who pursue Asian lovers on the assumption they'll be passive or submissive. "It's a real part of my existence and my friends' existence. It's been hard."

    That particular assumption crosses gender lines, says Pauline Park, a transgender Asian activist in New York. "I actually have had men say, 'I really like Asian women because white women can be too independent,'" Park says. "One of the big challenges for transgender Asian women, just like gay Asian men, is dealing with our exotification by men of all races. The assumption is that you're going to be submissive. I'm not. It's annoying and dispiriting to have to constantly correct assumptions."

    This battle against expectations is also something many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Asian people face within their ethnic groups. ?There's racism in the gay community," Park says. "But there's a bigger problem of homophobia in the Asian–Pacific Islander community." Cultural traditions of marriage and child rearing often make it difficult for gay Asian men to come out, says Dang, who was born and raised in Cupertino, Calif., amid a large and traditional Asian family. "All my parents want are grandchildren," he says. "At every family event I'm accosted by relatives asking me if I have a girlfriend."

    Dang, who works as a policy analyst for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, isn't out to any of them. "It's something I struggle with because I'm completely out socially and professionally," he says. "Deep down I know that they love me regardless and nothing could break that bond; I'm just dreading the actual conversation."

    Hoping to help people like his family members understand, Wong, who is director of development at Community United Against Violence, a gay advocacy group in San Francisco, started a first-of-its-kind national organization dedicated to raising awareness about gay issues in the larger Asian population. When over 7,000 Asian-Americans rallied against same-sex marriage in San Francisco last April, Wong was inspired to form the gay rights group Asian Equality, which he now heads. He organized his own San Francisco rally in August and in February helped put together the first marriage equality float for the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. "Over 3 million Chinese-Americans saw it," Wong says. "This was a unique opportunity to present a powerful message and to have loving same-sex Asian couples standing side by side."

    Patrick Mangto, who was executive director of Asian Pacific Islanders for Human Rights in Los Angeles until March 1, says in the past year his group has been making inroads through efforts to publish pro-gay ads in Asian community newspapers. Many initially resisted, fearing readers' reactions, but the ads are now reaching more and more Asian-Americans. "Most of our ads are run in native languages so that it's not an outside thing," Mangto says.

    The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has also been working with the media to ensure that there are positive depictions of gay Asians, notes Andy Marra, Asian–Pacific Islander media fellow for the group [see page 10], while the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in February released an unprecedented study coauthored by Dang that looks at the challenges gay Asian families face.

    But support from such mainstream gay rights groups is still limited, Wong says. A recent unity statement from 22 gay rights groups didn't include a single signature from a gay Asian organization. "Asian-Americans are chief plaintiffs in lawsuits to win same-sex marriage, yet we weren't even asked to sign on to this statement," Wong notes. "This was an opportunity for them to reach out to us."

    It's true that gay Asian groups and activists have been left out in the past, Marra says, but she's optimistic. "It's amazing that our issues are even being discussed and being brought to the table," she says. "We are seeing an emerging movement."

    This article originally appeared in the 15 March 2005 of The Advocate magazine


    Link to After Ellen Blog: Come out to Asian parents - please help me out

    Dealing with Asian Parents When You're Gay

    TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2010

    It’s inevitable when you’re gay and Asian. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll disappoint your parents when they find out you’re queer. The question for most gay Asian children is how to lessen the blow. This problem is universal, whether you’re gay and Asian in the U.S., Canada, Asia, or elsewhere in the world. To get around this problem you could always try the “fake marriage” solution that The Wedding Banquet used, but it’s less than ideal and fraught with problems as the movie showed. On the other hand if you decide to come out to your parents, it’s likely they will ignore your pronouncement and insist you still need to get married and have children.

    If you happen to be Chinese and gay, you’re likely to be in the same predicament as Yu Xiaofei and Jiang Yifei, a lesbian couple, still living at home, looking for a way to be together, and yet not disappoint their parents. Their plan though might not be right for everyone. They plan on finding a gay couple in the same predicament and each marry one of the pair, and never actually tell their parents that they are gay. It seems in this case, The Wedding Banquet is more real life than fiction.

    With all the pressure to marry and produce an heir in Chinese culture, Wei Wei, a sociology professor at Shanghai’s East China Normal University, estimates that about 90 percent of Chinese gays eventually will marry someone of the opposite sex. It’s a sad statistic, but a sign of the prevalent social stance towards gays in China.

    Even growing up in the U.S., as I learned when I got older, the pressure to get married only increases the closer you get to the age of 30. By the time I was 30, my parents actually sat me down and asked if there was something wrong with me. I had no choice but to come out to them (and besides they asked me in my home that I shared with my partner!). But even with my declaration, my parents hounded me through my thirties with admonitions to get married and have kids.

    During a recent 8Asians writers dinner, Ernie and I happened to be discussing the predicament of coming out to Asian parents and he asked me if they ever stop bugging you to get married. I told him yes, the only time they actually stop, is when you have a kid of your own. Not an adopted child, a true bona fide genetic offspring of your very own. I always knew I wanted to be a parent, and I learned about surrogacy early in my twenties, but it wasn’t until my late thirties that I had the financial means and the right partner to go about executing my dream of becoming a parent.

    Among the many things that surprised me about becoming a parent was that my parents stopped bothering me about getting married and having kids. What probably surprised me more, was that they continued to bother my sister who with her partner had two kids of her own. The difference? My sister adopted the two children that her partner had carried, and as such wasn’t actually biologically related to her kids.

    After my daughter was born, I really didn’t expect a change in the way my parents treated me. It was an unexpected benefit. I planned to have a child for all the right reasons, and it was the life changing event I thought it would be. I got lucky with my own mom and dad because of parenthood, but I don’t recommend you become a parent unless you’re sure you want to be one. If you’re Asian and gay and were able to convince your parents not to pressure you to get married and have kids, how did you do it?


    Asian, Gay Proud
    Out & Successful

    Daniel Chung 9/22/10

    Daniel's upbringing straddled both urban and suburban Philadelphia, one of the most vibrant gay communities in the US. Currently, he is a gay professional working in higher education. His mission guiding young individuals on their journey is informed by his time spent as an undergraduate creating safe queer spaces and demonstrating that queer is not abnormal.

    Miyuki: So Dan, thank you so much for joining us today at Asian, Gay and Proud.

    Dan: Sure--hello everyone!

    Miyuki: So we're here in your fancy office now, I actually wanted to start out by asking you about that...we can talk a bit about your job as an admissions counselor. Or what do you they actually call you? What's your official job title?

    Dan: I'm one of the admissions deans at Swarthmore College, but my title is Admissions Counselor.

    Miyuki: Okay, that's awesome. Well you just graduated in June so how was it to transition from this very intense queer scene--I'm going to jump right into the queer part of this--but being a queer student of color and then entering the realm of jobs and real professionals?

    Dan: Well I mean my parents are immigrants so they kind of followed the Asian model of savings, i.e. they have none, they rely on their children so actually my parents have a small business and it's a tough time and they cut me off financially as soon as I graduated. Not so much as a parental desire to see their kids grow up but really out of necessity. So, I had been able to secure a job before I graduated as a clerical worker, so at admissions I did filing, and I did tours for the college and made about 9 bucks an hour. I was self-sufficient for a month and I had expressed interest in doing this job, but I knew I wasn't qualified because I had no admissions experience, but I just made sure I did a really good job as a tour guide and as a clerical worker and I was asked if I wanted to do an interview because one of the staff members here got pregnant and left. So I interviewed, it went really well and then a month later, I'm here--I got this job.

    Miyuki: So how about in terms of your queer identity. I know that at most liberal arts colleges there are strong queer-identified groups, and you're personally still a part of those groups because you're working at the same college. But do you feel any different now that you've graduated?

    Dan: I definitely feel different. I think that working is much different from being student and I think for me it's particularly difficult, and I feel very lucky that, even though she's straight, there's a co-worker in the office who is also a pretty recent graduate--you know having to tell your friends that you can't horse around during 9 to 5 but also making sure that you spend time with them and continue with all of those connections. I think that with regards to the queer community here, I helped found one of the groups, PersuAsian, which is specifically for Asian queer students of color, and so being away from that is very different, even though I'm still on campus and even though I'm relatively close by, I can't go to those group meetings. That isn't my place anymore, but I like the fact that I can be a representative and a liaison for those groups. We have a multi-cultural recruitment team in admissions, they oversee a lot of our recruitment events like when we bring students of color and fly them in for our admitted students program and I'm thinking of trying to institutionalize a queer liaison position because I think that the multi-cultural recruitment team is responsible for all the cultural and ethnic and sexual identity...it's a big job, that's where there are two people doing it. But I think that specifically is my concern...so I've made sure to go to my old groups and my friends and the friends I still have here and tell them that, if you ever just need voice, then I'm here. So in that way, I still feel very connected even though I can't go to the group meetings anymore.

    Miyuki: That's awesome... have you branched out and gone to Philly for any kinds of events for queer Asians?

    Dan: Not for queer Asians in particular but Philly has a pretty big gay scene, we have parades and stuff and I enjoy those a lot but mostly just hanging out in the gayborhood and meeting new people I think is really cool...I think there's a lot of just superficially speaking, racial and ethnic diversity within the queer community in Philadelphia that is perhaps not as prevalent in other cities, so I feel very fortunate that I can see mixed Asian and black couples holding hands, and it's not a thing! I love it!

    Miyuki: Yeah you don't see that as much in say, Boston for example. But that's great! And we're so close that we can take advantage of that. Now that you're a "real adult" it's easier to do that as well. It's easy when you're in college to get stuck in a bubble. But anyways, because we were just talking about your job why don't we talk about what it's like to be out at your workplace. Are you out at work?

    Dan: No, and I think I'm very fortunate to be in a place where, higher ed is always looking for diversity and I had one friend joke that "You got that job and I didn't because you're a queer Asian male right? And you're a shoe in for diversity right?" And I think that's quite false because I relayed the joke to one of my colleagues and they said, "I didn't know you were queer." You know, so in some ways I'm straight-acting and I can code-switch...in some ways I'm not but regardless, I don't think that I'm in an environment where that's actually judged, and it's neither seen as an advantage or a disadvantage--just the way it should be. But I think that just being in higher ed in general is a profession where you'll get that attitude. But I realize that I'm very very lucky, I mean I'm certainly out to all my colleagues, it's not a thing, they don't even bat an eyelash. I think that especially as someone who is responsible for recruiting kids to schools, if we're admitting and denying them, that the realization that seventeen-year-olds are probably thinking about sexuality in a really big way, is very important to me. So I try not to forget that even though I'm in an environment where it's almost passe, right? It's not cool anymore to be queer, and it's not cool to be Asian, right? I think it's trendy for the rest of the country, and I think it's important to remember that this is a unique place and there are a lot of students who if they come here, can come out first of all, and be safe.

    Miyuki: So then let's talk about that seventeen-year-old Dan. I mean, looking back, was it always easy for you to be who you were?

    Dan: We live in an extrovert's society. I was definitely an introvert who needed to withdraw and recharge to gain energy back as a kid, and one day I just decided--and that coincided with me coming out in the 9th grade to my neighbor--that I needed to make some changes. And I'm much happier for it, and different people have different approaches to how they do life, but seventeen-year-old Dan was pretty confident. I knew I was queer since I was five, when I got kicked out of elementary, Christian Korean elementary daycare for touching another boy during nap time.

    Miyuki: Oh my god!

    Dan: Haha! They were yelling at me and praying for me and you know the religious aspect is really strong in a lot of Korean Americans and my dad in particular, he's an elder in a Presbyterian church, a spiritual adviser to the pastor. And I think being seventeen, and out to neither of my parents as I am now, was scary because I was going to a new place and I didn't have the support of my parents in terms of them affirming that I was queer, and that I would really find my identity in college. In many ways, I just didn't know what it would be like to be around people who were queer and black, and queer and white, and queer and Asian because as far as I knew, I was the only one in the world. So I guess if I had to give some advice, if I may, to people listening to this it would just be to be open, right? And if you're open, you can learn a lot, and probably be happier.

    Miyuki: Yeah, be open to the possibilities of being out or what do you mean by that?

    Dan: The possibilities of being out, the idea that perhaps one day soon you'll come out to your parents, if you haven't already, that they might support you they might not, or you might even have a parent who really supports you and a parent who "prays" for you until you get better.

    Miyuki: Is that what happened to you?

    Dan: Yeah, it was surprising because you know, growing up in a traditional Asian family where my parents were immigrants, I thought that my father would freak out. I told my mom first because I had that conversation where I said, "What do you think about gay marriage?" and my mom said, "Well, I think it's totally fine!" And then when I came out to her, she just clammed up and she got really uncomfortable and we haven't been able to really talk about it for many years. But when I told my dad, it was fascinating because he said, well in his words, "I'm a biblical scholar and the Bible says that we each make our own choices, and so the best I can do is persuade you but I can't actually force you to do anything. God says that we make our own choices." So I thought that was extremely enlightened and very mature, absolutely wonderful to hear. You know my friends were cheering when I came out to my mom because they were all saying "Korean victory, you're not kicked out of the house!" haha, but there's this idea that being ethnic is very important, just to segue a little bit, especially as a queer individual growing up in this country, international or not, first gen...it doesn't really matter, the perceptions of who you are are real, even if you feel it's completely different. So you know, coming out to my parents was really hard and 17-year-old Dan didn't really know how that would turn out but even though one parent really doesn't support it and one person listens, at least, I still have a really good network of people from our generation. Because nowadays right, it's just not a thing.

    Miyuki: Exactly. So, you said that when you were in the 9th grade, you came out to your neighbor--what propelled you to do that?

    Dan: Well she was a little nosy and she would turn around on the bus every morning and say, "You know Dan, if there's something you need to tell me I'm here for you." And actually she made me feel really efficacious one day, and I just told her and she got really excited because she said you know, she had never had a gay friend before and in that sense it was something selfishly, I think, exciting for her because she had that "gay friend." But also she was just wonderfully supportive and always willing to listen and from the start I could tell that it wasn't just about her right? It was also about me and she did see that I was struggling to contain this secret that I had.

    Miyuki: I see... so just to spice some things up for the interview, what's the most awkward date and the best date you've been on?

    Dan: Well the best dates I've been on, and I think that this is because you know my views of relationships are very conservative and very traditional, are my boyfriend taking me out to a nice dinner and we either split it or he pays, you know I feel lucky to be a part of the gay world because I don't have to pay all the time (haha), but you know just watching a movie and chilling out and feeling completely normal and at ease. I especially like PDA, I'm someone who likes announcing to the world who I'm with and I'm very proud of who I'm with, and so just holding hands in the park and those nice kinds of things. The worst is probably.....well this was kind of date I guess? So I kind of had this guy who stalked me and I wrote on my facebook that I was going to dance with some friends and you know I was so glad that I had some free time, and then he shows up. And you know, he was a former friend who thought he was dating me and I said, well you know, I'll give him the time of day because he's a former date or whatever right? So as I was talking to him someone pulled me out of the conversation to say "My friend thinks you're cute" and I'm talking to this guy as my date...regardless right? I went out with him for dinner but it was just so awkward. I mean when you have someone who says, "I found you because of your facebook status" and then you decide to give him a chance and go out to dinner with him, and they are even creepier!

    Miyuki: Oh my god, that's so awkward. I hope it was all right after that.

    Dan: Oh yeah, hahaha

    Miyuki: Let's see...who are some people that inspire you?

    Dan: My parents...I think that they're quite amazing for doing what they do. And I work in education so I don't make a lot of money but I make more money than my dad ever has and I generally work 9 to 5 and sometimes I have longer hours, but my dad wakes up at 5AM and is home by midnight...right? Every day, seven days a week. You know, sometimes he tries to do 9 to 5 but it's really difficult I think, to be an immigrant and to have come at a time when degrees weren't easily transferable or recognized so they have the equivalent of a high school education when my dad actually has a masters in his other country. But despite how badly he's been treated and how badly he's been perceived, he still manages to be so happy and I admire that. We live in a secular age right, but his faith gives him a lot of strength and it's something that I don't personally empathize with but I can certainly admire. I think I'm also very luck to have a lot of Asian American role models in education. Such as, someone who works in the office with me, who's Asian American...she's extremely inspiring and she has similar stories to share and somehow she's managed to do it, coming from a working class background. And I think I have very traditional role models, in many ways I think I'm influenced by the religion I grew up with and the traditional Korean culture I grew up with, but I think that whenever I see an Asian American despite them being 4th generation and wealthy, I think I admire those who aren't necessarily successful, in terms of material standards or prestige or pedigree, but really people who are excited about life and have this kind of Teflon shield bubble around them where they can somehow embrace both their cultural identity, if they choose to do so, as well as their "American" identity, or their identity in their workplace, especially through their sexuality. Every time I see a gay Asian male holding hands with another guy or I see a straight Asian male with another woman, I always think about the idea of the emasculation of the Asian male. And you know it plays out in gay culture of course, and I just admire Asian guys who are just really not afraid to be themselves. But that's also kind of who I am, I think it's really cool when you don't have to speak and you don't have to be loud and show people to demonstrate that you're a strong person too. I just admire people in general, you know, I hope that's coming through. I think that everyone has a really cool story to tell.

    Miyuki: Definitely...but it's interesting that you bring up the emasculation of Asian men, because I think that I mean first of all straight men already have a hard time in America with that, but when someone comes out. Regardless of their gender, it's of course difficult, but if you're a gay guy, your Asian and you live in America there are all these degrees of...it's just minority, minority, minority...I mean have you experienced within the gay community this notion that you have to play a certain role? I know that it's common out in the "real" gay world, but have you yourself experienced that?

    Dan: Definitely I mean I was actually just talking to a new friend recently and he's African-American and he's openly gay. That wasn't the conversation, the conversation was that he was saying to me, "I'm curious, I know there's a perception that gay Asian men are all submissive and play submissive sexual roles as well as emotional and general gender roles." And I said, "Well, actually why don't we think back 10 years to the misguided perceptions of African-American gay men in this country. I mean it was assumed that they were all aggressive, that they were all hyper-masculine and I think that quickly, people realized, that's not true at all." Right? I mean there's just as much a diversity of roles and ways people perceive themselves and the way people perceive others' heterosexual roles. I think the thing I like to emphasize with people is that it should never really be a big deal, ideally. So I think that these perceptions are really tangible in many ways and prevalent, but it's also the idea that if you choose to have this perception and you make it a big deal then that's what you're going to focus on. I mean I remember when people thought that gay women were super butch and that gay men were super drag queeny and flamboyant. Of course there are many women who identify that way, and that's great for them--I love it! But I also think that that's so easy to focus on in a really narrow way, so I believe that the reality is, that there isn't really a difference between... socioeconomic status and gender, race, or however you choose to identify. But I think that the perceptions really try and box people into those roles.

    Miyuki: Yeah, and I think it's important to realize that we're both very privileged to be in a place where we don't see that as much...and yet we still see it so, what does that tell you about the rest of the world?

    Dan: Yeah...

    Miyuki: So we just need to keep creating media for Asian gay populations outside of these small enclosed bubbles of comfort.

    Dan: Right, well I know it's really difficult but I think one of the ways to do it is to just be real, to be yourself, whether that means you're dressing up in crazy clothing and makeup or you just be a "normal" person, according to how you want to define it, I mean just doing you is the best advice I've ever gotten from any of my friends. I'm much happier for it I think.

    Miyuki: Totally, I think that's a great way to end the interview so thank you so much for your time and good luck with your job.

    Dan: Great, thank you!

    The Aqua Decade

    GLBT Asian group hits the ten spot

    by Yusef Najafi
    Published on November 15, 2007, 12:00am

    It's an exciting time to be gay and Asian, says Linh Hoang, a 25-year-old native of Vietnam, who lives in D.C.

    ''We have a supportive network for one another out here,'' he says, referring to Asian/Pacific Islander Queers United For Action (AQUA), which Hoang serves as board co-chair.

    Since its inception, AQUA has experienced ''enormous change,'' and recently the group celebrated its 10th anniversary.

    ''It started out as a very small organization,'' recalls Hoang, ''basically a bunch of guy sitting in a kitchen room, playing Mahjong having dinner together. Now it's grown [to include over] 100 people in the organization.

    ''We're working with the mayor's office, volunteering at the Human Rights Campaign.... That's just showing the enormous amount of visibility that we have in the D.C. community.''

    In addition to hosting the Pride & Heritage Dinner in previous years, where local leaders were recognized for their efforts, AQUA stages monthly social gatherings and also participates in events like this past May's sixth annual Dragon Boat Festival at the Thompson Boat Center on the Georgetown waterfront.

    Not only did AQUA participate in the race, it took the gold with first place.

    ''That's a huge accomplishment for us,'' Hoang says.

    Ben de Guzman, a member of AQUA, says part of the group's growth has been acknowledging its own existence.

    ''It's important to recognize diversity within the LGBT community, as well to recognize the diversity within the API community,'' de Guzman says. ''Part of AQUA'S work has been to recognize within the API community that there are those of us within that community who are lesbian and gay.''

    In the future, Hoang hopes AQUA will tackle the lack of inclusiveness sometimes evident in the gay community.

    ''The gay community is a very white, male centric, very comfortable environment, and when the media talks about the queer community, you always see very successful gay white men. Rarely do you see a lesbian, or an Asian person, so that's an area we need to address.''

    Another area for improvement is finding ways to make the coming out process easier for GLBT Asian and Pacific Islanders, who are often stumped by language barriers or cultural differences when trying to come out their parents.

    ''The Asian experience for coming out is very tough,'' Hoang says, adding that his is ongoing process. ''Rarely do we talk about sexuality...[and] the terms that are available out there are derogatory. So how do we go about communicating this kind of information to others if we don't have adequate language to talk about the subject effectively?''

    For more information about AQUA, visit www.aquadc.org.


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