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Coming Out Issues for Asian Pacific Americans

Asian Pacific Americans come from dozens of different countries, making that population one of the most diverse communities in America. The diversity of language and ethnicity among Asian Pacific Americans is as varied as the continents and islands from which they come. While this may mean that cultural backgrounds vary from one person to the next, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Asian Pacific Americans still share similar challenges and experiences during the coming out process.

“I think that sometimes people think we’re all the same ethnicity and speak the same language,” says Loren Javier, former board member of the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA). “But the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is more diverse than any other racial group, except maybe Native Americans. So meeting and knowing other Asian Pacific Americans didn’t automatically mean that I was meeting other Filipinos like myself.”

One result is that there is no universal coming out experience that all LGBTQ Asian Pacific Americans share. It is possible to tell the individual stories of those who have come out, but there can be vast differences in the experiences of, say, lesbian Indians, transgender Thais, gay Tongans, and bisexual Koreans.

What follows are the stories of Asian Pacific Islanders who have come out and overcome the obstacles of negative family reactions, unwelcoming religious traditions and societal prejudice. Also included are some of the actions and resources they found helpful.

Coming out is a challenging journey but most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people find that it is one worth taking. Being an Asian Pacific American and coming out presents some unique hurdles, but they can be overcome with time and education.

“Being gay and Asian in America is like fighting a two-front battle,” says Edward Kai Chiu, of Gay Asian Pacific Support Network (GAPSN). “One not only has to fight racism and homophobia in society in general, but also stereotypes and lack of representation in the gay community. With more awareness of gay Asian issues, and as more Asians become involved, I have confidence that there will be victory.”