Tuesday, May 18 is the National AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate. As our mission is to uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth, we asked our AAPI / It Gets Better community (influencers, staff, members of our Youth Voices, TikTok contributors, mental health advocates, and more) to respond to the following prompt: “You can help uplift and empower AAPI LGBTQ+ youth. Here’s how!” See what they all had to say with their responses below.
JOY is my form of resistance. To live life unapologetically, fiercely and setting an example to others that we write our own stories. As queer AAPIs, many of us deal with racism in the LGBTQ+ world and then equally deal with homophobia within our Asian American families and communities. Knowing that we exist at an intersection where so many structures are constructed to oppress us, I resist by truly existing as my authentic self — and by showing young AAPI LGBTQ+ people that you can find true happiness and justice by simply… being.
I want to manifest positive energy and love to shine a light to others. And show that IT GETS BETTER for many of us when we acknowledge that our unique struggles only magnify our strengths to persevere and grow.
You can actively educate yourself and others about the intersections of AAPI and LGBTQ+ identity. Growing up as a mixed, South Asian, and queer student, I never learned about the rich history of LGBTQ+ communities in South Asia. Recognizing this aspect of AAPI identity would be crucial in making sure students feel accepted and proud about who they are.
You can also include mixed-race students in your understanding of AAPI and Queer identity. My experience as a mixed-race student has been punctuated by feelings that I am not “Asian enough.” This has made it difficult for me to feel empowered and connected to my heritage. Including mixed people in your perception and advocacy for AAPI and Queer justice is necessary. It will go a long way in helping us feel heard and part of the fight for racial and LGBTQ+ equality.
Listen to and uplift our stories. You may never be able to understand and feel what Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth are going through, but you can listen, and you can be a supporting and comforting sounding board to hear the ups and downs of our lives. In the age of Covid-19 and wide-spread use of social media, you have the ability to share our messages, to further our reach. Like, share, retweet, repost, our stories, our triumphs, and our struggles.
Empower us. Youth are often forgotten at the edges of movements. Give opportunities to young people. We are the future of tomorrow, the doctors, educators, policymakers, leaders, and so much more. We will be making the major consequential decisions of tomorrow, and we should start trying now. Give young people the opportunity to affect and influence change.
Growing up as a mixed-race person of Korean and French (American) descent added to my ongoing identity struggles. In recent years, the cultural shift embraced by our country and the world (K-pop, Asian food, products, film, etc.) reminded me of how far we’ve come but also how far we have to go to properly have a seat at the proverbial table. I’m often asked what non-AAPI can do to help support and I think there are a few fundamental areas to start with. Firstly, learn more about the experiences of our community, like our experience with racism, to understand today’s intersectionality. Continue to celebrate and champion our cultures (there
are more than one). Support and empower your AAPI friends, coworkers, and community by some simple steps – learn how to say their name properly, be the one to open up dialogues about perspective and opinions, be mindful of your preferences (like in the instance of food) and consider whether you have subconscious bias.
As we continue to see horrific acts targeted toward the AAPI community, we continue to be vulnerable and need allies to help create meaningful change. Speak up, support openly, and give back.
It’s so important to have representation. Little Owin never saw anyone who looked or thought like him in magazines, on tv shows or on billboards. It was always the same faces, the same representation with nothing for myself to connect to. On top of acceptance and love in the LGBTQIA+ community, the AAPI community has always been silenced and seen as a model minority. Having these two big identities of me hidden in my world really halted my confidence and journey of self-love. Now with social media, it’s even more important that we address these deep issues and help heal Asian Americans, especially the queer kids who feel they don’t have a safe space to open up in. I’d love to hear more of mainstream media’s Asian American community speak up, but it would also be great to see all BIPOC supported more by white mainstream media and amplified during this time. Healing is the responsibility of all of us, so let’s start.
If you ask me, it all starts at home. If you are the parent, guardian, relative, or sibling of someone who comes out as LGBTQ+, believe them. Support them. When I was young, my parents tried asking me to be “less gay” because they thought they were helping me and shielding me from bullies. Personally, I would rather have had the whole world against me and know that my parents were on my side than feel like I wasn’t the son they wanted.
Thankfully my parents came around and let me express myself freely. But what can we do for kids whose parents aren’t as patient? We have to let parents know that it’s okay to be LGBTQ+, that LGBTQ+ people can be successful, happy, talented, and live rich and full lives. That happens when there’s more representation of LGBTQ+ and in particular AAPI LGBTQ+ people in the media.
Growing up in the San Francisco/ Bay Area presented a lot of opportunities to discover my own identity, but at times the self-guided journey felt lonely. As I began my own coming out process, I was confronted with more questions than I had answers for by my family and friends. However, more surprising was the support system among my extended relatives that accompanied my coming out process. As a youth, my relatives who identified as LGBTQ+ never shared their stories and experiences. However, I believe that one of the beautiful things about the AAPI community is found within the stories that we tell and — hearing their stories could have made just as much as a profound impact on reaffirming my identity as an LGBTQ+ youth as it did after I came out in my early twenties.
As a community, we should all feel empowered to make our voices known. Our experiences are valid and can be a powerful vehicle in the process of healing, creating community, and self-discovery. By telling our stories, we can assure the next generation of LGBTQ+ AAPI youth that regardless of where they are in their journey that they are not alone.
I grew up in a suburb of LA which, while a lot more diverse than other parts of the U.S., still had its fair share of Western ethnocentric ideas on what it meant to be an American. Everything from the cultural norms I brought from home to the type of food I’d bring for lunch was a topic of discussion at the cafeteria or on the playground. What I realize today is that those are the differences that made me special and helped build within me the resilience to appreciate my uniqueness when I came out as a gay man decades later.
Uplifting and empowering any minority group, whether AAPI or LGBTQ+ or both, starts with education and exposure. My closest friends growing up who weren’t themselves AAPI were those who had an appreciation and respect for my being Chinese American. They asked questions but never judged; they tried to see things from the lens of my immigrant family experience. If there was one piece of advice I’d give to any parent, friend, classmate, coworker, or neighbor, it would be to look at every difference within our community as a learning opportunity for you and those who learn from you.
We all have work to do in expanding our definitions of Asianness and Queerness to fully represent the AAPI, LGBTQ+ community. By listening to the voices and experiences of Queer, AAPI students, we can work towards visibility and justice for our communities.
Empower AAPI LGBTQ+ youth’s joy and fun — being queer doesn’t have to be all about trials and tribulations, celebrate whatever they create. Dive into the history of queerness and transness in our history — many of our cultures throughout Asia have revered queer identity. Learn about queer history in the US and honor our black and brown elders that paved the way for us, be energized by them and continue their fight for equality for us all.
Remember that people are at different points of their journey and give them grace; trauma is often a part of our history as immigrants, as people of color, and LGBTQ+,. Use it as strength and not to hold people down. Reach out to our queer AAPI elders, learn from them and support them. Elderly AAPI are often not given enough resources and support, the queer ones especially so. Support the fights for LGBTQ+ equality in your home countries. There are activists and communities there that could use your help and support.