Activating the Voices of the API LGBTQ Community

Tue, 2015-11-10

by Anjana Sundaram and Shiho Fuyuki

“I want Asian-American Pacific Islander families to know that I, too, wrestled with the honor of my family name and the dignity of my ancestors.  But I have chosen to honor my family by telling the truth to all who will listen.” - Marsha Aizumi, Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance 

For the many LGBTQ AAPI’s who are living out the multiple identities of race, gender, and sexuality on a daily basis, their struggles may often seem invisible, neglected, or discounted in the broader world. Yet recently there’s been a convergence of data and issue awareness spearheaded by the Queer Justice Fund and others to help lift up these voices and issues in the community and spur action.

AAPIP's Seattle Chapter hosted an informative community briefing on the API LGBTQ community on September 21, 2015, at the Gates Foundation. The event was done in partnership with AAPIP National, and two Foundation employee resource groups, Gates Asians in Philanthropy (GAP) and Out for Good, to foster an open dialogue on the reality of AAPI LGBTQ communities.

The goal of the convening was to increase awareness and discussion of the critical needs and the funding landscape of AAPI LGBTQ communities, and to provide a unique opportunity to and meet and hear from local organizations working on the ground.

The incredible speakers at the event included a blend of funders and providers discussing the community issues from two complementary perspectives:

  • Alice Y. Hom, AAPIP Queer Justice Fund Director (moderator/panelist)
  • Kris Hermanns, Pride Foundation, Executive Director
  • Mijo Lee, Social Justice Fund Northwest, Incoming Executive Director
  • Sasha D., Trikone NW
  • Kiyomi Fujikawa, API Chaya

Audience members voiced that it was quite shocking to see that funding from foundations between 2012-2013 for LGBTQ AAPI communities was only $1.8M. AAPIP is the third biggest funder listed in this space, despite it not even being a traditional funder. There is a huge opportunity here to improve these numbers significantly.

Others were struck by the moving PSA’s of Asian parents put out by the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), which called out support for their LGBTQ children, and by the video of Freedom Inc., a QJF BRIDGE cohort organization, where Kabzuag Vag noted that “you can’t be a social justice agency without being a queer justice agency.”

Mijo Lee and Kris Hermanns emphasized the importance of funders providing more flexible, “open door” capacity building opportunities to support LGBTQ organizations. These groups often may be shut out from traditional modes of funding since they are often short-staffed, nascent, and evolving rapidly to address a community with intersecting needs. Thus, funders need to intentionally seek out these providers and understand the context in which they are operating, as well as build up a risk tolerant appetite for community-based work in which organizational status and identity shift through time. 

We believe this is only the beginning of the conversation, but an important step in showing solidarity and support for a community to live their truth openly and fully.

For more resources on this topic:

Anjana Sundaram is a Data Officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Shiho Fuyuki is the Member Services Manager, Mission Investors Exchange. They are AAPIP Seattle's chapter co-chairs.

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