On October 1979 in Washington DC, a number of “firsts” and historic moments happened—lesbian and gay Asian American activists formed a Gay Asian Collective at the Third World Lesbian and Gay conference that happened at the same time as the first March on Washington for Gay Rights. These historic moments organized by people who brought together their politics and the full gamut of their identities of gender, race, sexuality, and class helped build the foundation of queer people of color organizing, movement building, and coalition work. LGBT Asian American and Pacific Islander activists have played a role and were a part of these historic LGBT people of color moments.
As a newly minted historian with a Ph.D., I’ve documented and written about the activism and community building by queer people of color, specifically lesbians of color and LGBT AAPI communities and issues. Given how little is known and publicized about LGBT AAPI histories and organizing, it was amazing that nearly 32 years after the 1979 March on Washington, we witness another first: the first AAPI LGBT Pride and Heritage event, hosted at the White House by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Office of Public Engagement. On May 23rd, 2011 instead of being on the streets of DC, LGBT Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were in the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where youth spoke about their experiences of homophobia and racism, and advocates provided policy recommendations to representatives from various federal agencies.
Hector Vargas, who serves on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, gave opening comments that focused on the need to integrate LGBT and AAPI issues and move away from the silos. He expressed how far we have come and how we have a long way still to go in raising the visibility and issues of LGBT AAPI communities and issues. This event that bought nearly 40 LGBT AAPI youth and advocates together was made possible by a collaboration between WHIAAPIs, community organizations such as the National Queer API Alliance (NQAPIA) and API Wellness Center, and with funding by AAPIP’s Queer Justice Fund. It’s partnerships like this one that brings philanthropy, government, and community organizations together that highlight the importance of collaborating and utilizing all the resources that are available to better build the capacity and strengthen diverse AAPI communities.
For additional perspectives on this historic event that focused on LGBT AAPI Youth and Advocates, see the following links:
The White House blog: Celebrating LGBT Pride
-Hector Vargas, President’s Advisory Committee on Asian and Pacific Islanders
Bilerico.com: Going to the White House for AAPI Heritage Month
-Ben de Guzman, Co-Director of NQAPIA
Heart to Heart: White House Roundtable
-Marsha Aizumi, parent and advocate
White House blog: Reflecting on the Month of May
-Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders