By Tawal Panyacosit
When Alice Y. Hom, Director of the Queer Justice Fund, first mentioned that she was working on a report on funding disparities for LGBTQ AAPI communities, I was excited. I remember telling her it would become one of my bibles, my go-to resources on the LGBTQ AAPI community. Indeed, I have not been disappointed with the recently released, Missed Opportunities: How Organized Philanthropy Can Help Meet the Needs of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander Communities.
Over the past ten years that I’ve been working in the LGBTQ AAPI sphere, piecemeal is perhaps the most apt description for the progress our community has been able to achieve in terms of infrastructure building, information discovery and sharing, and resource allocation. Missed Opportunities changes the playing field by providing a consolidated compendium that begins to link the disparate regions, identities, immigrant experiences of the LGBTQ AAPI community into a more unified tapestry of knowledge and heart.
Of course, the information is far from complete. But, what the report does do is arm those of us working for social change in the LGBTQ AAPI community with concrete, empirically validated reference points that demonstrate the magnitude and order of the need that exists within our communities. These findings complement the stories we hear everyday on the ground such as the story of the undocumented youth, pursuing a dream for himself and his family, whose exemplary courage allowed him to openly affirm both his immigration status and sexual orientation in the pursuit of a community’s dream. With facts and stories in concert, we can begin to paint a more accurate picture of the needs and efforts of the LGBTQ AAPI community.
Beyond the descriptive, Missed Opportunities also gives us much hope. It is always incumbent upon advocates to understand upon whose shoulders we stand in order to keep from repeating the mistakes of the past and continually moving the agenda forward. But, what is also apparent from the report is that much progress has already occurred and at accelerated rates given the level of investment in moving these communities. What this tells us is that should the requisite philanthropic support emerge, the pace of change in LGBTQ AAPI communities will move in exponential leaps, with unparalleled returns on investment.
We are at a juncture of opportunity, as evidenced by the report, the LGBTQ AAPI community today has reached a pivotal level of foundation and security, i.e. more groups exists across the country, more groups have funding, more groups have staff, etc…Not surprisingly, this growth parallels the evolution of necessity of a philanthropic strategy towards LGBTQ AAPI populations and reflects the augmented salience of these communities in existing funding portfolios. This report arrives at an opportune time, providing robust rationale and highlighting critical opportunities to take the LGBTQ AAPI community to the proverbial next level.
[Tawal Panyacosit is Executive Director of API Equality Northern California, a grassroots movement-building organization working to promote LGBTQ acceptance and racial justice across the Asian and Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities.]