Asian American LGBT Community

Acceptance and respect.We are told time and again that these virtues are the bedrock of any democratic and civil society. But when it comes to minorities, especially the LGBT community, the society is still struggling-although in past decade or so the tide has changed significantly in favour of the community.

Among Asian Americans, LGBT issue most often comes with the narrative that, for Asians it is doubly hard to identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or come out as transgender person because of cultural constraints and also because of the “model minority” expectations.

Asian cultures, from India to Japan, from Indonesia to Pakistan; are family centeric. Loyalty to the family and fulfilling obligations towards the elders and parents are perhaps the most important duties of a child. Individualism, so celebrated in the West, is largely seen as an undesirable personality trait.

Changing times and globalization have shifted long held values, but the basics still remain. For Asian Americans, these values mean that asserting one’s sexuality and gender identity-different from the heterosexual norm, is challenging and presents unique obstacles not encountered by other ethnic groups.

But some sociologists say that since sexuality is not used as an identity issue openly among Asian families; coming out as gay,lesbian, bisexual or transgender may be a more private affair and thus less public stress. (Read Gay Asian American by Lisa Wong)

And  the process of asserting identity and getting accepted different within the Asian American community since there is so much diversity-religious, cultural and the level of exposure and assimilation. Gender also plays a big role because certain cultures are more restrictive towards them than the others.

South Asian Americans 

Here is a profile of couple of South Asian American lesbian women, which illustrates their experience in coming out and living openly. Quiet a leap forward because these women come from a culture, although not overtly anti-gay but has deeply biased attitude towards women and their role in society.

Growing number of LGBT advocacy and networking organizations geared towards South Asians is also a positive move and a sign that the South Asian as well as the Asian American community is slowly but surely opening up.

For Further Reading

The following is an article entitled “Young, Gay, and APA,” originally published in the July 17, 1999 issue of AsianWeek Magazine, written by Joyce Nishioka. It captures many of the obstacles and challenges that LGBT Asian Americans go through as they search for acceptance and happiness with the multiple forms of their personal identities.



Dr. So states that in her work and research, the definition of “identity” is different in many Asian cultures. “To a lot of Asian gays, they’re gay but it’s not their identity. It’s not choosing one or the other,” Dr. So said. “In America, people wear their sexuality as their primary identity. That’s because they’re fighting the dominant norm of heterosexuality. To a lot of other countries, sex is private.”
Dr. Connie So, Senior Lecturer of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington, has been teaching Asian American Studies since 1989.
Trikone is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people of South Asian descent. Founded in 1986 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Trikone is the first group of its kind in the world. South Asians affiliated with Trikone trace their ethnicities to one of the following places: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan,Sri Lanka, and Tibet.
The South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association of New York City (SALGA) serves to promote awareness, tolerance, acceptance, empowerment and safe spaces for sexual minorities and people of all gender identities, who trace their heritage to South Asiaor who identify as South Asian. Our mission is to enable community members to establish cultural visibility and take a stand against oppression and discrimination in all its forms.  We pledge to encourage leadership development, provide multi-generational support, work towards immigration advocacy, address health issues such as HIV / AIDS, and foster political involvement in the interest of creating a more tolerant society.

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