May 18, 2022
In May 2016, I went to Long Beach Pride for the first time to march in the parade alongside my colleagues—amazing, dedicated people who taught me to advocate with compassion, diplomacy, and ferocity—representing our community-based organization. There were other organizations promoting their great work and so many people out celebrating with their friends, their partners, their children—a community of people. Everything around me was bright and bold that day, and it’s a feeling that I’ll never forget.
For nearly five years, I wrote grant proposals, collaborating with team members and community partners to develop responsive programs for LGBTQ+* people of color in the areas of HIV prevention and treatment, mental health services, and housing support. We also placed a special emphasis on serving Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ communities, who we knew needed care and services specialized to address difficulties around accessing care, like language barriers and challenging prevailing stigma and cultural taboos. But it was challenging, to say the least, to find the data—always comes back to data—to validate this urgent need. How do you ask funders to entrust public dollars to address a problem that’s statistically hard to prove? And ultimately, how do you—with respect and cultural humility—respond to the needs of the whole API community and the intersectionality of their LGBTQ+ identities?
The need for supportive services is clear, now more than ever as there are over 200 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been filed across America in 2022, particularly targeting transgender youth with limited gender-affirming healthcare, restrictive use of bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, and exclusion from participation in athletics. Distressingly, this overlaps with the escalation of anti-API hate and xenophobia peaking from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, this places API LGBTQ+ individuals in an increasingly vulnerable position. As stated in a report by The Trevor Project, “AAPI LGBTQ youth’s identification with multiple marginalized identities might make them more susceptible to negative experiences, and as a result, poorer mental health and well-being.” In this same report—notably one of the few that focuses on API LGBTQ+ youth, it was noted that:
- More than half (55%) of AAPI LGBTQ youth reported that someone attempted to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity
- 54% of AAPI LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity in the past year
- 63% of AAPI transgender and nonbinary youth reported discrimination based on their gender identity
Yet, there are a scarce number of cultural and gender affirming resources and trauma-informed care for API LGBTQ+ people, and not enough data—aggregated or disaggregated—to highlight this need.
Despite these challenges, there is a resounding resiliency in the API LGBTQ+ community, and many exemplary heroes whose advocacy and contributions should be celebrated—advocates like community leaders Cecilia Chung, Kim Coco Iwamoto and Urooj Arshad, artists Chella Man and Geena Rocero, CA Representative Mark Takano, former NFL player Esera Tuaolo—among so many others. They embody the spirit of what we uplift during this API Heritage Month—fighting for representation in many different spaces and accomplishing feats that will empower communities now and generations after them.
I recognize, as a cisgender, heterosexual, first-generation Filipinx woman that I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak on this, when there are voices within this community that remain unheard. I hope this kickstarts a conversation on how we may further advocate for and celebrate our API LGBTQ+ communities, not just for API Heritage Month in May or Pride Month in June, but thoughtfully and meaningfully every month of the year.
*The acronym LGBTQ+ was used throughout this post but I recognize that there is a vast spectrum of identities that may be more broadly represented under LGBTQIA2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Two-Spirit and more).
Note: As of the publish date of the May 2022 edition of the Early Childhood Matters newsletter, Abigail is no longer at First 5 LA.