May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to honor Asian American and Pacific Islander history, culture, and traditions. This month should always be a cause for jubilation and pride, but we’d be remiss not to acknowledge recent acts of anti-Asian violence and harassment, which have left many Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth feeling scared and rejected.
This is incredibly troubling, as our research has found that Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth were approximately 40% more likely than white LGBTQ youth to have unmet mental health care needs — with many mentioning both cultural stigma and racism as reasons why they haven’t sought out care. We must all come together to #StopAsianHate and destigmatize mental health!
To celebrate this important month and to show our support for Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth, we asked several of our favorite Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ celebrity and influencer supporters to share what this month means to them and to offer advice on navigating the intersections of their identities.
As Asian American queers, we are minorities within the minority. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to carry on the fight of those that have fought tirelessly before us and to continue fighting for equity, inclusion and visibility. We have to continue to use our voices and speak up for our communities. There are many layers to who I am — I am a Chinese American, a child of immigrants, a female chef, an entrepreneur, a Californian, a college graduate, a queer genderfluid person, an aunt and an uncle, and much more. Not one identity defines all of me. My experiences through this life have shaped me, and I stand proud of all that I am.
I hope LGBTQ youths that are navigating the intersections of their own identities realize that your personal experiences may be what makes you “different,” but it’s also what makes you uniquely and authentically you. Be proud of that and stand tall! I know within Asian culture, we can easily convince ourselves to put up a barrier, and silence and ignore our pain. But I encourage us all to open our minds and hearts to one another. Look out for each other by exercising compassion for those that might have mental illness. Reach out and make conversation with a friend that might be struggling. And if you are struggling through this time, be open to seeking help. There are a number of mental health resources specifically for our community such as The Asian Mental Health Collective, The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
In my opinion, having to hold intersectional identities will always be a work in progress so early on I learned to reframe the unique struggles of having interwoven identities as opportunities for growth (versus a burden) that will ultimately serve me for the better. I know I’ll never figure everything out, but I made a commitment to myself to learn as much as I can in order to live my best and most fulfilling life. Something that I’ve found to be helpful is talking with and learning about other people who also hold intersectional identities (whether or not they are the same as mine) and through the sharing of our unique struggles I’ve been able to deepen my understanding of my own identity and also learn about the things that matter to me most.
It can feel so isolating sometimes to live at these intersections, but every time I remember that there have been people like me before I feel like I’m part of something greater than myself. It gives me the courage and the conviction to keep going. I ultimately learned to accept my gender and sexuality because I embraced myself as an Indian American first. So much of my gender comes from an appreciation of my heritage and a recognition that people have existed beyond the gender binary where I’m from for centuries.
What I would say to LGBTQ youth is that you should never have to compartmentalize yourself to make other people more comfortable: every part of you is essential. To my beloved community: taking care of yourself — maintaining boundaries, practicing self-compassion, treating yourself with kindness — is more important than ever during these turbulent times. We need everyone — regardless of their identity — to condemn and resist this ongoing anti-Asian racism and homophobia and transphobia, and create a world where all are welcome.
We can protect our own mental health and the mental health of AAPI youth in the midst of AAPI discrimination and hate crimes by reminding ourselves that today and tomorrow I am living for myself and my community and our pride. I will not apologize for my glory and I am sorry that you dwell in hate while I dance in my light. When you are ready I will pass it to you.