Na­tional Queer Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der Al­liance

12-city LGBT tour stops in At­lanta

GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS psaun­ders@the­gavoice.com

“There’s still a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion out there about be­ing LGBTQ in Asian lan­guages. Par­ents still think that maybe their kids be­came les­bian be­cause they moved to the U.S. or that they turned gay be­cause they had gay friends who live in the big city, like At­lanta. Be­ing trans­gen­der is still be­ing de­scribed as a pathol­ogy.” — Glenn Mag­pan­tay, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Queer Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der Al­liance

Five years ago, Clara Yoon’s child came to her with an an­nounce­ment: he was trans­gen­der and bi­sex­ual. The 15-year-old had iden­ti­fied as fe­male up un­til that point, so it took her by sur­prise as can of­ten hap­pen. But for Yoon, the ad­just­ment oc­curred on a sep­a­rate level be­cause of her her­itage: Yoon is Korean.

“There’s still a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion out there about be­ing LGBTQ in Asian lan­guages,” said Glenn Mag­pan­tay, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Queer Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der Al­liance (NQAPIA). “Par­ents still think that maybe their kids be­came les­bian be­cause they moved to the U.S. or that they turned gay be­cause they had gay friends who live in the big city, like At­lanta. Be­ing trans­gen­der is still be­ing de­scribed as a pathol­ogy.”

That’s why NQAPIA is pre­sent­ing a na­tional work­shop tour that’s com­ing to Cham­blee on June 18 where Mag­pan­tay will mod­er­ate a dis­cus­sion with Yoon and two other par­ents of LGBT chil­dren to help shed light on the topic and re­move some of the cul­ture bar­ri­ers in place for both those in the Asian Pa­cific Is­lan­der (API) com­mu­nity who iden­tify as LGBT and their par­ents.

The path to PFLAG mom

While Yoon and her hus­band’s love for their son was never in ques­tion, she ad­mits, “Like many other par­ents, that’s not some­thing that you ex­pect your son to be. It took us about one year to get our heads around it and make a de­ci­sion to sup­port his tran­si­tion.”

The environment the fam­ily was in played a big role. Yoon works for a For­tune 500 com­pany in New York City with an im­pres­sive di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion pol­icy, her man­ager was gay and they had gay and les­bian friends and neigh­bors. But they didn’t know much about the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity, which they chalk up to lack of in­for­ma­tion and neg­a­tive por­tray­als of trans­gen­der peo­ple in the media. So they got busy learn­ing.

Yoon and her hus­band started go­ing to monthly meet­ings for par­ents of LGBT kids at their lo­cal LGBT cen­ter, then started go­ing to sim­i­lar monthly meet­ings put on by their lo­cal PFLAG chap­ter.

“We started meet­ing other fam­i­lies and re­al­iz­ing we were not alone and that’s how we were able to over­come our fear and our mis­con­cep­tions and lack of knowl­edge and come around to sup­port my son,” Yoon tells Ge­or­gia Voice.

It’s that men­tor­ship role that Yoon has now taken on her­self. She is the founder of the API Project at PFLAG NYC, serves on the board of di­rec­tors of PFLAG NYC and is a mem­ber of the LGBTQ Net­work Steer­ing Com­mit­tee at her com­pany.

‘Gay Asians of­ten suf­fer in si­lence’

Yoon will be joined at the work­shop by Michelle Honda-Phillips, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion Ja­panese-Amer­i­can with a trans­gen­der nine-year-old daugh­ter (pic­tured) and Bar­bara Acuna-Tay­lor, a Filipino mother of a les­bian daugh­ter. Honda-Phillips’ fa­ther, Con­gress­man Mike Honda (D-Calif.), made headlines last year when he tweeted out a pic­ture of him and Mal­isa, his trans­gen­der grand­daugh­ter, with the mes­sage, “As a proud grandpa of a trans­gen­der grand­child, I hope she can feel safe at school with­out fear of be­ing bul­lied.”

But Mag­pan­tay, Yoon and oth­ers re­al­ize that that can be an atyp­i­cal out­come for many API kids in the LGBT com­mu­nity, and it was a no-brainer for them to in­clude At­lanta on the 12-city tour since Ge­or­gia has one of the na­tion’s fastest grow­ing API com­mu­ni­ties.

“Th­ese par­ents are all straight and they all have LGBT kids and they’re go­ing to share their sto­ries of strug­gle, of shame, of ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing,” Mag­pan­tay says. “And for Asian kids who want to come out to their par­ents who are of­ten im­mi­grants or are limited English pro­fi­cient, how do I do that? I don’t want to shame my fam­ily, I want to re­spect the an­ces­tors but how do I do that?

“Gay Asians of­ten suf­fer in si­lence and our par­ents have sac­ri­ficed greatly for us. They came to a new coun­try, they worked two to three jobs, but we also want them to cel­e­brate their LGBT kids and we’re pro­vid­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to do that.”

Michelle Honda-Phillips (pic­tured here with her trans­gen­der daugh­ter Mal­isa) will be part of the NQAPIA work­shop. Honda-Phillips’ fa­ther, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, made headlines with this tweet from last year. (Cour­tesy photo)

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