Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
July 19, 2013
A Student Asks: How Can API Families Become Accepting of their LGBT Children?
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
A high school in our town requires its senior students to complete and present a community based exit project. The student selects the topic, formulates an essential question, and then goes out into the community to find a consultant who’ll help answer the essential question. The consultant acts as a mentor for the student during the project.
Belinda mentored her third student this year. The student is a young lady who emigrated from China three years ago and her essential question was: How can the family bond of the Asian and Pacific Islander collectivist cultures become more accepting of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth? In her final report, she wrote that she became interested in this subject because of two experiences. The first experience came from a post on a “twitter-like website” from China about a Chinese gay man who came out to his parents. His coming-out turned tragic. His parents were unaccepting and the mother gathered the family, including grandparents, to try and persuade him to see a doctor to have his homosexuality “cured.” Familial pressure, and probably societal pressure as well, drove the 29-year old man to despair and he committed suicide.
The second experience came when her “best cousin” came out just to her and nobody else because she was afraid that her family would not accept her. Belinda’s student’s essential question was crafted because she wanted to help her cousin, prevent the tragedy that befell the Chinese gay man, and still keep her family together.
With the euphoria of recent legal victories still fresh in our minds and the certain knowledge that those victories will change attitudes in the long run, in the here and now we are back in the reality of overcoming the deep homophobic strain that exists in API communities. APIs respond to anything homosexual with silence and the lack of discussion perpetuates ignorance. Many APIs still believe their children “acquire the LGBT lifestyle” through exposure to lax American mores. A South Asian man told an interviewer that he didn’t want to come out to his mother in English, so he came out in his native tongue because he wanted to emphasize that being LGBT is solely about him and not about him becoming Americanized.
It wouldn’t be fair to ask an 18-year old high school senior what the answer to her essential question is, although we would dearly want to know. But we do know this: change does not happen by just changing the rules, the task is to have people accept the change in the rules. We believe that to have people accept change requires engagement, finding and parading role models, and emphasizing the role of family in API cultures.
There is progress. We and other organizations like us are engaging those who resist; there are many more API role models than ever before; and there are those API families who, though not quite accepting of their API children, still realize the importance of family bonds and do not abandon them. Perhaps small progress, but progress nevertheless. And there is this: an 18-year old girl, recently from China, a land where LGBTs are treated as outcasts, had the courage to ask the question because she wanted to keep her family together.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org