Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
January 14, 2011
How Do We Talk to Those We Should Be Talking To?
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Our task is derived from our mission statement, which, in turn, is the answer to why we exist, namely, to keep API families together once one of theirs has come out as LGBT. How do we do that? We communicate along several channels: provide resources, conduct workshops, have one-on-ones, participate on panels, in short, we try to communicate in the full meaning of that term. We try to reach within people to cut through the tangle of cultural values that are often contradictory. We sometimes think that we are preaching to the choir. Who should we be talking to?
When a child comes out to his or her family, there are three possible basic scenarios. One, parents readily accept and life goes on as before. Two, parents are in shock and confused and seek to understand. Three, parents unequivocally reject and the family is torn apart. We try to enlist the help of the first group of parents in our work; we communicate with the second group when they come with questions; but we do not talk to third group, because they do not want to talk to us. But we should be talking to that third group.
There are several reasons why API parents reject their LGBT child. An important one is fear of being ostracized by their API community. Incidentally, that is also a reason why API LGBT children don’t want to come out to their parents; they fear bringing shame to their family and that then the family will be ostracized. If we follow the causal rope to the cause of rejection, let’s just go ahead and call it the cause of API homophobia, one strand leads to the API community to which the parents belong. So, we should be talking not only to those intransigent parents but their community as well.
We once had a volunteer identify and list the several API communities living in the Bay Area. She identified 51, the largest ones being Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, and Vietnamese. In some of those communities no word exists for gay or lesbian and in others the words used are inaccurate. For example, in the Philippines the word “bakla’ is often used to describe a gay person. It means “man acting like a woman,” or “womanish man.” A gay person is not acting like a woman he is acting himself. How do you talk to parents who are more comfortable in their own language, but whose language does not contain words that are the subject of conversation. Would it be fair to say that if there is no word, there is no concept?
API communities in America are immigrant communities and live lives within the larger American community. There is strength and security in strongly identifying with an API community while trying to advance in the larger, American one. But that larger community also has some severe hang-ups when it comes to LGBTs. Should be we talking to that community as well? During the Proposition 8 campaign, we personally experienced the large gap that exists between the greater American community and communities of color.
We know that we need to talk to an array of individuals and communities. We are struggling with how best to do that. We ask for help from other volunteer organizations and leverage what we know with what they know. Still, it does not seem good enough. If we had the funds we would commission plays, dances, operas, paintings, poems, anything that will start a conversation with any person or group at any level. In the meantime, we do what we do and learn and improve.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride apifamilypride.org