Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
April 26, 2013
Paving The Way
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
Roll back the years to, oh, say 1970, and imagine what it was like. You are Asian, where do you go? Back in those days, there was overt racial prejudice, usually unpunished. Taunts, gestures that tug eyes into a mock epicanthic fold, cruel ostracizing, and even physical violence.
What if you are Asian and LGBT? Now you really have nowhere to go. You are out on the margin, so far out that you are invisible not just to the larger community, but also to the Asian community. You are even invisible to other Asian LGBTs because there aren’t any; few are out of the closet. Those who are feel the sting of near total isolation.
1970 Is for us the beginning of a life together. We are expecting our first child and life is good and promises to become even better. As immigrants, we believe that success hinges on becoming American: buy a home in the suburbs, go to baseball games so we can talk about it at work, speak English without an accent, and always work a little harder and better, that way they will have to respect and accept you. We don’t know that somewhere out there children are discovering that they don’t fit in the slot ordained by a society that demands conformance. We would be at a loss what to do should one introduce him- or herself to us.
Since those innocent (ignorant?) times one of our sons came out and we were amazed to discover that there was this whole invisible community existing all around us, but of which we were totally oblivious.
Back in 1970, or around that time, a few brave Asian LGBTs confronted fortress homophobia and formed small communities. At first they just wanted space to be among themselves and talk and share stories. But some wanted more and became activists. And so it began, a movement that ultimately opened the eyes of others around them and forced people to see what had always been there. Like snow clinging to a rock rolling downhill, the efforts of those first few gathered an irresistible momentum. Asian LGBTs are not invisible anymore.
Our son, when he came out, benefitted from the efforts of those early heroes, whose names many will never know. Although he experienced homophobia and felt safe in only a few cities, he belongs to a generation of LGBTs who further the work that was begun before he was born. And we benefitted. There was information out there for us to study and there were Asian LGBTs to help us understand. What at first was a tragedy turned into what it was before he came out: a blessing. All three of our children are fabulous.
Last Saturday, at its Lunar New Year Banquet, Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Community honored one of those pioneering heroes. Crystal Jang received the Phoenix Award. In her acceptance speech, Crystal took us back to those early days and as we sat and listened, we realized how difficult it must have been to not fit in. And we know the debt we owe her and the other heroes. Thank you, Crystal.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org