NEW YORK ― Against a backdrop of dragons and dancers parading down the streets of lower Manhattan Sunday, Lanny Li described how it took her conservative Asian mother over a year to accept her coming out as a lesbian. But now Li’s mom is fully supportive. She spent the weekend on the sidelines cheering as Li marched in Lunar New Year parades.
Clara Yoon, another mother, took part in the Sunday Chinatown parade to support her Korean-American transgender son who came out six years ago.
“I marched because I wanted to uplift the visibility of Asian parents who love their LGBTQ kids and to celebrate the different type of family in Asian immigrant community,” Yoon told HuffPost.
Amid the annual parade ― a celebration that ushers in a new year in many countries with high Asian populations ― Li and Yoon were part of a large contingent of Asian-American LGBTQ community members who took a strong stance on issues including queer rights and immigration.
"This parade isn’t usually political...but we couldn't stay silent this year because of things Trump has said.”
“We don’t normally get political,” Stephanie Hsu, a volunteer coordinator for Q-Wave, an Asian-American LGBTQ advocacy group, told HuffPost. “And this parade isn’t usually political ― it’s more conservative. We actually got denied participation to the parade when we first applied in 2009. But we couldn’t stay silent this year because of things Trump has said.”
The groups cited the GOP’s harsh anti-LGBTQ platform and Trump’s immigration orders as reasons for the Asian-American community speak out. There are currently more Asian-American undocumented immigrants than undocumented Mexicans living in the United States.
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“Asians sometimes associate being LGBTQ with simply putting sex out there in general.. just the idea of talking about sex and putting sex on display."
Marchers carried signs that read “Woke in the year of the rooster” calling for more awareness on social issues among both the general public and within the Asian-American community itself.
“It’s different for Asians,” Li said. “Parents are more conservative and patriarchal. It’s just not something Asian parents are used to. [Being LGBTQ] might not even be seen as an option.”
Hsu said for Asians, the idea of being queer doesn’t always jive with longstanding cultural beliefs.
“Asians sometimes associate being LGBTQ with simply putting sex out there in general. It might not even have anything to do with sexual orientation — but just the idea of talking about sex and putting sex on display,” Hsu told HuffPost.
She also pointed out the fact that it’s even more difficult for undocumented Asians, who face a unique set of challenges when it comes to being open about sexuality.
“Many Asian immigrants come out when they get to America because it’s more welcoming. If they had to go back, they might not be able to continuing living as out."
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“Many Asian immigrants come out when they get to America because it’s more welcoming. If they had to go back, they might not be able to continuing living as out,” Hsu explained.
To be sure, traditional Asian culture can center around conformity, traditional gender roles and a duty to have children ― and the very notion of LGBTQ issues can simply be a non-starter for immigrant parents.
But among second-generation Asians, that’s largely changing, advocates at the parade said. For instance, among all ethnic groups in America, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are the most supportive of same-sex marriage, with 64 percent of AAPIs supporting LGBTQ marriage equality.
Q-Wave is one group that’s helping to educate the Asian-American community and family members of LGBTQ individuals. The nonprofit holds workshops around Asian-American identity, helps translate materials for families who don’t speak English, fundraises and more. Another group, API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC, also focuses on awareness among family members.
“My mom is talking with other parents of kids who are LGBTQ,” Li told HuffPost. “She is forming her own community, too.”