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Asian/Pacific Islander Americans  
 
page: 1  2  3  

Given the general ignorance about the history of homosexualities in ancient Asian, medieval Japanese, and traditional Pacific Island (or African) cultures, American ethnic community activists and parents of glbtq individuals often consider homosexuality "a Western concept, a product of losing touch with one's Asian [or Pacific] heritage, of becoming too assimilated," report Hom and Ma. Not only elders, but ethnically similar peers retain such notions.

This attitude probably accounts for Chan's finding that of 19 lesbians and 16 gay men belonging to gay/lesbian Asian organizations, 27 reported it harder to come out to other Asian-Americans, in contrast to four who found it easier. A majority reported greater comfort and identification with gay or lesbian than with Asian-American (20% were unwilling to divide themselves).

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Duazo's survey of 28 mostly Chinese-American gay men (16 of whom were born in the United States, 19 raised in the United States; 11 of whom felt completely, 12 highly, and 5 somewhat acculturated) found 9 in frequent contact with their families, 12 in moderate contact, 6 in low contact, with one having no contact. Ten had not come out to family members.

In interviews with a very unrandom sample of eleven Japanese-, Filipina-, and Chinese-American mothers; one Japanese-American father and one Chinese-American father of glbtq children, Hom elicited a number of recollections of daughters and sons that the parents knew to be homosexual (usually by gender deviance) when they were growing up. These parents did not blame assimilation or Anglo/American culture for their children's sexual orientation, but were concerned about "face" and the contempt of other family members and neighbors for their offspring.

Wat noted that "the perceived conservatism of Asian communities has often led queer Asians to turn their backs on their ethnic and cultural 'identities.'" Of his own case, he remarked, "My parents' paradox--they hate queers, but they love me, even though I am gay--can be achieved by separating my gayness from my other identities. . . . This is easily done, since, for most Asian parents, being Asian and being gay are mutually exclusive. . . . There is not a need to talk about 'it' because it is only a problem for white people: 'it' is a white disease."

Joel Tan, a Filipino emigrant, observed, "I was not only invisible to others but also to myself," a feeling expressed by many of those who came out before there were GAPI organizations. Nicholas Shi recalled that before going to college in the United States, "I knew I was Chinese and I knew I was gay, but not having any contact with other gay people, I never had a chance to explore the implications of being a minority within a minority."

Takagi generalized that glbtq Asian-Americans strive to keep their glbtq world separate from their family and natal/ethnic community more than do other kinds of gay and lesbian Americans. This is one explanation for a later age of first homosexual sexual experiences for male GAPIs than for African-, Anglo-, or Latino-American males.

More GAPI men than men of other ancestries recall that they knew they were gay long before they had any sexual experience. Once they stopped holding back from the same-sex sex that they had desired for a long time, however, these men moved quickly to coming out, so that GAPI males came out on the average at an earlier age than African or Anglo Americans.

Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian lesbians and gay men seem to endeavor to compartmentalize gay and family worlds more than Anglos, while Austronesians (notably Filipinos) try to bring everyone they love together, coming out sooner to parents and celebrating holidays with their gay and natal families mixed together. This leaves Southeast Asians somewhere in between.

Studies of Gay Men of Particular Ethnicities

Although there is little research focused on gay, lesbian, bisexual, or Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, there are a few studies of particular API ethnicities.

Wooden, Kawasaki, and Mayeda asked thirteen Los Angeles-area gay Japanese-American men about their "double minority" experiences. They reported widespread belief in the Japanese-American community that gay Japanese-Americans do not exist. Although one thought that "as long as nothing is said, there is no problem," another expressed the majority view from this sample: "The Japanese-American community tolerates homosexuality in other communities, but in their own community? No way! It is looked upon as being dishonorable and disgraceful."

The most interesting finding in the Wooden, Kawasaki, and Mayeda study was that "five of the seven who were 'out' to family members were somewhat involved in Asian political activity, compared to none of those who were not open about their homosexuality." Similarly, 57 percent of those who were out to family members (mostly, sisters) were "involved in the gay community" in contrast to only 17 percent of those who were not out to family. Readers are left to guess whether the same individuals were active in both.

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