Last night, I sat in the kitchen of my 90 year old grandmother in Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. She asks me how I am, how life in New York is, and most importantly: if I've found a girlfriend yet. A slight twang of pain rings in my chest as I tell her, "Not yet, Nai Nai."
I desperately want to tell her about my boyfriend, our new life together, and how happy I am, but between my broken Chinese, her broken English, and my father's mandate forbidding me to come out to her... I just smile and ask about her health.
But as she talks to me about how she came to accept the relationship of my cousin and her much older boyfriend (a relationship her parents have yet to fully come to terms with), I am filled with hope that one day soon, I will be able to share my full self with my grandmother.
I mention my grandmother because I'm in town for the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders' panel and luncheon honoring finalists for its recent "What's Your Story" Video contest where the AAPI community was invited to submit videos detailing our stories of community change and leadership. I'm a member of one of the winning entries, the Asian Pride Project, an online platform for queer Asians, their parents, and family members can share their stories and experiences in their own native tongue.
Everyone with intersecting identities like ethnicity and sexuality has to navigate the treacherous waters of where those identities collide, but AAPIs deal with unique challenges to coming out and being accepted by their families. Everything from language barriers, limited vocabulary in native tongues for queer identities, cultural norms, and filial responsibility, all work to complicate our passage towards living our full selves with our families.
The Asian Pride Project seeks to make that process easier by giving a forum for our families to share their stories, and perhaps more importantly to see their peers struggle with the same issues, while speaking the same language and cultural vocabulary that they grew up with.
I am elated that our small community project has been elevated to the national stage by being featured by the White House's video contest. Every step we take to sharing our experiences with our community opens more doors and opportunities for Queer AAPIs to live and love fully in their families and communities. You can watch the event at the White House live on their livestream at www.whitehouse.gov/live at 11:30am on April 5th.