Youth Blog – Coming Out to Asian and Pacific Islander American Families
Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) are among the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 325,000 (2.8%) of all APIA adults that identify as LGBTQ live in the U.S., a third of whom live in California, Hawaii, and New York .
Intersectionality of LGBTQ and APIA Identities
Coming out for LGBTQ APIAs can sometimes feel like fighting a battle on two fronts. You are up against not only homophobia in the APIA community, but also racism in the LGBTQ community, making coming out even more challenging. Dealing with overlapping identities at the same time is called intersectionality.
It is not unusual for LGBTQ APIA people to be out in every aspect of life, except for family. There are culturally relevant aspects of APIA families that give LGBTQ APIA unique struggles and make it harder for LGBTQ APIAs – especially youth – to come out to their families.
Challenges in Coming Out to APIA Families
- Preserving the Family’s Honor: LGBTQ APIAs, especially youth, may not be willing to come out to their parents in fear of putting a dent in their family name and honor. This often leads LGBTQ APIAs to balance two lives – the life spent with family where they are closeted, and the life based on their sexual identity.
- Language Barriers: It is common for APIA parents to have limited English fluency and their children to have limited native tongue fluency. Parent-child conversations are often done through piecing together fragments from more than one language. When conversations are already fragmented, having conversations about sexuality is even harder. In addition, there may not be words in the native tongue for LGBTQ identities or words available carry negative associations.
- The “Sex Talk”: Discussing sexuality and sex is taboo among many APIA families. Many APIA parents and young people have difficulty with frank discussions about the topic. This is compounded by the language barrier mentioned above.
- Losing Familial Support: Many LGBTQ individuals fear losing support from family after coming out to them. APIA youth depend on their parents for financial support, housing, and/or transportation – coming out as LGBTQ can carry consequences, such as dismissal from their household.
- Stigma and Misinformation: Identifying as LGBTQ is still seen as a mental illness or crime in the many APIA communities.
All of this comes with the notion that APIA communities are extremely diverse and everyone’s experiences are different.
Doing the “Coming Out”
If and when you decide to come out, think about what you want to say and choose the time, place, and words carefully. Be aware of what your family is going through and be prepared to teach and answer questions. And most importantly, do it when you are comfortable coming out.
Celebrate your coming out! It’s a huge step!
Resources for LGBTQ APIAs
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 Gates, G. & Kastanis, A. (2013). LGBT Asian and Pacific Islander Individuals and Same-Sex Couples. The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/lgbt-api-report-sept-2013/