A major new campaign promoting acceptance of LGBT children in Asian families is encouraging Asian parents to ‘open the closet door’ for their kids.
Glenn D. Magpantay, executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), the organization behind the campaign, told Gay Star News putting the onus on parents to start the conversation is powerful because ‘Asian children are taught to honor their parents, we defer to them on important matters in respect. So we stay in the closet and suffer in silence.’
Magpantay, a former civil rights attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, added: ‘The innovative concept behind [this campaign] is: Empower the parents to start the conversation, to give their children the signal they are willing to explore the issue with them and work together towards understanding and acceptance of their children’s sexual orientation.’
‘Family is still family’
Launching in New York City on Tuesday, the NQAPIA’s Asian Family Acceptance Campaign includes TV adverts, centring on the tagline ‘Family Is Still Family’, which will air on major Asian networks including SinoVision (Chinese), Television Korea 24, and StarTV (South Asian). The multilingual campaign has been translated into English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and Tagalog.
Speaking about the challenges that face LGBT children in the Asian community, Magpantay said: ‘For generations, a culture of Old World shame and misinformation has kept our Asian American LGBT community in the closet. Tradition told us that coming out would bring shame to our parents and dishonor to ancestors.’
He continued: ‘But that led to unhappy marriages, depression and even suicide. Lives were ruined. Our new Asian Family Acceptance Campaign offers a solution to this eternal dilemma.
‘These unique ads will break this cycle of shame and suicide by helping Asian-Pacific Islander (API) parents, many who are immigrants and bilingual, to open the door to unconditional love and acceptance for their LGBT children.’
Asian Family Acceptance workshops
Along with the ads, NQAPIA is running a series of US-wide Asian Family Acceptance Workshops to offer peer support and practical steps that will help API parents support their LGBT children in coming out. Cities hosting these workshops include Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle, Boston, and San Diego.
Real-life stories featured in the campaign range from the tragic to the uplifting. ‘I feel people should know about the great risks of staying in the closet for Asian LGBT people,’ Magpantay told GSN. He referred to the story of Wisconsin mother Joanne Lee, who lost her trans child Skylar to suicide. ‘In Skylar’s memory, Joanne travels the country and lobbies for greater support of the trans community,’ Magpantay said. ‘This is Skylar’s legacy to the LGBT and Asian community.’
Other stories featured in the campaign include a Los Angeles Baptist minister who ‘went on a journey to understand LGBT people and why his own religion demonizes them’.
‘He reached a respect for and acceptance of the LGBT community, just in time for his own son to come out to him,’ Magpantay revealed.
The campaign is the latest in a number of initiatives within the Asian community in North America that seek to destigmatize LGBT issues and foster greater understanding between Asian parents and their LGBT children.
Anti-LGBT sentiment and even violence within the Asian community does, however, remain a significant problem. The campaign launches just as police in Bangladesh announced they had made an arrest over the murder of the editor of the country’s first LGBT magazine.