Voices of Asian American LGBT Immigrants in Immigration Reform

By Tunisia L. Riley*

Assembled together on a cold New York day I sat in a room overlooking the frigid Manhattan skyline. Yet, while New York City (even in the summer time) is cold to me, to others who have been ostracized by their native countries and families for their sexual orientation, New York City can become home, and a safe haven.

On May 11, 2010, I sat in on a Press Conference for “The Voices of Asian American LGBT Immigrants in Immigration Reform.” The event was sponsored by a collective of organizations under the umbrella of The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) Speakers were presently and formerly undocumented, Asian and Pacific Islanders of the LGBTQ Community who found solace in the United States but more specifically New York City.

The intent of this press conference was to shed light on a community that is often overlooked by the LGBTQ community because of their undocumented status, and by their native countries because of their sexual orientation. Common themes were: living in fear of deportation back to their native countries, strength in telling their stories, and in community. And lastly their desire to come to the USA fueled by their native country’s hostility towards their sexual orientation.

When asked: "Do you feel cut off from the [mainstream] gay community because of your immigrant status and cut off from your cultural community because of your gay status?" Ken Takeuchi (a formerly undocumented male from Japan and Co-Chair of Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York) said: "Yes on both fronts. Both communities think we don’t exist. We needed a safe space to speak on race, and queerness… that’s why we formed our own organization."

Takeuchi, Reverend Noel Bordador (a formerly undocumented male from the Phillipines) and Aries Liao of Q-Wave (who I spoke with after the conference) also noted they found solidarity with other LGBTQ communities of color. The majority of speakers are active in the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

One speaker noted, “We collectively heal by kissing each other’s wounds.” By forming an alliance with other LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander in the US, they have collaborated to address issues of race, immigration, sexuality, and homophobia. And in the process they are healing each other by becoming advocates for their multiple communities and for those still living in the shadows of fear.

For more information on LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Organizations or those represented at this event visit their websites below:

NQAPIA: The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Q-Wave: Queer, Women & Trans Asian. Visible. Empowered
Gay Asian & Pacific Islander Men of New York
Dari Project
APICHA: Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS
SALGA: South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association of New York City

*Tunisia L. Riley currently volunteers with NCRW in their Communications Department. She holds a BA in English and Women’s Studies from the College of William & Mary and an MA in Women’s Studies from the University of South Florida. Her interests are on Black women’s use of creative expression as a means of healing, empowerment, and activism. She believes “when we tell our stories, we empower those around us to agitate injustice, inspire change, and create activism.” Tunisia currently serves as the incoming editor of Under the Microscope a site for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to tell their stories. Under the Microscope is for, by, and about women in STEM, consider submitting your story today.



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