caption: George Takei, with Greg Cendana from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and NQAPIA’s own Ben de Guzman
May, as Asian American/ Pacific Islander Heritage Month, is celebrated in Washington, DC every year with a series of events that highlight the best and brightest in the community. High end receptions, smart discussions of cutting edge issues, and rubbing elbows with leaders and celebrities from around the country is par for the course.
This year, LGBT communities are playing a key role in much of the festivities. The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders kickoff on Tuesday, May 6, included swearing in of the new members of the President’s Advisory Commission of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including openly LGBT commissioners Michael Byun and actor Maulik Pancholy. Hector Vargas served as an openly LGBT Commissioner since 2011 and stepped down as his service completed. Vice President Joe Biden addressed the audience at the Department of the Interior, as did a panel of leaders, including Pancholy as well as AAPI LGBT rockstar Helen Zia.
The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies celebrated it’s 20th anniversary at their Gala later that night. The legendary George Takei gave a keynote address, and straight allies Paul Song, head of the Courage Campaign, and his wife, media personality Lisa Ling.
caption: NQAPIA friends at APAICS Gala from L-R- Shivana Jorawar (NAPAWF/ KhushDC, Ben de Guzman, Ben Chou (AQUADC), and Bruce Thao (Shades of Yellow)
While it’s easy to have the glitz and glamour distract our attention, the last week or so has also been highlighted by significant news on the policy front that will have real benefits for our communities. On April 29, the Department of Education issued guidance clarifying protections for transgender students under Title IX. This week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder announced guidance that will keep the schoolhouse doors open for students regardless of immigration status.
At a roundtable with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, NQAPIA and other AAPI leaders brought community concerns to the highest levels of the government. Next week, NQAPIA will be leading a delegation of queer AAPI advocates from around the country to another roundtable with the Department of Homeland Security and to meetings with Congressional offices. Keep an eye out for the latest from NQAPIA at these events via Facebook and Twitter.
It’s important to recognize heritage and celebrate progress we’ve made, but we know it’s also important that policy victories that make real change are what we fight for and make the celebrations all the sweeter.