National Coming Out Day in a Big Way

Photo:  Ben de Guzman from NQAPIA and Greg Cendana at APALA

NQAPIA helped catalyze a prominent space in social media for Asian Americans, South Asians, Southeast Asians (AAPI) to come out as LGBT for National Coming Out Day on Friday, October 11.

Recognizing that October not only holds National Coming Out Day, but is LGBT History Month as well as Filipino American History Month, NQAPIA Co-Director Ben de Guzman authored an Op-Ed in which he “came out” not just as LGBT, but as a supporter for comprehensive immigration reform that includes LGBT perspectives.

Among the news outlets that picked it up included:

New American Media

The HuffingtonPost’s Gay Voices Page (Filipino News Outlet)

The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AAPI), a national advocacy partner with NQAPIA in the AAPI community and the only one of its kind focusing on AAPI workers, also put out a statement on National Coming Out Day.  Greg Cendana, APALA Executive Director who is also an openly gay man and a Filipino American, marked the occasion by “Celebrating National Coming Out Day by Coming #out4equality.”

The full text of the NQAPIA Op-Ed is below.  The APALA Op-Ed can be found on HuffingtonPost.



October has always been a special month in my household, since it’s when my twin brother and I celebrate our birthday, surrounded by family. But October is also Filipino-American History Month and LGBT History Month, both of which I’m uniquely situated to appreciate: As a Filipino American, I am part of a legacy that includes generations of Fil-Am activists like Larry Itliong, who started the farm worker movement that was joined by Latino and labor pioneer Cesar Chavez. And as an openly gay man, in the spirit of the Stonewall activism that stood strong against homophobia and transphobia, I cheer the latest victory for the LGBT rights movement: the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and grant benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

However, the times we are in now call for all the strength that these legacies can muster. With our government mired in partisan disagreement, the movement for comprehensive immigration reform stands at a crossroads. Given the distractions, it would be easy to let the momentum wane. But far from choosing the path of least resistance, we’ve chosen to push on and continue the fight.

On Oct. 5 the board of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) gathered in New York and stood in solidarity with the more than 100 protests and marches taking place around the country as part of the National Day of Dignity and Respect. On Oct. 8 I joined thousands of pro-immigration advocates on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to raise our voices above the political posturing on Capitol Hill and call on our lawmakers to vote now for comprehensive immigration reform. My friend, colleague, kababayan (fellow Filipino American) and fellow openly gay man Greg Cendana took our struggle to the next step by joining members of Congress, such as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), by getting arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

We are taking these measures because time is running out for our communities. The Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander LGBT families that are affected by our broken immigration system cannot wait.

My friend Tony Choi, a gay Korean-American undocumented immigrant who lives in Little Ferry, N.J., a few miles from my parents, is one of those who can no longer wait for immigration reform. He lives with the constant risk of deportation, which, for him, would mean facing anti-gay military hazing in South Korea because of that country’s mandatory military service requirements for young men.

Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado, my Filipina American activist role models in Pacifica, Calif., are taking their first vacation back to the Philippines in years, something they are able to do now because Tan’s deportation was halted by a bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Proposition 8 in California and part of DOMA has given them rights as a binational lesbian couple. They can, in essence, be a family. What they cannot do, they say, is stand by and watch as our backlogged and broken immigration system keeps other Filipino American families apart.

Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day, and I’m taking the opportunity to come out again. But this time I’m coming out as an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants — at least 267,00 of whom are LGBT — and protects my family, our nation, and our core values of fairness, equality, and freedom to pursue happiness on our own terms.

NCAPA Statement on Equality and Justice

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), in recognition of National Coming Out Day, issued the following statement on LGBT Equality and Justice.  NCAPA is the nation’s leading coalition of national advocacy organizations serving Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.  NQAPIA is proud to be a member of NCAPA and worked in solidarity with this coalition to issue this important statement.

To see the official statement and for more information about NCAPA, visit their web site.

NCAPA Statement on LGBT Equality and Justice

The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community in the United States has always been made up of a diversity of people from different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religions, languages spoken, and more.  The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), as a coalition of organizations that represent these diverse constituencies and provides a national voice on policy issues and priorities, celebrates that diversity in all its forms, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).

NCAPA recognizes the unique needs and concerns LGBT people and families have within the AANHPI community and many of its member organizations have played critical roles in advocating LGBT policy issues.  The Japanese American Citizens League was the first non-LGBT organization after the ACLU to support marriage equality in the state of Hawai’i, almost 10 years before the issue reached the mainland.

NCAPA remembers this history, and strongly affirms its support for members within the AANHPI community who are LGBT.  NCAPA members individually support a number of LGBT policy issues and the NCAPA 2012 Policy Platform includes policy positions on LGBT issues as well.  NCAPA knows the sting of discrimination based on religion, and supports religious freedom, and knows that LGBT people’s rights can and must be protected in ways that are consistent with freedom of religious expression.

NCAPA affirms the following then:

Marriage Equality and Family Recognition: NCAPA supports marriage equality for same-sex couples as a matter of equal protection under the law in the Fourteenth Amendment.  NCAPA opposes legislation or policy at the national, state, or local level that seeks to codify discrimination in the law by restricting access to marriage based on gender.  For states that do not currently accept same-sex marriage, alternatives such as domestic partnership will help keep couples and families together.

NCAPA supports LGBT families and the right for LGBT parents to raise their children with the same opportunities and equality as their straight counterparts.  Keeping families together is a core value of NCAPA’s work and it is important that LGBT families are included.  NCAPA supports inclusion of LGBT parents and same-sex couples in definitions of family with respect to policies and legislation.

Equal Treatment and Non-Discrimination: NCAPA endorses passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  NCAPA also supports measures that would prevent discrimination in public accommodations as well, and that people should not be able to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity in any context.

Data Collection and Disaggregation:  NCAPA has long held that disaggregated data that is able to bring forward smaller sub-populations is critical for understanding the particular impacts of policies and legislation for affected communities.  This is true not only for specific ethnic communities within the AANHPI community, but for the LGBT community as well.  We know that data is sorely lacking for both AANHPI communities as well as for LGBT communities, and NCAPA supports data collection procedures that ensure that minority communities are counted.

Immigration:  Families should not be discriminated against in the immigration system because of their sexual orientation, or gender identity.  NCAPA supports policies and legislation such as the Uniting American Families Act that allows binational same-sex couples to participate in the spousal petition system in the same way as straight couples that are married.  Also, NCAPA calls for the development of enforceable detention standards, particularly for women, LGBT and other marginalized communities, that ensure access to appointed counsel, legal orientation programs, medical care, hormone therapy, and space to practice one’s religion.   NCAPA also supports provisions that would help LGBT people fleeing persecution have better access to asylum procedures, including extending the deadline to apply.  NCAPA’s support for improved procedures for employment visas, including a path to permanent residency, also recognizes the unique challenges LGBT workers face, such as when they come out of the closet while in the United States, but are faced with the prospect of going back in the closet when their visa expires.

Education:  NCAPA supports legislation and policy that promotes a safe environment for LGBT students in schools free from bullying and harassment, such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the School Safety Improvement Act.  As NCAPA supports a more inclusive curriculum that tells our stories as AANHPI communities, we recognize the contributions of LGBT people (including those who are AANHPI) and support their inclusion in curricula as well.

Health:  NCAPA supports policies and legislation that are inclusive of LGBT people and their families in health care settings.  In a 2004 survey of LGBT AANHPIs, 23% of respondents named health care and another 35% named HIV/AIDS as among their top concerns.  The Affordable Care Act includes a number of provisions that expressly include and support LGBT families, such as prohibitions against discrimination against LGBT families and improved coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS.  NCAPA also supports improved data collection in health care settings, including collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in clinical settings, which would allow health care providers to create a welcoming environment that is more responsive to LGBT health disparities.

NCAPA supports the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus.  It is critical to stop bullying that targets any aspect of the AANHPI community, including those who are LGBT. Bullying is a mental health issue that can result in increased depression and suicide for LGBT individuals who are victims of taunting and hate crimes.  The lack of emotional safety in talking about their sexual orientation can also keep a person from addressing other mental health problems or related health issues such as HIV screening or Hepatitis screening.  This in turn compromises an individual’s ability to receive quality healthcare.

Housing and Economic Justice: NCAPA supports policies and legislation that address issues of housing discrimination for LGBT people and their families, including recent regulations that ensure equal access to housing in HUD programs regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. NCAPA also supports continued funding for HUD’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program.