Chicago: GAY ASIAN AMERICANS MEET TO ORGANIZE
- GAY ASIAN AMERICANS MEET TO ORGANIZE
By Gary Barlow
Gay Asian and Pacific Americans in Chicago met at Soul Cafe in
Edgewater Oct. 19 to talk about visibility, identity, advocacy and
building community and coalitions.
"We have a lot to do around being gay in the Asian community. I also
feel we have a lot of work to do around being Asian in the gay
community," said Glenn Magpantay, co-chair of Gay Asian and Pacific
Islander Men of New York.
Magpantay was invited to speak to the for-now informal group by Karl
Kimpo and David Amarathithada, who said discussions with friends led
them to want to find a way for gay Asian and Pacific Americans to have
an organized advocacy presence in Chicago.
"What I'd eventually like is something that's social and political, so
that we can have advocates in the community, so that we can feel more
connected," Amarathithada said.
Magpantay's strongest advice to the 20 or so attendees was short and simple.
"Just do it," he said. "You just need to do the work. The other thing,
I think, is having a balance of the social activity and the advocacy
Magpantay talked about how GAPIMNY is structured, the programs and
advocacy it organizes and issues it deals with, internally and in
relation to the larger gay community, the larger APA community in the
United States and U.S. society in general.
"Asians are so incredibly diverse," Magpantay said. "Our cultures are
incredibly different. Our ages are different. The question is how do
we bring these issues together."
GAPIMNY, he said, has found common interest among gay Asians and
Pacific Americans from diverse backgrounds on several issues:
immigration concerns, race-based discrimination and stereotyping,
media representations of gay issues in the Asian American press and
the lack of APA representation in GLBT media and GLBT organizing.
"In the gay community Asians get left out," Magpantay said.
"Immigrants get left out. Gay organizing in this country is done in
English. Is being gay just a white thing? ...We wish that more gay
groups were willing to talk about immigrants."
He detailed the role GAPIMNY members played in organizing a successful
protest against Details magazine earlier this year, when the
publication ran a feature titled "Gay or Asian?" The article, gay APAs
said, demeaned Asians as "exotic chattels from far off lands and Asian
men as passive and effeminate."
"We saw racial caricatures in this that really stereotyped Asians-that
you couldn't be gay and Asian and proud, that if you were gay and
Asian, you could be mocked," Magpantay said.
The protest generated more than 20,000 complaints to Details, forcing
its editor to apologize for "crossing a line that should never be
"Part of what we were really concerned about was the impact it had on
young Asian American men," Magpantay said.
Magpantay also talked about how GAPIMNY has organized internally,
including its decision to allow only Asian and Pacific Americans in
most of its discussion groups and general meetings, while keeping
social events open to all.
"We get a lot of criticism...because we exclude people," he said. "We
really do struggle with that, but we need to find our own identity."
In March, Magpantay said, GAPIMNY and other groups organized a
milestone event, the first Queer Asian Pacific Legacy conference. More
than 400 attendees traveled to New York University to network and
After Magpantay spoke, attendees indicated a strong interest in
continuing the discussion and organizing effort in Chicago. Denys Lau,
a co-founder of Asian Queers United for Action in Washington, D.C.,
who now lives in Chicago, said it would be important to organize with
strong community input.
"There's this issue of going out and trying to build the group and
going out and meeting the needs of the community," Lau said.
Amarathithada said he would continue to facilitate the effort by
fostering discussion through an online listserv and helping to
organize future meetings.
"Chicago has its own culture and we need to create our group within
that culture," Amarathithada said.
Are you in Chicago? Want to get involved? Contact David Amathithada
at damara66@... or call him at (312) 952-9050.