The Gaysian Equation
Last week, AfterEllen.com developed PSAs to rhetorically respond to their self-imposed question: “If you turn on the television and never see a lesbian, do we really exist?” This sparked a question about the importance of recognition and visibility for other minority groups if they are to exist and seem relevant in what makes up the American fabric.
If lesbians have minimal presence in mainstream media, then where do LGBT people of color fit into the equation? Growing up, I was surrounded with icons, images, and people who didn’t reflect me. Nights in front of the television left me unsatisfied. Despite the lack of Asian leads on network shows, the characters that are portrayed are laced with stereotypes, not to mention a lack of true representation within our vastly diverse ethnic group. More than 50-microsegments fall under the Asian-American label, as statistics lump the different Asian ethnicities — Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Taiwanese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Japanese, and others — together. Lucy Liu can’t be a representative for all of us, despite the numerous times when I wish I could fill her Jimmy Choo’s. The Lucy’s on television were all cast as the “China doll,” “lotus flower,” “seductress,” or “dragon lady.” Sadly, they never resonated with me.
For those of us who identify as LGBT Asians, we are left with the same resounding question – if you don’t see us, do we exist? If we live by the mantra, seeing is believing, then no … we don’t. Asian Americans have minimal visibility in the media, and even those outlets that have attempted to be a voice for LGBT Asians, have failed. In my research for this entry, I found the topic of LGBT Asian Americans is virtually untouched! The first magazine to address gay Asians, Noodle magazine, folded after two years and others’ attempts quickly followed suit. Today, there are virtually no magazines specifically targeting this subgroup.
This leads me to the conclusion that the LGBT Asian segment is untouchable — no role models on television, no media outlets, no community that is uniquely our own. How do we communicate with an audience that is, after all, invisible? We may not have the perfect answer, but there are some insights that might get us closer to a solution.
1. See the Need — There is a lack of visibility, recognition, and representation. Minimal research exists on the LGBT Asian population as a whole, let alone subgroups.
2. Inform and Educate Ourselves — There are immense differences within both the Asian American and LGBT community. Together, we need to see that generalizations and blanket statements will decrease our ability to touch this audience.
3. Shape the Power of Words — We need to craft our language to be culturally sensitive and conscious when practicing multicultural communications and marketing. The opportunity of touching this segment lies in knowing how to talk to us and reach us.
4. Get Out — Though media outlets are minimal, there are local organizations specific to the LGBT Asian community, such as Asian/Pacific Gays and Friends, Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, or The South Asian Lesbian & Gay Association NYC.
The Asian community is an economic and intellectual powerhouse in the United States. U.S. Asian communities are known for pulling together and paving the way for others to grow and have opportunities to succeed. This core Asian value is one that is shared by the LGBT community and is why I feel that working toward greater Asian LGBT visibility is possible. The benefits to the broader LGBT community are vast — not only does an influential segment visibly join the LGBT dialogue, but we also show the great diversity in people, cultures, beliefs, and religions that make up the LGBT fabric. It is up to us to ensure that the LGBT voice is as global and collaborative as possible, because when we do so, we are paving the way for the next generation of our LGBT sisters and brothers to experience greater acceptance, respect and compassion by the community at large.
Originally Posted: Dec 10, 2007