Saving Face: The Struggle of LGBT Asian Americans

J0422524 The United Press International recently released a study that found that young LGBT Asian Americans face unyielding familial and cultural pressures that affect their ethnicity and sexual identities. Based on Hyeouk Chris Hahm’s study findings, this stress leads LGBT Asian Americans to make a choice – hide to save face or come out and face rejection from family and race?

The constant weight of societal pressures is magnified by that of our families’. For people of color, this fact shared today is not new, and for the Asian-American community – coming out is likely associated with failure. For a culture that is built on a foundation of tradition and high expectations – failure is a shared fear across all Asian ethnicities.

A few weeks ago, I read an article about today’s gay vague generation – this generation of youth who do not identify as LGBT. This intrigued me, as a part of defining who you are requires identification with an existing community. For Asian Americans, this isn’t about the lack of identification, but which identity takes precedence – ethnicity or sexual identity.

Hahn’s study provides us with a sampling of Chinese, Japanese and Korean LGBT youth and young adults. Though the survey does not span across all Asian-American subgroups and age ranges, it does give us a glimpse into this silent population. For LGBT Asian Americans – we are the largest yet the most invisible segment – no prominent gay public figures, no media representation, no community that is uniquely ours. We need visibility, support and education. For youth and young adults, it is evident that we need a support system to give these individuals a sense of hope and security – letting them know that they are not alone.

For those of us seeking to reach this community, Hanh’s research provides important insights to understanding the intricacies of the Asian-American community. Cultural sensitivity is taken to a deeper degree when reaching LGBT people of color. We need research, like Hanh’s, to know the most effective way to help and support these communities.

For more, read Northwest Asian Weekly’s article “When Its Stifling to Be Out.”

For more on the UPI study, visit

Originally Posted: Aug 24, 2009

Posted on August 24, 2009, in LGBT Communications. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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