Category Archives: Multicultural Communications

Put down the pom poms: Not that #SpiritDay

Courtesy of seaofwaves.tumblr.com

Today is #SpiritDay.  I always remembered spirit day as a forced event, where I wore school colors and pretend I cared about winning a football game.

Today is different. Today, I actually do care. Today’s #spiritday is a day for us to take a moment and remember the lives that were lost because of LGBT bulling. Looking at the online conversations over the past 24 hours, it’s incredible to see the response.  1.6 million people joined the Facebook event, 214 articles written, celebrities urged for fan participation, and people all over changed their Facebook profiles and Twitter avatars purple. Even Tumblr changed their background to purple. It’s an important step toward awareness.

I admit, all of the coverage, attention and comradery does make me feel extremely proud. It makes me smile to know that we have a strong community of LGBTQ and allies. But with all this spirit, it’s still not enough.

Just hours ago, a young gay man took his life. AfterEllen reported that lesbians were kicked out of a Baltimore Ravens game and a Raleigh, North Carolina shopping mall. Seriously? Do you not realize (a) the power of the pink dollar, (b) that sporting events are the gathering places of gay ladies, and most importantly, (c) the basics of equal rights is that regardless of race, religion, gender, age, class, and sexual orientation – love is love?

Although I don’t fit into the “sporting” component of our community’s stereotype, I do enjoy retail therapy and demand equal rights. It boggles my mind that people feel they have the right to condemn others, and that this self-righteousness entitles them pure hate. Does it make sense to you?

The reality is – we live in a world where lives are lost senselessly and discrimination runs rampant. When people say to me, “Well, why do you care so much? It’s just a political agenda.” I can’t help but respond, “Well, what do you care about? And who do you have in your life who’s worth living for? To me, it’s not politics. It’s my friends and family.”

I hope you took part in #spiritday today. But more than anything, that you’ll help give hope to teens across the globe each and every day. Tell them, “We love you for being you. The whole you.”

Awareness For AIDS

J0439338 Greater Than AIDS was launched last week, on National HIV Testing Day, by the Black AIDS Media Partnership to create a movement of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness.  The campaign aims to mobilize the black community to talk about HIV/AIDS and protect against the spread of the disease.

Though blacks account for 13 percent of the total US population, this community makes up nearly 50% of new HIV cases. That means, approximately half a million Black Americans are living with HIV. Many of those affected lack access to health care and treatment, making this population even more vulnerable. According to the CDC, black men who have sex with men (BMSM) accounted for 63 percent of new infections among black men in 2006.” A campaign that urges testing, prevention and conversation in the black community is essential for change.

Greater Than is a refreshing campaign, though visually dark. The Greater Than AIDS Web site provides advocates with an opportunity to engage others through social network tools, like Twitter and Facebook. The entire Web site is set up as an online community, giving visitors an opportunity to personalize their pages and start or join a conversation. This platform fulfills the campaign’s mission – opening the doors to discussion and change. Additionally, four videos show personal stories of HIV positive people – breaking the silence. Looking for a call to action, there’s plenty. The Web site provides national to local ways people can get involved in HIV advocacy.

Looking for something to do this weekend? Join Greater than AIDS at the ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans. On-site, free HIV testing will be available to attendees, followed by an HIV/AIDS seminar featuring Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute; Marvelyn Brown, activist and author; Dr. Hilda Hutcherson and others.

To be quite honest, I really like this campaign – its overall mission, strategy and tactics. Each platform the campaign utilizes gives a voice to the black community. One of the greatest hurdles in changing behavior goes beyond pure education. Campaigns and communications tactics that truly make an impact are those that give communities what is needed – a platform to discuss issues and motivate personal change.  I’m excited to see the campaign grow and gain momentum.

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