LGBT Pride Month Interview

This interview comes a bit late for LGBT Pride Month. My interviewee is a good friend and former president of the Queer Student Union at the University of Virginia. I have always been impressed with his community involvement and ability to articulate community issues, regardless of the community. It is an honor to be able to share our interview on the Angry Asian Buddhist blog.

Who are you?

My name is Kevin Wu, and I am a gay Asian American. All of the below views belong to only me. As convenient as it would be to speak for the entire LGBT Asian American community, I don’t.

What do you do?

I am an aspiring filmmaker living in Los Angeles. By day, I make a living as a business consultant in healthcare.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Fairfax, Virginia and grew up around northern Virginia, also known affectionately as “noVA.”

How are you currently involved in the LGBT community?

I am a serial heartbreaker. Just kidding. I am not involved in any official capacity though I occasionally participate in events organized by LGBT-oriented groups such as the SoCal Social Club and Guys Like Us.

How did you first get involved in the LGBT community?

I suppose my involvement has been ongoing ever since I stood in front of the mirror and uttered to myself, “I’m gay.” I first became very actively involved in the community during my undergrad career at the University of Virginia (UVa) after attending a Queer Student Union (QSU) garden party. As cliched as it might sound, being surrounded by others like myself was intensely liberating, and I would eventually meet my best friends through the group. It was with this in mind that I decided to remain involved in the group’s leadership and strove to make the same impact on incoming gay students that I felt when I started my first year.

Why is it important to celebrate LGBT Pride Month?

It’s important to remember. So much of our community never even learned about the history of the LGBT rights movement, much less remember it. As important as it is to celebrate the tidal shift in attitudes toward the LGBT community, we too easily forget the state of affairs just ten or twenty years ago. Even I forget. Having been out for as long as I’ve been and living in liberal Los Angeles, I sometimes forget about the experience of going to school in central Virginia and the sheer terror some students faced (mine included) at showing up to a QSU meeting. So many LGBT people are resigned to living in shame at their identities, and every little bit anyone can do to rectify that, from health education to ostentatious parades, is important.

What’s one misconception or stereotype about LGBT issues that you really dislike?

This is an interesting question. The most egregious stereotypes are harbored by the openly bigoted, so to give them enough credit to “dislike” their views is often a waste of emotional energy. A more appropriate answer would probably involve misconceptions by well-intentioned supporters.

I think many non-LGBT people adopt a mentality that being accepting and not homophobic is enough, that this fight is not theirs to fight. We are a permanent minority. The official percentage is always changing, but the LGBT community will always comprise only a small portion of 犀利士5mg the general population. It’s not as if a wave of immigration will tip the scales (wouldn’t that be interesting?). For that reason, we rely more than any other group on the support of those outside our community. This needs to be everyone’s fight.

What’s one misconception or stereotype about LGBT Asian Americans that you really dislike?

Probably that we’re all waifs. I’m no expert on issues of sexual racism within the LGBT (specifically gay male) community and much has already been written on the subject, so I won’t go into more detail. If, after meeting me, one of your first questions is about my racial preferences in dating, I won’t expect an intelligent conversation. (What I dislike is the assumption that there is an answer at all.)

Did you grow up around Buddhism in your family or community?

Both my parents are Buddhist. I was never required to learn their customs, but they would occasionally take me to temple, where I loved the food served. Despite the lack of guidance, they instilled in my sisters and me a strong sense of spirituality.

What’s one thing you think the American Buddhist community could do to promote LGBT issues?

Show support. Take a stance. Donate, make a public statement, create an outreach program—I don’t have a preference because anything is better than silence. I don’t need angry marches (once upon a time I did) because simply taking a stance without being required to can take tremendous courage. Support affects more than just the oppressed; it affects those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to think about these issues or how their beliefs affect their behaviors.

Last note—I realize that I am still not doing the best job at hosting the voices of Asian American women. Stay tuned, though…

LGBT Pride Month

(I hate it when I accidentally post mid-draft. Apologies for this repost.) On Tuesday, President Barack Obama officially proclaimed this month of June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. You can also check out the associated White House website.

Last month was Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and one way I encouraged bloggers to celebrate was to actually talk to Asian American Buddhists and then post their words. I’m proposing the same idea for LGBT pride month—let’s celebrate LGBT Pride Month by welcoming the voices of LGBT Buddhists to our blogs.

It’s easy to think of these months as throwaway celebrations—“You get one month out of the year so that we can ignore you for the other eleven months!”—but the point, I’ve come to see, is that these celebrations give us license to focus on our community, to air our frustrations, to explore our history and to celebrate ourselves for who we are. We might even learn something.

Many of us can’t identify with these celebrations. They’re about other people. There can be an awkwardness about celebrating a community that we don’t sincerely identify with.

My proposal is simply to recognize that Asian American Buddhists and LGBT Buddhists (and Black Buddhists and Latino Buddhists…) are part of our community. We don’t have to identify with every part of our community to embrace it all. A great step forward is to simply shine a spotlight on the voices of those among us who have historically been ignored and marginalized.

Maybe you know everything there is to know about LGBT issues and the Buddhist community—and if you do, I hope you can educate me. Because I don’t. And I would bet most of my readers don’t.

Maybe if each of us reaches out and actually talks to other Buddhists who are normally silenced, if we share their perspectives and understanding in their own words—maybe this is the sort of process that celebrates our diversity while also bringing us closer together.

However you choose to celebrate this month, I hope that you do. And that you do so with pride.