By Sonia Fang
To celebrate LA Pride 2012, API Equality-LA wanted to find out what motivates our dedicated group of volunteers to be involved: whether that meant specifically in API Equality- LA or in activism and community events. As a member of the Social Media Committee, I talked to many of our volunteers throughout the day, from our breakfast, to the parade, to our booth at the festival. When we conceived of this project to find out why our volunteers were involved, I already knew my answer: because API Equality-LA brings together two important aspects of my identity.
I love that API Equality-LA volunteers are really informed, passionate, and excited about what they do, such as bringing in acclaimed speakers to general meetings, hosting Coming Out workshops, and organizing to prevent the repeal of the FAIR Education Act. After speaking with so many volunteers, what impressed me most was the diversity–of age, interests, faiths, and causes represented, as well as the unique perspective and life experiences each individual had to bring to the table. The project made me realize that I have never felt more proud to be part of this resilient, active, and thriving community.
Read through these heartwarming stories, and share with us why you are involved in the comments section at the end.
Terrenz Vong, an active API Equality-LA volunteer for almost two years, shared her thoughts with me at the breakfast. Her response was powerful and addressed how marriage equality will impact her future and sense of belonging within her family.
I come from a really close family, a really big family. One of the things for me growing up and being gay is looking at my family and realizing that maybe one day in the future I can contribute to the growth of that family by having my own family. Right now with the whole struggle of marriage equality, not being able to have that right—I don’t see that future for myself. So being able to get involved in this organization and contribute to making that change is something I’m passionate about. – Terrenz Vong, Outreach and Recruitment Committee Member.
Family was a recurring theme throughout my discussions. I was excited to see many generations represented within API Equality-LA, especially parents who are staunch allies of their out children. For many LGBT API youth, it is hard to imagine a world where parents are supportive of their child’s gender identity, gender expression, or sexuality. For many, it is even harder to imagine a world where parents are vocal and visible allies, participating in API Equality-LA or API PFLAG or other organizations and working hard to help other Asian parents become more accepting of their LGBT children. What was truly heartwarming for me was to see that there are these sorts of parents out there making a visible difference. Harold Kameya is a wonderful example.
Our daughter came out to us in 1988, the dark ages. After a year and a half of pain, tears, and suffering, we found PFLAG-Los Angeles, and our education began then. And so now, we’re proud to march in the Pride Parades in Long Beach and West Hollywood, and my wife carries a sign saying “Proud Asian Mom of a Gay Kid,” and I carry a sign saying “Proud Asian Dad of a Gay Kid.” We have people coming up to us giving us hugs and asking for photos. We’re glad that the world is changing and that people are opening up their minds and learning that there’s a lot to learn about human sexuality, sexual orientation, and diversity. – Harold Kameya.
Mr. Kameya’s daughter Valerie, whose coming out experience changed her family’s understanding of supportive parenting, was out at pride with her own daughter. You can read more about the Kameyas’ story here.
We’re excited to be here with my parents and to be marching together for equality. – Valerie Kameya with her daughter.
Joyce Liu-Countryman came out to the march with her family as well. She emphasized the importance of accepting her child unconditionally and of providing an early understanding of diversity and respect.
I want to make sure we have a world that is good for my child, regardless of whatever he becomes or who he is, that he understands that it’s a place where we have acceptance of differences and appreciation for them. That’s why I do it. – Joyce Liu-Countryman with her son Orion
I also heard from Ling and Karrie, whose stories really drive home the impact that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has had on our communities.
I always wanted to join this group to help out to volunteer, but in the past few years, I just never had a chance: busy at work when I was in the military. Now I’m out. So yesterday we saw the booth and they told us “Why don’t you come join us for the parade tomorrow?” So we thought ok! – Ling (left)
I’m just laughing cause it’s funny, cause I finally have a reason to be here—cause it’s her! We’re together, and I want to support our community, and our community is dang near everything. – Karrie (right)
Another memorable conversation I had before we started marching was with Aurelio Perez.
I’m a member of Hollywood independent Church. It is a United Church of Christ. We are open and affirming, meaning we support LGBT communities. I am gay, and I am a member of the church. I’m very proud and very happy to be here. – Aurelio Perez
Aurelio’s response was encouraging, and couldn’t contrast more with the hateful speech that we heard as we passed the anti-Pride protestors. Aurelio reminded me that there many welcoming religious faith organizations that not only tolerate or accept but openly embrace LGBT constituents. API Equality-LA has a Faith Committee that performs a lot of outreach to local faith communities to show that faith and sexuality are not inherently at odds with one another.
I was also excited to hear from Karen, Sarah, Elyse, and Cathy, friends of API Equality-LA Steering Committee member, Tran Le.
Left to right: Karen, Sarah, Elyse, and Cathy
I wanted to support and go out of my comfort zone to another people of color community. I usually do Latin LGBT-type events. – Karen
I’m here ‘cause Tran invited us, and it just seemed like a really cool thing to do. - Sarah
My girlfriend is Filipino and Thai; she can’t be here today, so I’m supporting for both of us. - Elyse
I’m here to show support. - Cathy
Their responses made me appreciate the value of allies, and seemed in tune with API Equality-LA’s own dedication in reaching out across different communities of color to promote LGBT acceptance.
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API Equality- LA is a volunteer-driven organization that works to promote LGBT equality through outreach, political activism, and the power of personal narratives. We place an emphasis on working with Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles, and we are always looking for new volunteers. Join our mailing list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to learn about upcoming events. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail email@example.com!