Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ethnicity vs. Sexuality in the Asian American Community

          LGBTQ issues in the Asian American community are not necessarily a taboo, yet they are not often discussed. There are mixed opinions about their sexuality among the individuals of the Asian American LGBTQ community. Lisa Wong’s article “Being Gay Asian American” explores the issue of whether young Asian Americans put their ethnicity of a much higher importance than their sexuality. By performing this study, which was published in the Journal of LGBT Youth by Boston University Medical Center, Wong is able to show us the feelings Asian Americans have towards their sexuality and how they struggle with deciding whether which part of their identity will be dominant. In this blog post, the results of this study will be analyzed with the help of the articles written by John D’Emelio and Martin F. Manalasan IV. Ethnicity plays a very vital role in the lives of these youths, yet this study shows that ethnic or sexual identity takes no precedence over another.
          The article by Wong starts off by stating that the study was performed on Asian Americans attending Boston University that consider themselves attracted to the same sex and are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-seven. This group of young people is an interesting case to base a study on because Wong notes, “The conflict of choosing one identity over the other is attributed to a unique set of challenges that the survey group’s western Caucasian peers do not face.” These challenges include being excluded from families that recently immigrated to the United States and are not aware or accepting of non-heteronormative sexualities, as well as receiving stigmatization from the larger Asian community. For many Asian cultures, homosexuality is seen as deviant behavior and is a cause for dishonor and shame. In order to avoid these things, Asian American youths mask their identities in order to be acceptable to their families and the larger Asian community.
          However, it is pointed out that these differences in eastern and western cultures influence how Asian American youths live their daily lives. This news article also gathers the opinions of various professors across the country. According to Dr. Connie So, Senior Lecturer of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington, sex is a very private topic in Asian communities therefore many Asian Americans do not consider it a part of their identity. Western culture associates their sexuality as something that defines who they are, yet Asian cultures simply accept it as a part of them and keep it private. Chong-suk Han, an Assistant Professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, mentions that “The Western stereotype of being gay is to ‘come out’ and wear a big sign that says ‘I’m gay’.” The article by John D’Emilio supports this claim. He wrote that ever since medical professionals theorized homosexuality as a clinical entity, it was less of an aberration and became a quality that defined a person’s identity. With this being said, young Asian Americans are private about their sexuality and do not encounter many hardships and oppressions. They do not necessarily hide their sexuality because of their ethnicity and the repercussions that come with coming out, but instead keep that aspect of their lives private because sexuality is not that big of a deal in eastern cultures compared to cultures from the west.
          Wong’s article also states that Asian American families are more accepting of homosexuality nowadays. This claim is also supported by the article “Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men from New York City.” In this article, Martin F. Manalasan IV argues that Filipino immigrants consider Philippine society to be tolerant of homosexuality. In these modern times, Asian American families are more concerned about the education of their young and whether they will be financially stable for their own future families. Whether or not their children are heterosexual, the fact that they are set for life will be enough to make Asian American parents content. Again, neither ethnicity nor sexuality is being placed as a dominant aspect of the lives of these young individuals. Guaranteeing stability for their future is more important to them at this point in their lives.
          In conclusion, young Asian Americans do not put their ethnicity of higher importance over their sexuality. Although a vital part, ethnicity does not control how they live their lives. Unlike Western cultures, they do not let their sexuality define who they are as well. Through the analysis of Wong’s news article, as well as supplemental articles by D’Emilio and Manalasan, it can be said that there are many other pressing issues in the lives of young homosexual Asian Americans rather than their sexuality. Above everything, financial stability and health is a higher priority to these individuals. Their ethnicity and sexuality is a part of them, yet they do not let it define them.

Works Cited
John D’Emilo “Homosexuality and American Society: An Overview” from Sexual
          Politics, Sexual, Communities in the United States 1940-1970. Chicago, Ill:
          University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Martin F. Manalasan IV “Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men from New York
City”. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Routledge Chapman Hall,
Wong, Lisa. "Being Gay Asian American." The International Examiner. Web. 6 Feb.
          2012. <>.

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