As we grow up, all around us are examples of how to be. They can be incidental like advertising, movies, and music or they can be purposeful like a father modeling “how to be a good man” for his son. And when they're lacking, things can be confusing. Margaret Cho once related that as a child, she was sure that she wanted to go into show business. Unfortunately because there were no actors that looked like herself, she didn't know how to be an Asian performer. She would practice in front of her mirror broadcasting the news.
A friend of mine once explained her coming out process in a very religious family. She said, “I'm really thankful to my parents and that they were so accepting because it allowed me to keep my faith. If they had rejected me, I think it would have been hard for me to maintain my faith because it was so entwined with how I saw my family and myself. My faith is very important to me and I'm grateful that I can have both.”
Even despite the warm acceptance of my own family it's taken me quite awhile to figure out how to be be QandA. Reflecting back it seems like it only really happened for me when I finally found a few Asian friends that I could rejoice in being both Asian and queer with. While they were not queer themselves they not only tolerated me but embraced me. I think it finally gave me a context where I could finally feel like myself fully without fear. I guess it gave me a space to figure it out myself.
I have other Asian friends who have not been so lucky. Without the acceptance of their family, they've psychologically had to chose between their two identities and it makes me angry and sad that situations like that exist.
With all of this in mind, a few friends and I created our own little local group, Queer&Asian. We met for the first time last week. Cradling our froyo and shuffling in our chairs, we all sat around the table trying to figure out what the purpose of the group would be. “Uh, you know, for support.” Great! So what kind of events should we hold? “I don't know. Food? Board games?” “I want to talk about my family. How do you even come out to Asian parents?”
And then we realized... eight queer and Asian people around a table and none of us had ever been in a queer and Asian group before. We don't know what they do. Ultimately we had all sensed that a queer and Asian group might fill some role that we had always seemed missing in our lives; but since we had never had an example of what that could be, we were left unequipped to create it. And so we agreed to just hang out for now. And we'd be a resource for others (necessary but not with irony since clearly we weren't even able to be a resource for ourselves).
Despite this lack of clarity, I left our meeting with key-lime froyo in my tummy and an uplifted spirit. After all, there's google. Google will tell us what to do. And now we have each other. Even if we hadn't done anything concrete, I had at least found a place where I finally felt understood.