Over the past several years, we have seen more Asian and Pacific Islander celebrities and leaders come out as LGBTQ, breaking down barriers and inspiring others to freely live their truths.
Asian Pacific Islanders come from dozens of different countries, making the population one of the most diverse communities in the U.S. While this may mean that cultural backgrounds vary from one person to the next, LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islanders share similar challenges and experiences.
From their coming-out experiences to navigating their communities and families alongside cultural expectations and religious backgrounds, many API individuals and youth still face challenges to living their lives openly and authentically.
Coming out is a personal choice, and the lifelong coming out experience is different for everybody. HRC’s Foundation’s “Coming Out as LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Americans” resource is designed to aid LGBTQ API Americans in navigating the intersectional challenges when coming out.
In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we celebrate some of the incredible people leading at the intersection of being API and LGBTQ.
1. Cecilia Chung
Cecilia Chung is a nationally-recognized advocate for health equity and LGBTQ equality. Chung is the senior director of strategic projects at the Transgender Law Center, where she heads Positively Trans, a project that addresses the structural inequalities causing poor health outcomes and high rates of HIV & AIDS among transgender people.
We’ve been walking this earth before men spoke their first words. We were high priestesses, messengers of the divine, healers, queens’ lovers and kings’ concubines. We were revered. We will show our resilience & we will rise again & again. #WontBeErased https://t.co/NDUhKiR523
— Cecilia Chung (@cecilia_c_chung) October 21, 2018
2. Gia Gunn
American drag performer Gia Gunn is best known for competing on the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the fourth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars.” In 2017, Gunn came out as transgender on Transgender Day of Visibility, sharing a powerful video about her transition and her identity.
“We are here.
We’ve always been here.
And we’re not going anywhere.”
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) November 15, 2018
3. Chella Man
A genderqueer, trans and deaf activist, Chella Man is the first deaf trans artist to sign with IMG Models. Man recently has been cast as Jericho in Season 2 of DC Universe’s live-action original series “Titans.” He has contributed to multiple blogs, including Condé Nast’s Them, often writing at the intersection of gender, identity, race and disability.
For LGBTQ people, visibility can often be our greatest superpower.
Trans, deaf artist Chella Man will play Jericho on the upcoming season of @DCUTitans.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 20, 2019
4. Sam Park
In 2016, Sam Park was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives — making him its first openly gay male state legislator as well the only Asian American representative serving in the legislature. “I’m a gay, Christian, Korean man sitting in the intersection of faith, sexual orientation and ethnicity,” Park told NBC News. “I feel that being myself, I have the opportunity to build bridges between communities.”
Honored to serve with @KarlaDrenner, @Cannonfor58, @RenittaShannon, and the newly elected @mwilsonGA. By the will of the people, Georgia has become a leader in the South by electing five openly LGBTQ state legislators. We’re ready to stand and fight for the equal dignity of all. pic.twitter.com/QVPyzWCBtR
— Sam Park (@SamforGeorgia) January 15, 2019
5. Nico Santos
An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ and Asian American representation in Hollywood, Nico Santos is one of the stars of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first movie with an all-Asian cast and an Asian American lead since “The Joy Luck Club” 25 years ago.
“These are two characters who I wish little Nico could have seen growing up, because if I had, the road to self-acceptance and self-love would have been a lot shorter.” ��@nicosantos reminds us that for the LGBTQ API community, #VisibilityMatters. #APAHM https://t.co/g180LYP0XR
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 2, 2019
6. Lilly Singh
Lilly Singh is a YouTube personality whose videos often draw from her Indian heritage and experiences as a child of immigrants, setting a powerful example for other bisexual people of color. Recently, Singh was named the new host of a late-night show on NBC, making her the first woman host a late night show in more than three decades.
ICYMI: YouTube personality Lilly Singh came out as #bisexual.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 25, 2019
7. Mark Takano
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) is the first openly LGBTQ person of color to be elected to Congress. Takano is an outspoken supporter of the Equality Act — bipartisan legislation that would finally extend clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections to millions of LGBTQ people nationwide. He is Co-Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Chairman of the House Veteran Affairs Committee.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) January 4, 2019
8. Esera Tuaolo
Since coming out on HBO’s “Real Sports,” Samoan American Esera Tuaolo has been an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion of LGBTQ people in sports. Following his retirement from professional football, Tuaolo launched Hate Is Wrong, an organization that aims to foster diversity in sports and fight against bullying among youth.
From the @NFL to the stage of @NBCTheVoice, @EseraTuaolo is a powerful example of visibility for LGBTQ youth. @HRC is proud to honor this incredible advocate for #APAHM. https://t.co/5ZFaGYm72X pic.twitter.com/Ma2HN39dNu
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 12, 2018
9. Eugene Lee Yang
An actor, producer, director, writer and member of The Try Guys, Eugene Lee Yang is a strong advocate for the representation of LGBTQ people of color and addressing racial issues surrounding Asian American identity.
1/ Hey, it’s @EugeneLeeYang! Actor, producer, director, writer & part of the awesome quartet: The @TryGuys. I’m doing an #HRCTwitterTakeover for #NationalComingOutDay to talk about the importance of LGBTQ representation in story telling & voting to effect change. @mandeephoto pic.twitter.com/YSbrH5NYvf
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) October 11, 2018
10. Helen Zia
An award-winning author, journalist, activist and scholar, Helen Zia, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is an outspoken advocate on issues ranging from LGBTQ equality to women’s rights and countering hate violence.
This #APAHM we honor journalist Helen Zia, who covered the now-infamous murder of Vincent Chin, fatally beaten in a 1982 hate crime in Detroit. She and her partner Lia, were among the first same-sex couples married in the state of California. https://t.co/5ZFaGYDIrx pic.twitter.com/aSIht8U6XC
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 14, 2018