Asian-American LGBT Elders

dion WongOften when I present on LGBT aging issues, people want to know, “what are the differences or unique experiences of LGBT elders who are also people of color?”

Of course, there is no one answer to that, just as we cannot say that everyone of any group experiences the world in the same way.  But Diverse Elders and SAGE can provide some insights.

At http://www.diverseelders.org/2013/05/31/untold-stories-of-asian-pacific-islander-lgbt-elders-i-think-the-need-to-be-accepted-overcame-their-need-to-be-themselves/, Bryan Pacheco, SAGE’s Communications & Community Advocacy Associate, talks about LGBT Asian and Pacific Islander elders and links to two additional articles.

Dion Wong, a 69-year-old Chinese-American gay man, is interviewed in one of those articles (http://sageusa.org/programs/sagestory-readStory.cfm?ID=11) .  He talks about the worldview many Asians have that make it difficult to come out:

[M]any Asians do not think of individuals as such but each person is part of a larger extended family.  Thus, it would be somewhat selfish of an individual to break away from living a ‘normal’ way of life and bring attention and shame to the whole family [by being openly LGBT].

Wong also notes that in addition to holding strong family values, Asians tend not to resist aging as much as many other Americans.  Both viewpoints can impact how Asian-American LGBT elders may or may not engage with the larger LGBT elder community.

Michelle Alcedo, Openhouse’s Director of Programs, is a Pinay (Filipina) queer immigrant.  In the article available at http://sageusa.org/about/face.cfm?ID=22 she talks about her experiences with older Asian-Americans, who make up more than 40% of San Francisco’s 60+ population.  She notes,

[I]n San Francisco Bay Area older LGBT Filipino elders are often creating community with one another around shared culture, their experience of diaspora, language (an archipelago, the Philippines comprises over 150 languages), and food.  (Especially food!)

She also talks about how and why many Asian-American LGBT elders shy away from participating in even such “safe” activities as anonymous surveys of their needs.  Follow the links to read more.

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