The narrative of queer history has largely centered on one demographic: white, middle-class males. While it's necessary that these stories are heard, they're just one perspective and they are not associated with the diverse, intersectional communities that also identify as LGBTQ+. For Khier Casino – who's a grad student at Columbia Journalism School and also the editor in chief at NextShark, news, culture, and entertainment site that's dedicated to covering Asian American issues – he believes that Asian American existence has largely been invisible in the media. “It’s clear that there is so much more work that needs to be done and more discussions to be had,” he says. However, the more we collectively spotlight these moments, the more we'll possess a better knowledge of their impact on the city. Below, Casino discusses five from the pivotal moments and unsung heroes in Asian American LGBTQ+ history which are worth commemorating.
Activist Helen Zia
Helen Zia is a Chinese-American journalist and activist who's noted for speaking on racial and LGTBQ+ issues. She once served because the president from the New York Chapter from the Asian American Journalists Association, which is dedicated to combating media stereotypes against Asians. “Helen Zia and her wife, Lia Shigemura, were the very first same-sex couple to get married in California upon recognition by the state in 2008. This year, she testified for marriage equality within the landmark case decided through the U.S. Supreme Court,” says Casino.
Helen Zia (R) and her partner Lia Shigemuria get married at Bay area City Hall Next month, 2008.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
She's also recently been making headlines due to her “heavy involvement in the Vincent Chin civil rights case,” says Casino. Vincent Chin was a Chinese American engineer who was beaten to death 39 years back. “Zia led the phone call to bring justice to the case because the national organizer and spokesperson for that Justice for Vincent Chin campaign,” says Casino. Along with a limited scripted series concerning the murder will be developed with an exclusive agreement with Chin's relatives and Zia.
National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
The first observation of National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was on May 19, 2005, to help end the HIV stigma against the community. “The day was founded through the Banyan Tree Project and backed by the Cdc and Prevention (CDC) to help raise awareness, prevent HIV, and those who are living by using it,” says Casino. By reduction of the stigma, the Banyan Tree Project hopes to get more people tested (currently, two-thirds of Asians haven't been tested for HIV, according to the organization), along with receiving health services and support. Helping spread the word through storytelling and education is important: “While the Asian American population grew by 11 percent between 2010 and 2022, the amount of Asians who have been identified as having HIV increased by 36 percent,” says Casino.
Former U.S. Army Officer Daniel Choi
Lt. Dan Choi, a prominent anti- “Don't Ask Don't Tell” activist, speaks during mass rally in support for PFC Bradley Manning on June 1, 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland. Lexey Swall/Getty Images
After serving in the U.S. Army throughout the Iraq War in 2006, Korean American “Lt. Daniel Choi was discharged for being released around the Rachel Maddow Show in 2009,” says Casino. “In 2010, he handcuffed himself to the White House to demand the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT), which was a federal policy [adopted in 1994] that disallowed gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military,” adds Casino. Since then, Choi became one of the founding people in Knights Out, a company of West Point alumni that are committed to supporting LGBTQ+ service members.
In 2010, The president repealed the insurance policy, but approximately 13,000 service members were discharged when DADT was at effect, and the lingering shadow of its legacy still remains.
The Respect After Death Act
“In September 2022, California's Respect After Death Act (AB 1577) was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The brand new law enabled transgender people to record their chosen gender on their death certificates,” says Casino. It had been inspired by Christopher Lee, a transgender filmmaker who co-founded the Transgender FIlm Festival and committed suicide this year. “The coroner misgendered him as female on his death certificate. His friends, Chino Scott-Chung, who is additionally a trans man, and Chino's spouse, Maya, reached to then-assembly member Toni Atkins, who drafted California Assembly Bill 1577,” says Casino. The bill ensures that officials should defer to legal documents like a order from the court approving a reputation or gender change or proof of medical treatments for gender transition to ensure transgender individuals are recognized properly once they pass away.
Politician Evan Low
California State Legislator Evan Low attends the Lambda Legal 2022 West Coast Liberty Awards in the SLS Hotel on June 7, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. Randy Shropshire/Getty Images
In 2010, Assembly member Low made history as the youngest LGBTQ+ mayor in the usa, as well as in 2022, he was the youngest Asian American legislator elected into the California State Assembly. “In 2022, he authored AB 2943, which was a bill that aimed to classify conversion therapy as fraud, increase protections for consumers, and make 'sexual orientation change efforts' an unlawful business practice,” says Casino. Conversion therapy refers to dangerous practices targeted at changing a persona's sexual orientation or gender identity, based on the Trevor Project, who co-sponsored the bill. Though the bill was just one vote from reaching the governor's desk, Low had to pull it because of intense backlash from California's conservative religious community. Low continues to make LGBTQ+ rights a high priority and is currently re-serving his role because the chair from the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, a forum for California policymakers to help the goal of equality and support LGBTQ+ leaders in the community at local, state, and federal levels.