Opinion: The struggles faced by queer Asian teenagers

The State of Michigan has recently passed a law banning the practice of gay conversion therapy for underage teens. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced that starting Sept. 11, gay conversion therapy cannot be administered to children under the age of 18.

“Medical practitioners may be charged with a misdemeanor offense and imprisoned if they continue to use electrical shocks and unscientific approaches in an attempt of transforming a person’s homosexuality,” according to Cryss Walker, a journalist for WLNS.

As I learned about this new law helping the queer community, I thought about one of closest friends living in Michigan, who is queer. I was happy about this law because his Taiwanese parents have been trying to get him into gay conversion therapy. With this law, high school students, like my friend, cannot be forced into gay conversion therapy.

He came out to me five years ago, but asked me to keep his gay identity a secret. LGBTQ relationships are not tolerated in his Taiwanese family, even though Taiwan had legalized same-sex marriage a few years ago.

While newer, younger generations of Taiwanese support LGBTQ rights, older, more traditional generations do not. His family is part of the latter.

I support my friend, and have become an LGBTQ advocate because I sympathize with his struggles. I just wish his parents would accept him for who he is.

Every time I visited his family, I noticed that his parents would ignore his sexual identity. His father would always ask me if I knew any nice Taiwanese girls to introduce to his son.

While I notice governments have stepped in the right direction towards LGBTQ acceptance, such as Michigan’s law banning gay conversion therapy for underage teens, and Taiwan legalizing same-sex marriage, I still believe we have a long way to go towards full acceptance.

Many young queer Taiwanese and queer Asian Americans still face discrimination within their social circles, families, and colleagues.

In a research paper submitted to the academic journal AAPI Nexus: Policy, Practice and Community, Dr. Magpantay stated the awareness for LGBTQ equality within Asian American communities is still inadequate, often jeopardizing them to fall into this “one step forward, one step backward.”

This explains why, despite Taiwan’s legalization of gay marriage, it still is not enough to change the minds of conservative Taiwanese and Asian individuals. This hurts many queer Asian high school students, like my friend.

So if current efforts and endeavors are not sufficient in normalizing the LGBTQ stigma in Taiwanese and Asian American communities, is there anything that we can do to gain universal acceptance for all?

I advocate for LGBTQ support groups in Asian-language schools, such as Chinese schools. Every student should be given equal opportunity to discover their true identity, without feeling the threat of rejection by their Asian community.

Based on the research submitted to the journal Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Dr. Joseph G. Kosciw expresses that support groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances, combined with comprehensive anti-bullying policies, provide positive benefits for LGBTQ students.

Additionally, community programs on sexuality education should be readily available to Taiwanese and Asian community members, so they can lead their communities towards positive and forward-thinking change.

According to Kenneth H. Mayer’s paper “Fenway Community Health’s model of integrated, community-based LGBT care, education, and research”, community support programs are pivotal to cultivate recognition and cultural competence of the LGBTQ community.

If we as a society can do more to raise awareness on the LGBTQ community, queer high school students, like my friend, can have the freedom to love who they choose without the judgment of their Asian community.

Furthermore, normalization of the LGBTQ community will allow Taiwanese and Asian American families to embrace their children for who they are, instead of changing them to become someone they are not.