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Asian-American Parents Band Together to Support LGBTQ Kids

by Marlon Ramtahal /
Michelle Honda-Phillips and her daughter Malisa
Michelle Honda-Phillips and her daughter MalisaNQAPIA

After her son came out as transgender, Clara Yoon went through several emotional stages, including anger, denial and fear. Eventually, however, she decided she had to educate herself about the trans community.

Clara Yoon, founder of the API Project of PFLAG NYC
Clara Yoon, founder of the API Project of PFLAG NYCNQAPIA

Yoon spent hours on the internet researching transgender issues, and she joined PFLAG NYC's TransParent Project, where she was able to meet parents of other transgender children. By talking to others, she realized transitioning was something her son had to do in order to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

“Being transgender is not a choice, it is something they are born with," Yoon said. Now, six years after her son first came out as trans, it is she who is providing support, knowledge and guidance to others.

“Though many LGBT Asians are out in the community, they go back into the closet in their families, fearful of coming out to parents and dishonoring them. Gay Asians should not suffer in silence."

“Though many LGBT Asians are out in the community, they go back into the closet in their families, fearful of coming out to parents and dishonoring them. Gay Asians should not suffer in silence."

Yoon, who is Korean-American, founded the API Project in 2012 - it's a PFLAG NYC initiative that provides information and support to Asian-Pacific Islander (API) families that have an LGBTQ family member.

As part of her mission to educate and support others who are experiencing many of the emotions she felt when her child first came out, Yoon will be one of three speakers at this Saturday's API LGBTQ Family Acceptance Workshop in Chamblee, Georgia.

The workshop, hosted by the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), is an opportunity for attendees to "hear Asian American parents share their experiences of confusion, fear, love, acceptance, and celebration of their LGBTQ children."

Michelle Honda-Phillips and her daughter Malisa
Michelle Honda-Phillips and her daughter MalisaNQAPIA

In addition to Yoon, the other parents sharing their journeys are Michelle Honda-Phillips, a fourth-generation, Japanese-American mother of a 9-year-old transgender girl, and Barbara Acuna-Taylor, a Filipino-American mother whose daughter is a lesbian.

Glenn Magpantay, executive director of NQAPIA, said an LGBTQ workshop specifically targeted to the Asian-American community is necessary.

“Though many LGBT Asians are out in the community, they go back into the closet in their families, fearful of coming out to parents and dishonoring them. Gay Asians should not suffer in silence," he said, adding that he expects 50-100 attendees at Saturday's workshop.

Following Sunday's mass shooting at an Orlando gay bar, Magpantay, said now is an especially important time for the community to come together: “It is an emotional time for us all, since we are dealing with communities who feel frightened."

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