Celebrating AAPI LGBTQIA+ Leaders

Throughout history, Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been community leaders for an array of causes and movements. As June is Pride month, we wanted to highlight and celebrate a few of the powerful AAPI voices that have been fighting for change for the greater LGBTQIA+ community. These courageous individuals have been tirelessly working to educate the public, change institutional policies and practices, and transform our communities into more inclusive and accepting spaces. We will continue to celebrate Pride and queer-identifying leaders and voices this month and throughout the year.

Chella Man

Considered one of the leading voices of the generation, he has spoken out on a broad range of topics from gender dysphoria to mental health and body positivity. Similarly, his art spans many mediums and is often displayed on his Instagram page. As someone who grew up in a small, conservative town, Chella Man strives to be the role model that he wishes he had when he was younger, hence his emphasis on visibility and transparency.

Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Wong-Kalu

Hinaleimoana serves as a cultural consultant of several organizations striving to celebrate diversity. Not only does Hinaleimoana celebrate cultural diversity, they also dedicates their life to promoting gender diversity of the Pacific Islander community. Hinaleimoana recollects in one of their blog posts that growing up in school wasn’t easy for them, they were teased and was put down by their peers for being feminine. Therefore, they utilize their current position as a leader of the native Hawaiian community to restore the “Hawaiian understanding of aloha — love, honor, and respect for all,” As a teacher, Hinaleimoana motivates people with their stories as well as valuable life insights and lessons. They taught people what it means by existing “in the middle,” where genders and sexuality are beyond discussion.

Dan Choi

Since Dan’s coming out, the 38 West Point alumni also came out and announced the formation of Knights Out, an organization of West Point alumni who support the rights of LGBT soldiers to serve openly. In 2009, Choi handcuffed himself to the White House fence in protest of the law that disallowed gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. He has participated and spoken in numerous LGBTQ protests. In February 2010, Choi was selected to be a Grand Marshal of the 41st Annual New York LGBT Pride March by its producers, Heritage of Pride.

Urooj Arshad

Urooj is the Senior Program Manager, Dignity for All, LGBTI Assistance Program at Freedom House. Dignity for All provides emergency assistance; security, opportunity, and advocacy rapid response grants (SOAR grants); and security assessment and training to human rights defenders and civil society organizations under threat or attack due to their work for LGBTI human rights. Prior to Freedom House, Urooj was the Director, International LGBTQ Youth Health and Rights Programs at Advocates for Youth, where she built the capacity of organizations working on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the global south. She has also designed a project that addresses the reproductive and sexual health needs of Muslim youth. She is the co-founder of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, which addresses the intersectional impact of islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. Urooj was also a member of the Center for American Progress’ Women’s Health Leadership Network and its Faith and Reproductive Justice Institute and a fellow with the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She is on the board of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Urooj is the recipient of the Latino GLBT History Project’s annual Mujeres en el Movimiento award; National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance’s Community Catalyst Award and the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition’s We Speak award.

Kris Hayashi

At the age of 28, Kris was the Executive Director at the Audre Lorde Project (ALP) in New York City. ALP is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, trans and gender-nonconforming people of color center for community organizing, focusing on the New York City area. Kris served as Executive Director at ALP for over ten years. During his tenure at ALP, ALP launched one of the first organizing and advocacy projects in the country led by trans and gender-nonconforming people of color, the annual NYC Trans Day of Action now in its 11th year, and won a monumental campaign getting NYC’s welfare agency to adopt community-developed policies on serving trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Ben De Guzman

Ben worked with the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, where he served as the Community Outreach Specialist. During his tenure, he led the organization’s two major first-time events, the “District of Pride” LGBTQ cultural performance event and the 32nd Annual 17th Street High Heel Race. As an advocate for equity and recognition for Filipino veterans of World War II, he played a key role in two of the most significant legislative victories on behalf of these soldiers. He led communications, outreach, and political strategies for the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project that led to the passage of the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2016. He also served as the National Coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, where he organized a national legislative campaign that created the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund in 2009.

Margaret Cho

Margaret’s works are known for humor stylings while incorporating strong cultural and political commentaries. In her very own podcast, she often touches on issues such as sexuality and Asian American culture. Margaret also believes in all kinds of different expressions of gender, which does not strictly limit to male or female. She participated in a music video with rapper Awkwafina and celebrates women of color’s quirkiness, inner passion, and intersectionality. Social media is another way for her to show support for the LGBTQ community. She is very open with her sexuality as well as celebrating pride month through her Instagram account, personal blogs, and podcast channel as a modern influencer.

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