“There is a lot of unspoken racism in the lgbti …q … some other letters,” said linguistics and Japanese student Yan Tan Danny Lam, 18, was born in Hong Kong and has lived in New Zealand since he was five.
“One of the worst examples is on dating apps. There are a lot of racist messages. And they all look a bit gross … those people who say ‘ooh … I don’t really find Asians attractive’” he told GayNZ.com
“Yeah that’s how they legitimize it, ‘I’m not racist, it’s just not my preference,’” said David Ting, 28, who is studying sociology – plus Asian history and Asian politics.
“A friend of mine was saying that he thinks racism is worse within the queer community than outside, partly because people feel like they can say these things online with the cover of being anonymous” Ting added.
It was experiences such as Lam and Ting that led to a group of “Asian Kiwis” coming together to form EquAsian, forged using the words ‘equal’ and ‘Asian’ following a gathering at the Auckland Pride Festival past February, where people shared their experiences of being LGBTI and being Asian.
Ting was already thinking there needed to be a an Asian group within the rainbow community, so there was some way other than apps, websites, saunas, bars and clubs to meet.
“Then I came to this dialogue evening and [the organizer] had exactly the same idea, so we just joined forces,” he said.
For a start the group will make resource packs for people coming out, or struggling to – with support contacts and safe-sex info.
The EquAsian team will also translate their ads, using the language skills they have, and widen their materials as people from varying cultures join the group since there are many cultures under the wide ‘Asian’ umbrella.
Another worrisome issue for Ting is how he has heard about guys who end up wanting to be with someone so much, in the face of being told ‘no Asians’ from so many corners, that they are willing to compromise on safe sex.
In fact, he says recent HIV figures show the group has rising infection rates. Ting’s helping organize a gathering where gay and bi Asian men will be asked to offer feedback to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s safe-sex promoter Love Your Condom.
Reaching new migrants is one of the group’s tough challenges as people who are often trying to grapple language and cultural differences, never mind their own identity, said Ting who added that reaching more women and trans people was also another test as an over-arching issue is that many LGBTI Asian people are simply not ‘out.’
“We want them to feel a place of belonging in this group. If they can’t find that elsewhere, we want to provide that for them,” said Ting.