The White House declared May 2014 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Heritage Month. Obama even appointed fourteen people to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—including two openly gay members, Maulik Pancholy and Michael Byun--to improve the health, education, environment, and well-being of AAPIs in America.
To celebrate, GLAAD has compiled a list of 10 LGBT AAPI people you should know.
1. George Takei – Actor, Author, King of the Internet
From the crew of the Starship Enterprise to the Facebook frontier, George has been boldly going there for over 50 years. George, who is Japanese-American, recently starred in the Broadway-bound musical Allegiance, inspired by his family's experience with Japanese internment camps during WWII. A long-time outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, George recently received the Vito Russo Award at the 25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York. Watch his inspirational speech here.
2. Geena Rocero – International Model and Advocate
On International Day of Trans Visibility, Filipino model Geena Rocero stood on stage at TED and said, “The world makes you something that you're not, but you know inside what you are, and that question burns in your heart: How will you become that?” Her powerful coming out story went viral and she has since launched GenderProud which seeks to advance the rights of transgender people world wide.
3. Margaret Cho – Comedian
Bisexual Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho frequently draws from her own experiences to tackle issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in a way that is both thought-provoking and hilarious. She received the inaugural Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards in 2000 for her advocacy. In 2010, she also rocked this amazing rainbow dress on Dancing With the Stars, which she said was a message to LGBT youth: “I wanted to send an urgent message to gay teenagers to make them feel included and loved. That dress was my statement to them about pride.”
4. Maulik Pancholy – Actor
Indian-American 30 Rock and Weeds actor Mauilk Pancholy came out as gay last year to Out magazine. This year he announced his engagement to his boyfriend of nine years with this adorable photo in front of the Taj Mahal. He was also recently honored by Vice President Joe Biden during the White House’s AAPI Heritage Month celebration and appointed to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Bam!
5. Helen Zia – Journalist and Advocate
Award-winning author and journalist Helen Zia has been at the forefront of Asian-American issues for decades. Zia, who is Chinese-American and openly lesbian, has long spoken out for LGBT issues and, in 2010, testified for the plaintiffs in the landmark case Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which challenged California’s now infamous, anti-marriage equality Proposition 8.
6. BD Wong – Actor
Tony Award-winner in real life and trusted FBI psychiatrist on Law and Order SVU, BD Wong’s acting career is full of unforgettable performances. The openly gay actor of Chinese descent also starred in the HBO dramatization of And the Band Played On, which chronicles the early days of AIDS advocacy. Look out for Wong in the Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic World, to which he was recently signed.
7. Kit Yan - Poet
Anyone who has ever seen slam-poet Kit Yan perform knows that he is a powerful and an electric voice for LGBT Asian-Americans. Yan’s poetry frequently draws from his experience as a queer, trans Asian-American and his work has received recognition from New York Magazine, Curve, and HBO’s Asian Aloud.
8. Alec Mapa – Actor and Comedian
Filipino-American actor Alec Mapa has had many memorable roles on both film and television. Mapa, who is a raising a child with his husband, recently premiered a new comedy-concert film called Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy at the Outfest Fusion Film Festival. Check out our exclusive interview with Mapa here.
9. Dan Choi - Advocate
In 2009, Korean-American Dan Choi publicly came out as gay on The Rachel Maddow Show – despite being an active member of the National Guard at a time when openly gay people were still not allowed to serve in the military. Choi rapidly became the public face of those negatively affected by "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," and his fearless advocacy helped bring the discriminatory policy to an end.
10. Mark Takano – US Representative
Japanese-American Mark Takano is a member of the US House of Representatives for California’s 41st district. Upon taking office in 2013, Representative Takano became the first openly gay member of color in the United States Congress.