GUEST POST: On #SpiritDay, let's talk about bullying of intersecting identities

By GLAAD |
October 16, 2019

When I think of Spirit Day and the issue of bullying towards Asian and Pacific Islander (API) LGBTQ youth, talking about coming out is not enough. We need to talk about intersectionality because it’s about our multi-faceted culture. The idea of coming out brings on a lot of shame and pressure from our own community that encourages you to conform, how the media portrays Asian LGBTQ people, and how people see us because of the invisible model minority stereotype.

Personally, I suffered a tremendous amount of discrimination and bullying as a child and into my teenage years. I’ve experienced homelessness as a young adult, poverty and severe depression that lead to contemplating suicide. I understand what it feels like to be marginalized and what many LGBTQ youth are going through because I have experienced it myself.

Like many Asian youth, it was always a double layer of bullying growing up as Asian, while simultaneously struggling with my sexuality. Being constantly bullied as a child into young adulthood made me feel isolated by my sense of otherness and difference. It ate away at my self-worth which didn’t give me the confidence to be openly out and my authentic self.

I always felt like an outsider living in limbo between how society wanted me to conform compared to how I understood my identity. I stood out like a sore thumb and that difference made me an easy target for bullies. Growing up as the ’other’, I was convinced that to be successful, I needed to fit in by erasing both my ‘Asianness’ and ‘Gayness’ because that’s what being bullied had always reinforced.

As a child, I found a sense of solace in sports and started weight-training at six years old with some rusty dumbbells I found around the house. I participated in every sport I possibly could,  from tennis to softball. Sports gave me a sense of purpose and self-worth; it gave me a sense of community. But it also presented its own issues as I was the only Asian participating in sports, and like so many LGBTQ athletes, I worried about the impact my sexuality could have playing team sports.

Asian youth are most bullied of all ethnic groups, and if you are Asian and LGBTQ this presents a double layer of bullying. Many people don’t realize that Asian LGBTQ people suffer from both racism and homophobia. These two layers, sexuality and racial minority, put Asian LGBTQ under double pressure. Asian men are desexualized and demasculinized, while Asian women are portrayed as subservient. Because of the racial stereotype Asian LGBTQ are the victims of bullying, even within the LGBTQ community. They are not fully respected nor treated equally even within the community they belong to.

The problem that causes bullying can also be seen in the Asian athlete community. Many Asian youth love to play sports. However, due to the stereotype that Asians are weak and our physical frame isn’t suited to many sports many Asian LGBTQ become discouraged from participating in sports because of the double layer of bullying. We need more Asian athletes to come out or, at the very least, to publicly become an ally. We need the support from both inside and outside of the Asian community.

Without a mirror image of an LGBTQ Asian person when I was growing up in the media or in sports, I had to create my own narrative as a child and, as an adult, this helped me stand in my own truth to be brave and unapologetic as an openly out Asian woman. By sharing my story and living authentically and unapologetically gives me the freedom to realize that my emotions are real, that how I feel inside matters and that I’m worthy of owning the space that I’m in. I want my story to provide a positive message for any LGBTQ or Asian Pacific Islander person or athlete who wants to be openly out in sports and life. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through so by sharing my story and setting up my organization Amazin LeThi Foundation, I want to inspire young LGBTQ people and help them achieve their full potential in life and let them know that it does get better.

 

About Spirit Day

Each year, millions go purple for GLAAD’s Spirit Day to support LGBTQ youth in a united stand against bullying. Started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan in response to numerous young LGBTQ lives lost to suicide, Spirit Day now draws the participation of celebrities, schools, faith institutions, national landmarks, corporations, media outlets, sports leagues, and advocates around the world, all joining together to stand against bullying and support LGBTQ youth.

Presenting partners Pantene and Target, official partners Kellogg’s and the NBA and WNBA, and community partners Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, Kirkland & Ellis, and Wells Fargo will all participate in the anti-bullying campaign. 

As anti-LGBTQ policies, hate crimes, and harassment are on the rise, it is now especially important to let all marginalized youth know they are supported.

This year, Spirit Day is on October 17, 2019. Take the Spirit Day pledge to show LGBTQ youth you've got their backs at glaad.org/spiritday. Follow @GLAAD on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up to date with #SpiritDay news.

 

About Amazin LêThi

Amazin LêThi is a global activist and thought leader. Amazin was a former competitive bodybuilder, entertainment executive and Vietnam’s first internationally published fitness author. Amazin is a board advisor for S.A.F.E: Safe Asylum & Finding Empowerment – A New York organization for LGBTQ immigrant and asylum seekers; Vagina Museum, Queer Britain Museum and Interim Spaces and the LGBTQ + Venue Forum – Night Czar (Advisory Group) Mayor of London. Amazin is a sports ambassador for Athlete Ally, Stonewall UK and an ambassador for Vietnam Relief Services.