An exceptional case among young Asian Americans, Evan Low in “Evan Low Young, Gay, Asian Mayor of Campbell, CA,” is the first Asian American gay who is in his mid 20s, the youngest Asian American and openly gay mayor in mainstream culture. Low still cannot be a representative for all homosexual Asian Americans.
As with Chinese American communities, Vietnamese American communities contend with the various hardships such as language barriers, cultural conflicts, and financial and survival issues. Accepting queer identity is a big challenge for many Vietnamese American parents and the Vietnamese American communities nationwide. In “Vietnamese Health and Illness Topics,” Huy Nguyen points out that Vietnamese culture is exemplified by sturdy taboos against either open conversations or about showing evidence of sexuality. For this reason, appropriate terminologies for translating sexuality in the Vietnamese language are also practically nonexistent. He further explains:
In contrast to what is popularly portrayed in American movies and television shows, in Vietnamese culture there is no tradition of a coming-of-age “birds and the bees” talk between parents and their children. Because explicit discussions about sex are taboo even within close-knit Vietnamese families, most Vietnamese adults learned about sex when they were growing up from peers and not from their parents, school, or the media. For this reason, parents who are less acculturated may be more resistant to public school-based sexual education. (1)
Although in the past queers existed in the Vietnamese society and homosexuality was part of the Vietnamese cultural heritage, traditional Vietnamese culture still ignores this issue. In this context, queer Vietnamese Americans have been and are still mostly invisible within and beyond the Vietnamese American communities including Seattle. The lives of many queer Vietnamese Americans living in silence remain dismal. They face multiple dimensions of inequality based on race, class, gender, and sexuality and thus exist as peripheral identities within the marginalized Vietnamese American community. Changing this situation involves providing encouragement and a support network for queer Vietnamese Americans within the Vietnamese American community as well as within the mainstream society. Building on efforts that have been occurring in Seattle, it is clear that not every queer Vietnamese American or Chinese American is marginalized. Some have achieved advanced degrees and become activists, who not only organize events and call for action.