By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
While Seattle has long had Pride Festival, it will also celebrate its first Pride ASIA event on June 23, a multicultural event for the Asian LGBTQ community in Seattle.
Aleksa Manila, host of Seattle’s Best Karaoke Contest and former Miss Gay Seattle, agreed to host the event after being approached by Capitol Hill Pride Festival’s Charlette LeFevre.
“I was excited with the idea and recognized that it was time for Seattle to host an event like this. Seattle has a rich history with gay API communities. Over the years that I’ve lived here, I have come across many organizations and groups that foster positive cultural values while empowering the LGBTQ perspective,” Manila said.
The 2010 U.S. Census results reported that Asians made up 13.8 percent of the city’s population. According to an American Community Survey, Seattle has the second highest percentage of LGBTQ population at 12.9 percent after San Francisco.
When considering where the event would take place, Manila and other organizers thought it only natural for the event to take place somewhere close to home.
The single step
Organizers quickly settled on Hing Hay Park as the location, which many consider to be the heart of the International District.
“Personally, as host of the SBK karaoke contest for seven years, it felt natural to go back to that comfortable space,” said Manila.
Successful DJ and active member of the LGBTQ API community, DJ Lu Ying said that Hing Hay Park for queer Asians is what Volunteer Park is to the mainstream queer community.
The event, which will take place from noon to 6 p.m., came together as the result of a partnership with Manila and Victor Loo, director of recovery services at Asian Counseling and Referral Service. Manila reached out to Loo about participating in the event. Loo agreed because he shares the passion and vision for Pride ASIA.
“I hope through Pride ASIA, we offer beyond just a celebration of our identities, but it will also help to enhance and establish a stronger network for us and our allies,” said Loo.
On June 2, Manila, Loo, and other organizers gathered at Jai Thai in Capitol Hill to celebrate the kickoff event, which included supporters like Sister Yuriko Lomein of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, clothing designer Devon Yan Berrong, Miss UTOPIA Tanya Rachinee of the United Territories of Polynesian Islanders Alliance of Washington State, Ms. Leather Lu Ying, and former Seattle Men’s chorus soloist Arnaldo! Drag Chanteuse.
Loo hopes that the event will increase awareness and reduce the stigma of being Asian and gay.
Manila said that Asian queers are subject to higher potential for harm due to discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, racism, prejudice, and hate. The event will give gay APIs an opportunity to educate and advocate for love and respect in whatever shape or form it takes.
“The LGBTQ community finds its strength in diversity. We celebrate the differences and individuality that exists within our ranks,” said Shaun Knittel, a local gay activist and Pride ASIA ally. “When events like Pride ASIA come along, they serve as an example of that ethos. The LGBTQ API community is a strong and visible part of our greater family. I am proud of the organizing efforts of everyone involved, to see this project come to fruition, and [I] am confident Pride ASIA will become an annual event and staple of Seattle Pride for many years to come.”
“The goal is to honor and celebrate the multicultural diversity of the LGBTQ communities through the API lens,” said Manila.
She hopes that the event will remind other gay APIs in Seattle that they have a rich and beautiful history.
Ying added, “For those within the Asian community who are afraid to be ‘out’ or to even question, we want them to know that they are not alone. We want to tear down the walls that divide us. Speak up for justice and against the inequality. Share stories of courage and strengthen the ties that empower us.”
Pride and support
More than just a space for API queers, the organizers believe the event can spark dialogue and community education on pertinent issues.
“Whenever the rights of LGBTQ people are under attack, it is important to hold events that show our pride and support,” said Knittel, referring to the campaign to approve Referendum 74, which would keep the state’s marriage equality law unscathed.
“Marriage equality is something that transcends sexual orientation. Although this event is in no way a marriage equality rally, it does serve as an example that all parts of our community stand united when challenged by detractors of equality and civil rights,” Knittel said. “Gay pride and our quest for equality belong to us all and the API community and Pride ASIA [is] certainly a part of that.”
Organizers believe that Pride ASIA will make history as an event which will give voice to the daily struggles of the local API LGBTQ community.
“Everyone with overlapping identities like ethnicity and sexuality has to navigate the challenging paths of where those identities do not align. However, LGBTQ API individuals have to cope with unique challenges to be LGBTQ and also getting that acceptance by our families. … As such, although we receive support from some community members, more work needs to be done to educate others about the freedom to love,” said Loo.
On June 23, Pride ASIA at Hing Hay Park will feature live performances and presentations starting from noon to 6 p.m. (end)
For more information, visit aleksamanila.com/prideasia.
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.