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  • Writer's pictureShannon Wong Lerner, Ph.D.

Being "Out" at a Chinese Eatery–brown & black genderqueer, non-binary, and trans lives still matter

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

I had a lightbulb go off about a month ago after watching Patrice M. Palmer's TedTalk, Are You a Man or a Woman...I'm BLACK about myself as a Chinese American queer / gay / androgyne woman. Patrice M. Palmer (they/them/theirs) speaks on their Blackness as a category unto itself. It's such an important talk because they draw attention to the intersectionality of queerness, of trans, of nonbinary that had always been present in Gullah culture.

I had made a comment when I was first coming out late last year 2019 that I felt comfortable being out everywhere except at Chinese restaurants or other places I went where Asians frequented. I said I was afraid I would be treated differently because I was biracial already, and now I was gay. I didn't know how other Asians would respond. I said this to my friend Lateka who rolled her eyes at me and scolded me. "Do you know where I would go if I were afraid of the same things as a black woman? Or if I was scared of not being accepted?!" I stared at her blankly. She finished with, "I wouldn't leave the house!"

Now I feel a new fear since COVID-19 of being targeted and attacked for being Asian Pacific Islander when out in public by myself, with my family, and with my partner.

Chinese Americans have been through persecution historically in the United States since the 19th century when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed so Chinese laborers could be used to build railroads and modern infrastructures without being allowed to settle here. But I don't believe many of us have felt this level of fear, anxiety, or trauma simply when stepping out of our houses.

I bring this up not to just focus on Chinese Americans and brown lives. But also to bring up that brown and black genderqueer, non-binary, and trans people face these and worse threats in the past and today. Please see this article about a black trans woman who was beaten and ridiculed in public while onlookers passed by (including a police officer) without helping her. The video then went viral and many more people used this terrifying incident as a means for entertainment.

When this threat toward Chinese Americans passes, those of us who feel fearful when stepping out of the house should still remember how this felt. And how this feels every day for brown and black genderqueer, non-binary, and trans people.

At Wong Lerner Coaching, we pride ourselves for being one of the few communication coaching / consulting firms that attends to the needs of diverse professionals and individuals. We work with you to understand your experiences at work and outside of the office so you can grow as a whole person. Contact Dr. Shannon Wong Lerner through LinkedIn or take a look at her website to learn more about what we do.

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