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LGBTQ challenges in ethnic communities

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Reported by Charlotte Drewett

Ethnic minorities face more challenges being LGBTQ and coming out to their family due to cultural values, said one Vancouver psychologist.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 3.52.48 PM“It’s not that [ethnic minorities] don’t want to come out it, it’s that they have more barriers to come out,” said Wallace Wong, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sexual minority and sexual health of students and youth.

Wong said each culture carries it’s own challenges for LGBTQ people and from his perspective in the Asian community individualism is not “cherished.”

“When you take on the identity as a gay, lesbian, transgender or queer, there’s a lot of time that [some in the Asian community] would think that you are disturbing the harmony of the system as a whole,” Wong said.

The availability of positive information surrounding the LGBTQ community in Western culture shows that it is more accepting, said Wong.

He said there is less information available that targets ethnic minorities, and this further stigmatizes the LGBTQ lifestyle in ethnic cultures.

Otto Chan, a 21-year-old gay Asian man and former Langara College student, said from what he’s seen in the Asian community, gay people don’t come out to their parents out of fear of shame or punishment.

“Discipline is a very big thing in the Asian community, if you misbehave you’re punished by your parents,” Chan said, adding that being gay can be viewed as being imperfect and Asian parents “want you to be perfect.”Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 3.53.17 PM

Chan said coming out to someone requires a strong relationship and Asian families don’t ask about each other’s feelings the way Western culture families do.

“I feel like because a lot of Asian families have these really fragmented relationships that there’s just no way for that bridge to be crossed,” Chan said.

Ben Friesen, sexual and gender diversity advisor with the Langara Students’ Union, said each individuals experience with coming out is unique to their situation.

“It’s definitely based on your relationship with your family and your parents and how liberal your parents are or if your family observes any religions,” Friesen said.

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