The idea of having a sexual identity – like being gay or transgender — is a western concept that is not easily translated in Eastern cultures.
During a Queer Asian Pacific Islander Panel held in the Thomas Building on April 18, sophomore social studies major Vanna Nauk said this makes it difficult for many people from Asian countries to assimilate and/or connect with the LGBT community in the United States.
“In Asia, [people] have never given themselves a specific identity. It’s pretty much been very open,” Nauk said.
Nauk, a gay Cambodian man, and Karen Vang Hmong, a transgender woman, led the panel discussion.
Throughout, the two students explored their cultures and the differences between the Western and Eastern ideas regarding the LGBT community.
Nauk opened up about his own self-discovery of his background and how it “freed” him to express himself in whatever way he wanted, without adhering to the Western concept of gender identities.
Vang presented a PowerPoint showing her progression with her identity as a transgender woman throughout her years in high school and college.
The presentation showed multiple images of Vang and the progression of her confidence in transgender identity. Lady Gaga was one of her “greatest influences” and pushed her creativity and confidence.
“I wanted to create this event because I thought it was really important to have a platform for Asian Pacific Islanders,” said Shai Chang, a fourth-year sociology major and host of the event. “Especially queer Asian Pacific Islanders to be able to talk about their experiences and different cultures and especially as we saw there were a lot of cultural factors that played a role on them being [LGBT].”
The panel concluded with a Q&A with the panel. Questions from the audience were about the panelists’ relationships with their families and how they feel about the LGBT community in Fresno and on Fresno State’s campus.
“The experiences that they were talking about – the personal experiences – I really enjoyed [them] because me being a straight man, I don’t understand that,” Kou Yang, a Fresno State graduate student, said.
The next event at Fresno State that celebrate Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month is “Asia in Fresno: A symposium on campus and community partnerships” on April 20 in the North Gym 118 8:30 a.m.