New group centers on LGBTQ minorities

Joining the 16 LGBTQ groups already in existence at Yale, a new student organization for LGBTQ minorities — Queer+Asian — has sprung up on campus this year and is actively seeking to expand.

The new group, which officially registered with the Yale College Dean’s Office in April 2013, focuses on LGBTQ issues that pertain to Asians and Asian Americans. Club President Jonathan Villanueva ’14 first started planning the group in November of last year, and the group now holds biweekly discussions on Wednesdays at the Asian American Cultural Center on topics such as “Asians Behind Closet Doors.”

“It’s important for Asians [and Asian Americans] to have a specific group where they can talk about Asian and queer issues,” said Alex Co ’15, secretary of the group.

The group came together at the tail end of the spring semester and has held three events so far this fall, with attendance ranging from roughly 12 to 30 students. Though the turnout at each of the group’s events has slowly declined, Co said, the steady return of multiple freshmen seems to indicate sustained interest. He added that the group has maintained an “open and light atmosphere” in its events — which he said might have contributed to the unsteady attendance, but is also important because of the group’s focus on discussing heavy topics.

Co said the idea for the group came out of the 2012 formation of De Colores, the Latino LGBTQ group at Yale. Following this, Co said Villanueva and other Asian Americans who identified with the LGBTQ community realized that “Asians were the only minority left without a queer representation.”

“The media and general exposure and coverage of queer issues [mostly relates] to Caucasians,” Co said. “You don’t see a lot of queer colored people on TV.”

Co said he thinks the minority queer voice is different from the overall LGBTQ voice because it comes from a different background. After racial marginalization is factored in, he said, people begin to realize that there are many more things to understand about LGBTQ issues that aren’t highlighted.

Saveena Dhall, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Asian American Cultural Center, said in an email that she is enthusiastic for the group to provide mentorship to students and address cultural and queer issues.

“[When] you’re negotiating your identity, it’s great to have a caring community to support you, to have others who have navigated through similar issues, to have ‘language’ on how to tell your suite … or [talk] to siblings, or parents,” Dhall said.

Dhall, who serves as the new group’s faculty supervisor, said she enjoys having the meetings at the AACC because she wants to encourage students of all backgrounds and identities to think of the center as a safe and welcoming space. She said she is glad to have so many different groups representing various identities, as well, as each one meets different needs.

“We all have multiple identities, and sometimes pairs of them interact,” said Maria Trumpler GRD ’92, director of the Office of LGBTQ Resources. “Sometimes they can be in conflict, but they also cause students to flourish.”

Trumpler said that these groups help clarify and express “intersectional identities.” Andrew Williams ’16, president of Prism — the first campus group made for LGBTQ minorities — voiced the same thought.

Within Prism, Williams said, members sometimes find it difficult to “pinpoint and discuss issues that pertain to everyone” because the group encompasses a variety of different minorities. Instead, the group has to address issues that apply to as many members as possible, he said.

“In Prism, we can’t go in-depth on every issue,” Williams said. “We can only do so much to accommodate everybody.”

He added that he encourages the formation of specialized groups like Queer+Asian so that greater discussion of community-specific issues can exist on campus.

Other LGBTQ groups on campus include Q Magazine and Sappho.

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