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LGBTQ+ AAPI Pioneers to Celebrate This National AAPI Heritage Month

  • Category: LGBTQ+ Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Apicha Community Health Center

May is National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Also known as National API Heritage Month, this month is dedicated to celebrating, recognizing, and honoring the many cultures, traditions, and histories of API communities.

As we celebrate, we are highlighting five queer API pioneers and leaders that have forever changed our society and communities. Read on to check out who we're spotlighting!

5 LGBTQ+ API Pioneers

1. Geena Rocero

Geena Rocero is a Filipina transgender activist and supermodel. Born in Manila, Rocero immigrated to San Francisco at the age of seventeen. She later made her way to New York City, where she began her career as a model -- where she became one of the first trans models to appear on the cover of some fashion magazine. However, she quickly became known as an avid advocate for trans rights. In 2014 founded Gender Proud, an advocacy and awareness campaign that aims to advance the rights of all transgender individuals. That same year, she also came out as transgender on Transgender Day of Visibility during a Ted Talk in NYC. Rocero's advocacy as an Asian-American transgender woman has helped increase visibility, acceptance, and awareness for the trans API community.

2. George Takei

George Takei is a Japanese-American actor, author and activist for the LGBTQ community, best know for his role as the USS Enterprise helmsman, Hikaru Kato Sulu in the popular Star Trek movies series. But prior to stardom, Takei experienced great adversity. He and his family were placed in the Japanese internment camps during World War II; this is where he spent most of his childhood. Following his experience in the camps, Takei wrote and starred in an award-winning broadway show, Allegiance. Takei is also well known for his acting role in the Star Trek series, and has been in many films and appeared as a guest star in many shows. His identity as a gay Japanese American has spurred Takei to become an activist for these communities. Takei is a member of the Human Rights Campaign, Chairman Emeritus of the Japanese American National Museum's Board of Trustees, serves as chair of the council of governors of East West Players, the nation's foremost Asian Pacific American theater.

3. Chella Man

Chella Man is a Jewish Chinese deaf, transgender, genderqueer activist, artist, writer, model, and actor. Man documented his transition via his YouTube channel and has been very transparent in discussing his experiences -- like gender dysphoria, using testosterone, and getting top surgery. During a Ted Talk, Man discussed his journey to becoming his true self. As a deaf queer transgender person of color, Man has created a new space for individuals like himself.

4. Margaret Cho

Magaret Cho is a queer Korean-American comedian, actress, author, musician, and activist. Cho has had an extensive comedic and acting career since the 90s, and was one of the few female Asian Americans do to so. In addition to her busy career life, Cho is also a staunch advocate for anti-racism, anti-bullying, advocating for the homeless and gay rights. In regards to her sexuality, Cho has been vocal about the stigma and lack of understanding about bisexuality. In an interview, Cho said,"Nobody has ever really accepted that I’m truly bisexual. Nobody has ever allowed it. It’s still very much a point of argument between anybody that I’ve been with. People just don’t accept it."

5. Kim Coco Iwamoto

Kim Coco Iwamoto is a Japanese-American transgender politician, lawyer, and activist. Born and raised in Hawaii, Iwamoto was dedicated to bettering the lives of others. She became the first transgender politician to hold a statewide office when she was elected to the Hawaii Board of Education in 2006. She has dedicated much of her work to the youth, education, housing equity, and LGBTQ rights. In 2013, Iwamoto was recognized as a Champion of Change by Barack Obama, and named as one of fifty need-to-know pioneers for LGBTQ rights by Newsweek.