For LGBT Asians, cultural barriers to marriage remain
NEW YORK – When Jason Tseng first met his boyfriend at a support group meeting for gay Asian and Pacific Islander men in New York, he never would have guessed that three years later he’d be contemplating marriage. With the end of DOMA, the federal ban on same-
Jason, 26, works for a nonprofit organization, and John (not his real name), is a computer analyst for a bank. They spend their leisure time hosting dinner parties for friends, or indulging in their shared love of fine cuisine and fancy restaurants. They are the image of a perfect family in all but one respect – they still aren’t married. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), opening the door for same-
John’s family is another story. He came out to his mother just recently. “It was not a good experience,” said Jason.
John’s visa, a TN1, only allows him to stay in the United States for between nine and 24 months. When it expires, he has to go out of the country to get it renewed. They worry about the possibility that he could be denied reentry. John said the last time he left, he witnessed a couple in front of him whose visa was denied. A marriage certificate would solve all of their problems. Jason would be able to petition for John to get legal residency, so he would no longer have to leave the country to renew his visa and face the possibility that he may not be allowed back in.
But like many other Asians, they desperately want their parents to celebrate with them when they tie the knot. “It’s ironic that now we have the legal ability, but we are confronted with what marriage actually means,” said Jason. “For us, it’s not about him and me having a big ceremony. It’s about the family standing together to show their support. It would pain me and pain him if we have a wedding and only my parents are there. It would be incomplete.”
A 2007 survey of Asian LGBT people in the United States by the Washington, D.C.-
“It was in the late 1980s when he was a student at Harvard Law School. I went to visit him and we went to the canteen and ordered lobster. While we were eating he said, ‘Mom, I am gay.’ I said, ‘What is gay?’” she recalled.
Today Patrick works as a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Boston, and is married to his partner of more than 20 years.His mother has also found inspiration. “I realized if you love your child, you cannot keep him as a secret.” Cheng recently joined in the Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown, walking with LGBT members.