Gay Asian Christians end their isolation
Finding comfort in church or with family can be difficult for LGBT Asians
 
  
  
AARON VILLANUEVA - [X]PRESS
Luna Han, a 32-year-old lesbian from Brooklyn, attends Glide Memorial Church, where she says she feels comfortable and accepted.
 
When Belinda Dronkers-Laureta found out her son was gay, it was difficult news for the Filipina-American mother of three to deal with.

“I was once homophobic,” Dronkers-Laureta said. “I didn’t understand until I discovered that my son was gay.”

Her son, Lance, came out to her in 1993 at the age of 20. “As a stereotype,” she continued, “many Asian parents like to brag about their children. I stopped bragging about my son when he came out of the closet. I was in the closet (about her son) for two years.”

Asian Americans can find themselves isolated when a son or daughter reveals their secret. For those who are religious and attend church, the isolation can border on hostility.

“In God’s House” is a 22-minute documentary that follows subjects struggling with being gay, Asian and Christian.

Produced by Reverend Deborah Lee and directed by Lina Hoshino, the film was featured at Frameline31, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.

“It’s terrible that LGBTs are marginalized in our communities, and that gay kids can’t talk to their parents about who they are,” director Hoshino said. “Though I’m not Christian, my family is, and from what I’ve seen, some Christians vocalize LGBT rights.”

In one scene, Oneida Chi’s eyes well up as she describes the pain of seeing members of her former church protesting against gays and gay marriage. She tried to find a church where she could worship, but felt isolated because she couldn’t find one with other gay Asian members.

“A lot of the time I was going to an Asian American church,” Chi said in a phone interview. “We didn’t talk about sexual orientation. It was difficult for people who had feelings for the same sex to reveal that in the Asian churches, because it wasn’t acceptable. Gay was thrown around as something stupid or negative, that it was a sin, that I should not have these feelings because it separates me from God.”

Chi continued: “It’s either I had to stay in my church and suffocate and lie in church, or leave and be a part of a community. At Bethany United Methodist Church there was a diversity. Straight, gay, young, old, Asian, non-Asian. I attend Bethany because it’s a community.”

Lauren Chaffee, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in San Francisco, believes in “a basic theological principle that God created all of us equal and it’s unkind to exclude people from the body of Christ.

“The mission of the church is affected by my commitment to social justice and is born out of my experiences as a clergywoman,” Chaffee said.

Similarly, the Rev. Nobu Hanaoka, another character in the movie who has both witnessed and experienced discrimination, hopes to pursue affirmation of and support for Asian American LGBTs in the church.

Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco provides support and affirmation to everyone, including LGBT Asian Christians. Luna Han, a 32-year old lesbian from Brooklyn who now attends Glide, said her family went to a Korean Methodist church when she was growing up, mostly for social reasons.

“It’s also been helpful to go to non-Korean churches because my father totally rejected me when I came out,” she recalled. “He’s a very traditional Korean and I have a negative association with him. At church, I wasn’t considered Korean to them. I’m fine with not being accepted, but I feel comfortable here at Glide.”

Andy Wong, the Asian Equality Coordinator of Chinese for Affirmative Action, arranged a screening of the film in their Chinatown office. About 20 people, including filmmaker Hoshino, attended the screening.

“I thought (the film) was a breath of fresh air,” Wong said. “It showcased the struggle that LGBTs encounter, and breaks stereotypes about LGBTs in Asian churches. They are just as faithful as any other person in church. The only difference is their orientation.”

Dronkers-Laureta, who consulted on the production of “In God’s House,” said the film helped her and others deal with difficult news.

“This movie has made the situation for Asian American LGBT Christians visible,” Dronkers-Laureta said. “Unlike American culture, where strangers go to meetings and support groups to share their story, it isn’t Asian tradition to go into a place where you don’t know the people and disclose your secrets into a big group.”

After her son came out, Dronkers-Laureta founded a group called API Family Pride, to support and educate Asian-American families with LGBT children.

Their motto: “In API homes all children are welcome.”

“The first step to this is to recognize that LGBTs are humans too,” Hoshino said. “For gay Christians, it’s been really tough to speak up. (They are) risking their career, relationship, acceptance. I wanted to make this visible.”


The print version of this article, published on Thursday, June 28, incorrectly stated the age of Dronkers-Laureta's son. The correct age is as stated within this article.

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