When Matthew Wong was a student at University of Notre Dame, he was able to find others in the gay Asian community with whom he could identify. However, the 23-year-old said this changed when he moved to Philadelphia in 2015.
“I was expecting Philadelphia to be this robust city, kind of thriving with diversity, culture and inclusion — and lo and behold, there was no Asian gay community I could find,” he said.
To fix this, Wong founded Philadelphia Asian & Queer (PAQ), a discussion group for queer Asian individuals such as himself. The group held its first meeting last month and has a second meeting scheduled for July 30 at William Way LGBT Community Center. Wong said he formatted the meetings as a general discussion highlighted around one topic each meeting. The July 30 meeting will center around Asian queerness, what that means for members and how they navigate life.
However, Wong said this format could change.
“As we go forward, we will hopefully go deeper into topics that surround Asian LGBTQ individuals but we’re also a very dynamic, new group that is willing to change with the community needs as well,” he said. “So if it evolves from, let’s say, a discussion group to a fun, social outing, we will accommodate to that as well.”
Wong noted that the terms “LGBTQ” and “Asian” do not necessarily stack up culture-wise.
“We are typically from old-school, conservative types of families where you’re supposed to marry a woman, you’re supposed to have children and you’re supposed to be successful in your career,” Wong said. “The discussion of being married to the same sex or being gender-fluid, or anything like that, is not really within our culture or within our language.”
Wong said he is not out to his parents and that his sexuality is an “unspoken truth” among his family, something he said is similar to other Asian LGBT people.
“I’m the older male,” Wong said. “I’m supposed to get married to a woman. I’m supposed to spread the ‘100-percent Chinese blood.’ We’re really proud of our culture and we’re really proud of being 100-percent Chinese. So for me, being gay is obviously preventative in the fact that I can’t really have the type of children that my parents dreamed or idealized for the rest of our family.”
While the first meeting only had four members in attendance, Wong said he and the other participants are highly optimistic about the future. Since the June meeting, he has created a Facebook page for the group and an event page for the upcoming meeting. He hopes for the group to eventually become “a safe haven for Asian LGBTQ members.”
“I volunteered at [William Way LGBT Community Center] as a peer counselor and there was an influx of Asian callers coming in and especially Asian young teens calling in about issues of coming out, not knowing how to tell their parents and not knowing how to compromise the Asian and LGBTQ-ness within themselves. I hope it becomes that place where young people, children, can come to for advice, for representation [or] for [role] models.”
The next Philadelphia Asian & Queer meeting will be held 3-4:30 p.m. July 30 at William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St. For more information and to RSVP to the meeting, visit the group on Facebook.