Collective to launch during regional summit here May 5-7.
By Marene Gustin
The fastest-growing ethnic group in the Houston area is the Asian population, according to a report by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. This mirrors national population trends.
Locally, the Asian-American community accounts for slightly more than six percent of Harris County’s population. As for the number of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who identify as LGBTQ, it’s hard to say.
“The community here isn’t very organized,” says J. Feng, a math teacher and advocate for LGBTQ issues. “Other cities with high Asian populations have multiple organizations, and often very specific ones—Chinese-American transgender people, Filipino lesbians. But here, we don’t really even have one group.”
Feng believes this has to do with a distinctly Southern perspective about race and family. He says it’s easier to be Asian-American and out when you’re young and move to a big city, away from parents and relatives.
“What we want to create is a group that’s inclusive of all AAPI queer folks, one that addresses the Southern issues and the demographics of the city,” Feng says.
Last year, Feng started to seriously work on creating such an organization along with a core group of activists including Anna Garza, Eesha Pandit, Koomah, and Luis Keiichi Hight. The group is called Collective of Houston Asian Americans, or CHAA. They have started out small, mostly hosting events in private homes with 10 to 15 people.
But CHAA is about to have a coming-out party. “A mutual friend connected us with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA),” Feng says. “They were interested in Houston, and we were interested in having the kind of support and training they could offer.”
So this year’s NQAPIA Southern Regional Summit will be held in west Houston at the Hilton Garden Inn Houston Westbelt, in the heart of Houston’s Chinatown district, from May 5 through 7. CHAA is co-hosting the event with financial support from the OCA Greater Houston Chapter.
According to NQAPIA, the summit is “focused on addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ API organizations—almost all of which are volunteer-run and have no staff—as well as the needs of local LGBTQ API activists in the greater Houston area.”
Feng is hoping for a good turnout, although he’s more interested in quality than quantity.
“I’m okay with being a small group, and I’m okay with being a big group,” he says. “I just want to be able to offer quality events and help the community.”
For more about CHAA, visit facebook.com/chaa.houston.