Coronavirus is spreading a wave of vile and disgusting racism. This is how the LGBT+ Asian community is fighting back

Asian LGBT+ athlete and activist Amazin LeThi

As coronavirus continues its spread across the world, it takes with it a disgusting wave of anti-Asian racism. But the LGBT+ Asian community is fighting back.

Asian LGBT+ activists spoke to the Bay Area Reporter about the current situation and the action they’re taking as they attempt to take care of themselves, as well as their communities.

Amazin LeThi is a queer Vietnamese athlete and founder of LGBT+ advocacy organisation the Amazin LeThi Foundation. She was the first out athlete to compete for Vietnam at the South East Asian Games and is using her platform to speak out against coronavirus fuelled racism.

She said: “Obviously, there has always been racism toward the Asian community, but we’ve never seen anything that has been so quick and so globally widespread as this.

“Sometimes it just feels like they just consider the whole continent of Asia, China. They just see an Asian person and because the coronavirus came from Asia, we are all part of the problem.

The coronavirus may have come from China, but in terms of how it’s being spread across the world, it’s everyone. It’s a global virus.

Gerald Esguerra, head of the Filipino LGBT Europe Out&Proud advocacy committee in Amsterdam, said: “It’s alarming in a way and it’s kind of weird, right?

“We lost humanity. It doesn’t necessarily mean that if you’re Asian you are carrying the virus.”

Esguerra has noticed increased racism in Amsterdam, a city he says is usually very welcoming. Wanting to support his community, he has been working on setting up virtual programmes to help queer Filipinos in Europe and in the Philippines.

In terms of the perpetrators, he added: “The only way that we can win this is through proper education and information dissemination to people.”

Social distancing leaves LGBT+ Asian communities vulnerable.

Glenn Magpantay, executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, is using online resources to tackle the effects of racism as social distancing continues, creating a “series of virtual community sessions”.

He said: “Social distancing and rise in anti-Asian violence have left the LGBTQ+ API [community] disproportionately vulnerable and our community is hurting.

“The online course includes skill building and support groups and is working hard to support our community leaders who are supporting their communities.”

Even Asian communities who are in self-isolation are still at risk of race-based hatred.

Michael Rivera, a Hong Kong-born bioanthropologist based in the Hague, told PinkNews about the racism he experienced on the LGBT+ dating app Grindr. 

Rivera said that racism is nothing new for him, but the coronavirus crisis has provoked a “new flavour” of discrimination and racism.

Having sent someone a simple “Hi, how are you?” he received the message “Bye, coronavirus” in response.

He said: “These sorts of responses hurt in a place that is very personal to me, given my lived experience of living in a place like Hong Kong.

“Where I’m from, looking like me is very normal, but I’m ‘other’ in the eyes of many British or European people while I’m making my living over here.”