It's an exciting time to be gay and Asian, says Linh Hoang, a 25-year-old native of Vietnam, who lives in D.C.
''We have a supportive network for one another out here,'' he says, referring to Asian/Pacific Islander Queers United For Action (AQUA), which Hoang serves as board co-chair.
Since its inception, AQUA has experienced ''enormous change,'' and recently the group celebrated its 10th anniversary.
''It started out as a very small organization,'' recalls Hoang, ''basically a bunch of guy sitting in a kitchen room, playing Mahjong having dinner together. Now it's grown [to include over] 100 people in the organization.
''We're working with the mayor's office, volunteering at the Human Rights Campaign.... That's just showing the enormous amount of visibility that we have in the D.C. community.''
In addition to hosting the Pride & Heritage Dinner in previous years, where local leaders were recognized for their efforts, AQUA stages monthly social gatherings and also participates in events like this past May's sixth annual Dragon Boat Festival at the Thompson Boat Center on the Georgetown waterfront.
Not only did AQUA participate in the race, it took the gold with first place.
''That's a huge accomplishment for us,'' Hoang says.
Ben de Guzman, a member of AQUA, says part of the group's growth has been acknowledging its own existence.
''It's important to recognize diversity within the LGBT community, as well to recognize the diversity within the API community,'' de Guzman says. ''Part of AQUA'S work has been to recognize within the API community that there are those of us within that community who are lesbian and gay.''
In the future, Hoang hopes AQUA will tackle the lack of inclusiveness sometimes evident in the gay community.
''The gay community is a very white, male centric, very comfortable environment, and when the media talks about the queer community, you always see very successful gay white men. Rarely do you see a lesbian, or an Asian person, so that's an area we need to address.''
Another area for improvement is finding ways to make the coming out process easier for GLBT Asian and Pacific Islanders, who are often stumped by language barriers or cultural differences when trying to come out their parents.
''The Asian experience for coming out is very tough,'' Hoang says, adding that his is ongoing process. ''Rarely do we talk about sexuality...[and] the terms that are available out there are derogatory. So how do we go about communicating this kind of information to others if we don't have adequate language to talk about the subject effectively?''
For more information about AQUA, visit www.aquadc.org.