Hey PrYSM family! My name is Kevin Lam and I am Laotian and Vietnamese. I graduated from SUNY New Paltz, NY, majoring in Asian Studies, and minoring in Theatre Arts. I am excited to come into PrYSM as the new seaQuel Director (Mr. seaQuel). I am enjoying learning about PrYSM, and getting to know the staff and youth. In just a few conversations, the staff and youth have really grown on me. The work PrYSM does is inspiring and humbling, and I am happy to be a part of this family.
In a traditional Asian family, the topic of sex and sexuality is very “taboo.” My parents came to America as refugees escaping war-torn countries; struggling to make a living in a new country. Being first generation, I feel pressure from family to live up to expectations. These pressures were beneficial to me. It is not that my parents forced me to do certain things, but wanted to push me to do my best, so I do not struggle as they did when they first came to this country. From my perspective of growing up Southeast Asian, gender is a huge factor in the culture. Men are not supposed to cry; they are supposed to be strong, not weak. These are some aspects of how men are supposed to act. They should not be feminine or express emotion. Times are changing and because of how community is changing there is more difficulty with relating to the older generation due to age, and culture. Many years have passed since my parents came to the U.S., and today they are more open-minded, and have slowly adjusted to westernized culture, but still strongly preserving their culture. Growing up Southeast Asian, family has always been closely tied to my heart. Family is community, and so when working with the Southeast Asian community I feel a strong bond with the struggle of the Southeast Asian community. From the stories from my parents and relatives about their struggles after the Fall of Saigon 1975, their refugee experience, and their struggles in creating a new life for them and their families in America, it has shaped who I am today, and connects me more to the community, and culture.
Being one of two Asian families in my neighborhood, my parents and I are subjected to racism. In schools, I am teased because of my appearance and perceived sexuality. Growing up in a neighborhood where we are the “newcomers,” people do not value our knowledge or experiences. Many do not know anything about Southeast Asia, or the struggles they have overcome to get to a point in life. Being President of Asian Student Association (ASA) at my university, I spread awareness to the community about Southeast Asian culture and history.
“Coming out” to family is difficult, because of the importance family places on marriage, and continuing the family line. My experiences in LGBTQ spaces are feeling like a minority within a minority, and issues regarding my community are not acknowledged. By outreaching to GAPIMNY, an LGBTQ Asian organization, I learn from peers about issues facing LGBTQ Asian communities.
Working with PrYSM, I want to share my experiences with LGBTQ and questioning youth, and inspire them to make change in the community. I want society to be aware of an LGBTQ Southeast Asian community, and our voices need to be heard. I am coming into PrYSM to bridge the generational gap along with the differing communities so unconditional love is formed. Being seaQuel Program Director, I look forward to empowering youth and hearing their stories, because each story is unique and contributes to making change.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh