Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) held their 20th anniversary celebration, “Urban Jungle,” at the SF Zoo on Dec. 6, featuring keynote speaker, comic actress Margaret Cho, and some lively singing and dancing. Tita Aida emceed the awards banquet and introduced F.U.S.I.O.N. (Funky Unique Styles In One Nation); GAPA Dance Company performing “Korean Fushion” to Madonna’s Music” and “Fan Dance” to “Please Don’t Stop the Music;” and the GAPA Men’s Chorus singing “My Romance” and several other songs.
“There are many civil rights milestones to be reflected upon,” said Co-chair Francis Tsang. “Forty years ago, Martin Luther King changed history with the Civil Rights Movement; thirty years ago, Harvey Milk changed history with the Gay Rights Movement; and twenty years ago, GAPA changed history for the Asian and Gay Community.” He said the purpose of establishing GAPA was “empowering the Asian and LGBT community, breaking stereotypes and fighting against the status quo, so that we can live our lives out loud and proud.” Co-chair Raphael Buencamino said, “In a time when HIV was devastating our communities, and a time when same-sex marriage was a fantasy, and when gay API people were turned away at bars and clubs, GAPA fought to bring our community out of the shadows to stand up and fight all those forces against us.” He added, “GAPA continues to lead the fight against HIV, especially among the API community at large. Now is the time to fight in courts, stand up, protest, and do what we can to bring change that we have dreamed of.”
After we wished her a happy 40th birthday, Margaret Cho took the stage saying how proud she was of GAPA, “even though you made me drag out to the Sunset District, where I grew up.” She said she tried to avoid the area because once during the day in the park “a man approached me and pulled out his balls.” She elaborated, “It was really weird, because he had to separate the whole package. I expected a cock, but it was only balls!”
Cho commended GAPA because “it was the first one to show me how to be political in our community.” She said there is still a lot of racism that API people face – even in the queer community. “It’s wonderful to have a home where we can come and talk shit about white people,” she joked. She said she was happy to see Barack Obama in the presidency, but was “so unbelievably disappointed and angry that Prop 8 passed.” Cho said, “But they’re not getting away with this. Not only will we get [same-sex marriage] back, we’ll get it back for the whole country, and then the whole world!” Hopefully YouTube fans have seen her dance and sing in “Prop 8: the Musical” and her stand to vote against H8 on her PSAs. Cho strapped on a guitar (because if that bitch Madonna can, I can too”) and performed a protest song: “Whatever Happened to Democracy” with hilarious, irreverent lyrics: “Everything equal and fair; Mormons deny our humanity, and they wear weird underwear” and “Don’t let the Mormons get away with this; don’t let their legislation pass; why do you think that they give a shit? Shove Proposition 8 up their ass!”
Raphael Buencamino and Jordan de Peralta presented the George Choy Award of Recognition to Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis. Choy was an ardent activist who spoke out for queer API’s, driven by the belief that they were all part of the LGBT family. The award is presented to individual(s) who have exhibited leadership and furthered the causes of GAPA. Gaffney and Lewis have always been the forefront of marriage equality, being one of the plaintiff couples fighting for same-sex marriage. Gaffney echoed Harvey Milk’s words: “We are here to recruit you!” The couple held up their marriage license to proudly prove they are legally married in California. They tried earlier on Valentine’s Day 2004. “That was the first time in my life that I felt my government was treating us as equal human beings,” said Lewis.
He said it has been more of a roller coaster ride that anyone would have wanted, but they go back to that Feb. 14 touchstone as an inspiration to carry on the fight for first-class citizenship. “We’re here to call on GAPA to continue being a leader for marriage equality in California,” said Gaffney.
He noted that it was 60 years ago when California made marriage history by overturning the state law banning interracial couples from marriage in 1948. “That made it possible for my mom, who is Chinese, to marry my dad, who is English and Irish,” he said. And that proves that marriage equality is possible for queers as well, he said.
Kevin Jim presented the Douglas Yaranon Community Award to API Equality, named after the man who showed dedication to GAPA and the API community at large. API Equality, established in 2004, has been a standout in helping to fight Prop 8. Every year they enter a marriage equality float in the annual Chinese New Year Parade. They drafted a groundbreaking advocates brief in support of same-sex marriage, signed by nearly 30 other API organizations. Hao Thai presented the annual Godzy (Lavender Godzilla) Award, given each year to one of their own members – meaning The member of the year was dinner chair, Alex Baty aka Miss Desperate Diva 2009 Estee Longah.
GAPA royalty, Mr. GAPA 2008 Saketumi and Miss GAPA 2008 Ethnie Cali, have been busy ambassadors for GAPA since their July title win. Ethnie performed an Asian multi-tribe, multi-ethnic dance to the tune of Beyoncé’s “Single Lady.” Saketumi did an impressive sword, flag, and rifle dance to “Stand By Me.” It was a very full evening, and I’m not just talking about the delicious Asian cuisine!