Each May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month — all month long, we've been checking in with some of the amazing AAPI dads in our community. We've asked them what the month means to them, as queer AAPI dads, and how they choose to honor their heritage within their families in May — and all year around. Their responses are below.
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Dads Ray and Robbi with Daughter Ella (6)— Hudson Valley, NY
Ray shared, "AAPI Heritage Month is such an important month for our family! I'm Korean-American and our daughter is Indian-American. We are both proud of our heritages, and even though neither my husband nor I are Indian, we make sure to let our daughter know about her South Asian heritage."
Ray's parents immigrated to the US from Seoul and "worked hard to live the immigrant dream." He continued, "because of them, I'm able to pursue what I love in this country."
Ray likes to cook Korean food for the family every couple of weeks! He said, "My daughter loves eating bulgogi with lettuce wraps, and she loves all of the pickled side dishes. It's really cool to be able to share that with her and the entire family. We also make a point to eat Indian food so that she has exposure to all sorts of cuisine."
"Whenever we watch any kind of show, if there is a South Asian person on there she exclaims, 'They have skin like me!' And we say, 'Yeah, you do! And you're both so beautiful!' We always want her to be proud of where she comes from."
Follow this family: @raymondjlee.
Dads Davidson and Fouy, with Daughter (3) — New York City, NY
For Davidson and Fouy, starting a family was always a matter of when, and not if. Having both been born in Asia, but raised in the US from a very early age, they knew preserving their cultural background was going to be a challenge with their daughter.
The first challenge was keeping in mind all the different cultures that make up her background. There are the obvious roots of Chinese and Filipino. But there are also the cultures of the egg donor (Irish/English) and the gestational surrogate (Canadian). And being raised by two dads, sharing the history and culture of the LGBTQ community is an added element they do not want to overlook.
But as we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage this month, the two dads look back at what customs they’ve set as a foundation for their daughter for these first three years of her life.
For starters, keeping family close may not be exclusive to Asian families. But having a close-knit group that speaks Chinese and Tagalog has been important to demonstrate the different ways of expressing yourself - whether it’s the sign of respect shown by adding titles to cousins’ names (like Jiejie/Gege, Kuya/Ate) or sharing common expressions (like “Hào chī?” or “Maganda!”).
Having that group also helps honor important milestones like her 100-day celebration or Asian holidays like Lunar New Year. And it doesn’t hurt to have a dad that’s a women’s couture designer to celebrate in a custom cheongsam dress, or have a family that owns an Asian restaurant to make sure there are enough longevity noodles and mandarin oranges for good luck. Red envelopes are something their daughter already looks forward to each year.
And it’s that enthusiasm that Davidson and Fouy want to nurture. Before the pandemic, travel was one way they were exposing her to different cultures. But until borders start opening up, they are surrounding her with family, customs, food, books - anything to remind her that her culture is unique and it's something to not only be aware of, but appreciated.
Follow this family: @hellodavidson
Dads David and Casey with Son Gabriel (5) — Carpinteria, CA
David shared, "To be completely honest, I struggled growing up as an adopted, gay Asian boy. I didn't have any positive Asian male role models in my life. In many ways, I felt ashamed to be an Asian man."
"With the numerous personal hurdles I faced over the years, I left the Asian struggle for the end. I had gotten to a point where the shame had dissipated, yet I still didn't go out of my way to show pride. It was my family's trip to Taiwan in 2018 that changed my life completely."
It was David's first time visiting his birthplace and he says that he almost immediately felt connected. "Everything from the sights, the food, and most definitely the friendly people helped me see my own self in a new light. I was even able to connect with the orphanage I was adopted from and met one of the nuns who held me as a baby."
"It was a full circle experience taking our own adopted son to the place where I was adopted from. I can finally say that I am proud to be from Taiwan and that I am proud to support the entire AAPI community."
"My husband and I do our best to immerse our son in all of our combined cultures. We are a mix of Italian, Irish, Mexican, Arab, and Taiwanese and we celebrate these cultures mostly through food and culture!"
Follow this family: @davidmolinodunn
Dads Brady and John with Son Wyatt (11 months)— North Carolina
Brady shared, "AAPI Heritage Month is definitely important to me, but I think celebrating who I am — a gay half-asian man — is something I really try to do every day."
"I grew up in a two-family home that included my dad, brother and mom, as well as my grandma "paw-paw," uncle Paul (who I only referred to as "bok bok"), my Aunt Lin (who I only referred to as "moo moo"), and Uncle John. He is my dad's brother as well. We were sort of THE Chinese family in Long Beach."
He continued, "We owned a laundromat next to our house called 'The Chin and Lai Laundromat.' I was sort of immersed in the culture on a daily basis. My bok bok and paw paw made all types of Chinese food in 'the store' every day. In addition to them, my moo moo, dad (after his 9-5), and Uncle John worked in the store 6 days a week, and rarely ever spoke English (unless my brother or I bopped in for food and to hang out with everyone after school). If they weren't making food or working, they'd be watching shows in Cantonese and playing mahjong."
"On Sundays, we'd go to Chinatown. I loved picking out little toys for myself that they would sell on street corners. I looked forward to Chinese/Lunar New Year every year. I loved getting red envelopes, but I really enjoyed bringing shrimp chips, oranges, and red envelopes each year to elementary school. I felt so cool and everyone got into it. When I got older, I became more self conscious of what I looked like, as well as understood how a lot of people say Asians. I got more shy about being Chinese. I've always resented people telling me that I either wasn't Asian because I'm only half, or didn't look Asian at all. It usually feels like people are taking something from me. I also still sometimes feel like I can't speak up about issues (such as the enormous uptick in violence against Asian people) because I'm half white. To me, I always see an Asian man looking back in the mirror and I love him (me)."
Follow this family: @itsbradyaustin
Dad Jak and His Twins, Jaden and Aiden (7)— San Francisco, California
Jak says, "During AAPI heritage month, I try to raise awareness about the AAPI community, especially this year, given the violence directly against Asian Americans. Oftentimes, our community is overlooked and underrepresented by the media. As a gay AAPI family, I am proud of my heritage and how far our AAPI community has come, but there is still much work to be done."
"I honor my Asian heritage with my boys through the year by celebrating traditions passed down from generation to generation. For Chinese New Year, we wrap dumplings and pass out red envelopes. During the moon festival, we celebrate by eating moon cakes and lighting lanterns. My boys also love to hear stories about Asian folklore books like The Monkey King!"
Follow this family: @jakshih
Dad Leo and son Jayden (14 Months) —New York City, NY
"Being an Asian-American Pacific Islander right now is to educate ourselves of our own history and rights. Given how I was raised by my parents, my values and my character are rooted deep in both the Asian and Specifically Chinese cultures. It's who I am and who I will always be."
"Now that I have a son, I'm trying to cook recipes that were a part of my life growing up. My family usually makes dumplings together. Dumplings are pronounced as 'jiaozi' in Chinese. On Chinese New Year, we usually place a coin in one of the dumplings, whoever gets the dumpling with the coin is considered the lucky one!"
Follow this family: @daddies_love_baby
Dads Roy and Kevin, with kids Kailee (9), Casey (7), Daniel (7) and Oliver (5)— Miami, Florida
Roy shared, "As an immigrant of Asian descent, AAPI heritage month is a time of celebration of my roots and where I came from."
Food plays a huge role in their family! Roy continued, "We all love to eat so we celebrate my heritage by cooking and learning about all the special dishes I grew up with as a child with my parents — my kids are all experts as making dumplings :)"
"Also, our kids have been learning Mandarin since they were 3! This is important to me because I believe language connects them culturally to their heritage."
Follow this family: @roytengmoure
Mark and Jeff, with Daughter Margo (9 Months) — Los Angeles, California
Mark shared, "AAPI heritage month celebrates the diverse and rich cultures of the AAPI community and how they have played an important role in shaping this country. It also serves as a reminder of the struggles that the AAPI people in America had to endure through their resilience."
Mark said that he and Jeff make sure they speak to Margo in Filipino, so that she learns the language of her ancestors. "It will allow her to appreciate our culture on a much deeper level. We also make sure that her library has an equal amount of books that tell stories of AAPI people. We plan to expose her to AAPI cultures through travels in the future."
"The GWK page allows us to network with other AAPI parents as well!"
Follow this family: @ironjeffmd
Dads Johnny and Sebastian, with Sons Vaughn (3) and Aston (1.5) — Between London + New York
Johnny recently shared with us: "We are an American family of mixed origin, and we've been abroad in Europe for the last two years. Asian cultural heritage does not play a meaningful role in the fabric of society in Europe, so we recognize how important it is to commemorate and honor the richness of Asian culture for the sake of our children, who are both of mixed Asian heritage."
He continued, "We want to teach our kids that 'Asian' is not a foreign concept. Asians have been living in America for decades and have helped mold many facets of life, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear and the art we consume. We want out children to grow up having a deep appreciation for the richness of Asian culture, and not just to feel different or like an outsider because they have diverse origins."
Johnny takes great pride in being Korean, and says that he shows this on a daily basis by being unafraid to share his cultural experiences with those around him. "As much as possible, I share many of the traditions that are followed in Korean culture. I speak often and very positively about the differences in the way that I as raised from the typical Western customs. I find that sharing my upbringing helps to bring people into my life and ultimately we are all able to find empathy and shared humanity in our differences."
With the pandemic, the family has put all travel on pause. But, Johnny shared, "once things open up, our goal is to take the next possible trip to Korea and Japan."
Follow this family: @mrpapa_lee
Dads James and Ned with Son Aidan (2) — Washington, D.C.
James shared, "Both of my parents are immigrants from Hong Kong and I think tried to incorporate aspects of our culture throughout the year, mainly through food and certain holidays. They are both Deaf and in many ways, I grew up with a mix of American, Chinese, and Deaf cultures which we want to impart on Aiden as well as incorporate aspects of his culture and heritage."
"Since he is 2 years old, the ways we interweave Chinese culture and heritage is through food, including reading about dim sum since we haven't been able to go out to eat due to the pandemic."
Follow this family: @faijaijim