Being an immigrant born in South Korea is always a factor in who I am and how I am treated in America. However, the xenophobia I am experiencing related to the COVID-19 pandemic is heartbreaking. In the past month alone, a mother yanked her child away from me while saying disgustedly, “Those people,” and a man turned his entire body away from me in an airport.
The disgust, anger, and fear that people are directing toward Asian-Pacific Islander folks in the United States is palpable.
And the president of the United States isn’t helping matters. While he has pulled back from calling COVID-19 “the “Chinese virus” in recent press briefings, the damage is already done. President Trump put a target on the backs of Asian-Americans like myself.
The violence against API folks is drastically increasing as a result of xenophobia and fear due to COVID-19. In Midland, Texas, a man stabbed three members of an Asian-American family — including a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old — because of their race. The FBI has since ruled this attack as a hate crime, and ABC News reports the agency’s analysis of crimes against API individuals is expected to surge in the coming weeks.
As the pandemic continues, I am checking in with my API siblings. Every single one of them is expressing deep concern about the uptick in violence against our community. They are anxious when leaving their homes to buy essential items such as groceries or gas. They feel more isolated than ever, especially practicing social distancing and sheltering in place. These fears are even more intensified when I speak to other queer and trans Asian-Americans.
As the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, I want to shine a light on the harm caused by racist rhetoric. During a public health crisis, LGBTQ+ people are always the first to be negatively impacted. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different. LGBTQ+ people are at greater risk of having chronic illnesses and asthma, are more likely to smoke, and are less likely to have health care.
As a transgender Asian-American, I know firsthand what it feels like to be disrespected and mistreated just for being who I am. When I see other populations mistreated and harmed, I stand up for those individuals. I’m asking my LGBTQ+ allies to do the same when they see an API person in harm’s way.
I’m proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ movement that stands behind our people, whether they are Black, Indigenous, Muslim, Latinx, or anyone who’s being targeted for something about themselves they have no control over. It’s time to take a stand for all API folks and speak out against this injustice and these racist attacks.
TENT is committed to addressing the rising violence against API folks. We are deeply concerned by the president’s insistence on referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” We’ve seen his racist rhetoric put to work before: He’s vilified Muslims, targeted Latinx folks, and used dog-whistle racist terms to activate white nationalists against the Black community. Each time, we’ve stood up, and now I’m asking you to join me in standing up yet again.
Thank you for volunteering your time, donating your money, and defending our rights whenever they’re under attack. I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe, protected, and well.
Emmett Schelling is executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas.