Chantale Wong has been confirmed by the Senate as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, making her the first out lesbian and first LGBTQ+ person of color to serve in an ambassador-level position.
President Joe Biden nominated Wong, an Asian-American, for the post last July, and the Senate confirmed her Tuesday.
Wong was previously chief financial officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp., budget director at NASA, acting budget director at the Treasury Department, and a U.S. representative to the Asian Development Bank.
When Biden nominated Wong, a White House press release described her as “a leading authority in international development policy with over 30 years of experience in the multi-disciplinary field that includes finance, technology, and the environment.”
Wong has said she was inspired by the late Congressman John Lewis, a longtime civil rights leader. Lewis, she wrote in a Facebook post last year, “taught me about making good trouble but necessary trouble.” She accompanied Lewis on his annual visits to Selma, Ala., where he was beaten by police during a 1965 voting rights demonstration, and videotaped his appearances.
Wong is founder of the Conference on APA Leadership, which encourages young Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to pursue careers in public service.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocated for Wong’s nomination and confirmation, issued a laudatory statement Tuesday. “Ambassador Wong is now one of the highest-ranking leaders of U.S. economic and international policy in Asia and is well-positioned to leverage her exceptional qualifications and experience,” said Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker. “As the first out LGBTQ person of color confirmed to an ambassador-level position, Ambassador Wong is also a symbol of hope and strength for LGBTQ leaders and community members fighting for LGBTQ rights across the globe. Millions of people still live in countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and deny them the right to marry, including many members states of the Asian Development Bank. Her appointment is a powerful statement to those nations.”
Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, also released a statement praising Wong's appointment. "When President Biden took office a year ago, he pledged to transform the Executive Branch by including appointments that reflected the full diversity of our great nation — including people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community," she said. "From appointing Secretary Buttigieg and Admiral Rachel Levine — the first Senate-confirmed openly gay and transgender cabinet-level appointments respectively — to today’s confirmation of Ambassador Wong, it is clear that President Biden is intent on fulfilling that promise. While there is still much work to be done on elevating LGBTQ nominees to federal judicial roles, we are heartened to see LGBTQ individuals finally being represented in the highest levels of government for the first time in history."