“When I was a kid, I was sometimes made to feel bad for being Indian, for being gay, for being scrawny or for wanting to take tap dancing classes. I remember how it feels to be ‘different’ or ‘weird,” Indian American actor, author and activist Maulik Pancholy wrote on Twitter 22.
In a continuing post, he wrote: “But some of the things that I was made to feel bad for are what make me unique – and what I most love about myself today. And today I’m proud to live openly and authentically as myself.”
These posts were among the many posts that Pancholy wrote as part of a Twitter takeover to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Using the hashtag #HRCTwitterTakeover, he took over the Twitter account of the Human Rights Campaign – a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality – to lead a conversation about the importance of accepting people for who they are and giving a voice to the voiceless.
In his first post, he informed his followers that he was going to talk about his own experiences as a gay Asian Pacific Islander American and the critical need to create welcoming spaces for LGBTQ youth.
“As an Indian American, LGBTQ man and the proud son of immigrants, #APAHM really hits home. I’m thrilled to talk about the ways my identities shape who I am,” he wrote. “Growing up in a pretty conservative town wasn’t always easy. I was sometimes made to feel like I was ‘weird’ & there were times when I actually felt unsafe for being who I am. Sometimes as an adult I still feel unsafe.”
He went on to share that it’s no different for kids today, writing: “LGBTQ young people experience elevated levels of stress & often don’t have support from their family or school. Many people of color like me face unique challenges.”
Quoting the Human Rights Campaign’s LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Youth report, of the LGBTQ API youth surveyed, Pancholy noted that only 19 percent can “definitely” be themselves at home, and only 29 percent can “definitely” be themselves in school.
“Which is heartbreaking because everyone’s identity is so special. We need to build inclusive spaces where youth can be themselves. Coming out and living authentically can be a tough journey but we can make it easier,” he reiterated.
Pancholy, who founded the #ActToChange Movement to combat bullying, reminded everyone that we are all one big community.
“We need to have each other’s backs,” he stressed.
As part of the solution, Pancholy said that the need for representation has to be addressed.
“97 percent of API youth say racism affects their lives. And even now, there are still so many harmful portrayals of marginalized people in the media,” he concurred, adding that “it’s a pretty straight, white-dominated world. If I had seen a gay brown person on TV or in a book when I was in middle school, it would have made me feel less scared and alone. But we’re working to get there.”
“Together,” Pancholy, who drew on his own experiences to write “The. Best. At. It.,” a novel about a gay Indian American boy, said, “We can address the shame, fear and hopelessness LGBTQ youth feel in their day-to-day lives by building safe spaces – especially for LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander young people.”
Showing overarching support for all those who may feel different, Pancholy wrote: “Embracing my Indian American identity, owning my sexuality and being out have brought me incredible happiness. Please know you are not alone in your journey,” adding, “I’m here for you” in boldface.