Dear Pride Family,

I grew up on the island of Guam. I did not know what it meant to “be gay” until I started watching Will & Grace. And for many years, those characters would be the only examples of LGBTQIA+ culture that I could relate to. 

We moved to the mainland when I was 15 years old, over 20 years ago. I spent the rest of high school and into college exploring my own queerness. All of the culture that I consumed in that time was overwhelmingly cis, white, and from an American context. The exploration of LGBTQIA+ culture while living in the mainland was its own form of assimilation. I was happy to adopt American queer cultural norms because I wanted so urgently to understand why I was the way that I was. I wanted permission to know that my desire was natural. I was afraid that the culture I was raised in would not give me an answer I wanted to hear. 

Eventually, I felt that in order to come to terms with being gay, I had to separate from my CHamoru identity. 

In October 2018, I went back to Guam for my childhood bestie’s wedding. On my layover in Honolulu, I realized that it was National Coming Out Day. Having come out since my last trip back, I posted on social media that I was so happy to be returning home out and proud.

For the first time in my life, I was back in the land of my ancestors as my full authentic self. 

Since then, I have been on a journey to find a way to fully honor and inhabit my queerness and my heritage as a CHamoru person. I looked to local heroes like Larry T. Baza, who held both Chicano and CHamoru identities. Larry became co-chair of San Diego Pride committee in 1992 along with Vertez Burks, marking it the first time that two people of color ran the organization. 

I discovered that Guam also has its own special place in LGBTQIA+ history. Benjamin Joseph “BJ” Cruz served as Chief Justice of the Guam Supreme Court from 1999-2001, becoming the first openly gay Chief Justice of any state court in the United States. In 2018, Joshua Tenorio, one of the founders of Equality Guam, became the first openly LGBTQIA+ person to be elected Lt. Governor in the U.S. too. 

It’s also important to celebrate ourselves in community spaces. Earlier in April, local Lao organizer Dina Johnson coordinated the first LGBTQIA+ celebration of Thai, Lao, Cambodian New Year was held in San Diego (and perhaps the country), making history by creating an inclusive space for TLC queers to celebrate their traditions. There is no one way to be queer, to be an AAPI person. The beauty of our community comes from our diverse lived experiences. 

Si yu’us ma’ase and Biba Pride!

Joe Fejeran (he/him)
Community Programs Coordinator

P.S. From May 26 to June 1, we will celebrate Queer, Trans Asian Pacific Islander Week (QTAPI) as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The QAPIMEDA coalition has some exciting events planned, so stay tuned for their official announcement. If you are interested in participating in or volunteering for QTAPI Week, email [email protected].


About San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride raises funds primarily through festival ticket and beverage sales, and through sponsorships, and exhibitor fees. These funds support San Diego Pride’s community philanthropy which has distributed more than $2.5 million in advancement of its mission to foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.