In 2011, Inthava Bounpraseuth wrote about his mostly positive experiences living in Alhambra as a gay man. Since then, he has married his partner, Mark, and left Alhambra. Inthava wrote to us saying that they moved to Ontario to be with his parents, "which has made it much easier for us, since we're both in school at this time." Inthava earned his master's in clinical psychology at Antioch University, and is now pursuing a doctoral in clinical psychology the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpenteria. Mark is working towards a Masters of Science in Higher Education at Cal State Fullerton. "Can't really complain at this time," Inthava wrote. "We're both doing what we want to do. We're healthy and we're happy."
Mark and I have officially lived together as a gay couple in Alhambra for one year. The San Gabriel Valley may be more conservative — and less friendly to homosexuals — than West Hollywood or Silver Lake, but it’s a surburban environment that we value. Like any other family in our community we want quiet and safe streets, good schools and neighbors we know and to whom we can relate.
We also appreciate that living here is worlds apart from what it would be if we had remained in the countries in which we were born. Mark is ethnically Chinese, but grew up in the Philippines; I have Lao and Thai roots. In these countries gay people face more discrimination than here. Although Alhambra is composed of various traditional ethnic groups, we still feel very at home due in part to their assimilation into mainstream American culture, which includes gay rights.
Still, Mark and I clearly cross the line between Asian modesty and American liberalism when we show affection in public. Just the other day we stepped out of the Rite Aid on Main Street and we looked at each other and spontaneously kissed. We didn’t check behind us to make sure it was okay. The man waiting in his car didn’t seem to notice nor did the couple walking into the store. There seems to be an unspoken rule that’s followed: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. We feel a sense of invisibility here because although people see or sense that we are gay, they tend to literally turn the other cheek, which is a very Asian thing to do.
Indeed, I think one root may be the Asian ideals of modesty and saving face. Growing up, my parents always reminded us to make sure we kept our noses in our books and not in other people’s business. Our own family affairs were and still are the only business that really matters. Another reason why I feel Alhambra residents look the other way is because they tend to want to save face. So when we kiss in public, and others look away, I almost feel as though they are trying to spare us any embarrassment by staring—not that we’re embarrassed though. How thoughtful, right?
But I doubt that Mark and I would ever feel so at liberty to kiss each other in public in the countries in which we were born. Homosexuality is not punishable by law in the Philippines, China, Laos or Thailand, but gay rights and equality are lacking. There’s a strong need for anti-discrimination legislation. If we were to live in rural Laos or China, family pressure for us to marry women and have children would be far greater. Having children to continue the family lineage would be a major factor in the suppression of who we are. Because we have more opportunities in the United States, and because we have assimilated to the American culture to a certain extent, we’ve adopted a degree of individuality and freedom. Anti-discrimination laws have long been established here in the U.S. And since the Stonewall riots in 1969, which is commonly known as the historical event that spurred the beginning of gay rights activism, many groups have been formed to further advocate for gay rights.
Mark and I were fortunate enough to have immigrated to the United States during this time when gay rights have come to the forefront. We both have participated in gay rights activism and realize there is still much left to fight for. Ultimately, though, our choice to live here in Alhambra has little to do with our sexuality. Mark grew up here, so it was a bit of a homecoming for him. Streets are familiar to him and some of his high school friends still live a few blocks away. It’s been a bit of a homecoming for me as well: Mark and I are starting a new life together. And perhaps, one day, our very own children will call Alhambra home as well.