Forget West Hollywood: Choosing Alhambra as a Gay Asian couple

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." 

3.1.2011

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. 

Mark (left) and Inthava (right) in Minneapolis in 2015

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. Mark and Inthava with friends

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. 

Inthava as a child (far left)

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. 

20 thoughts on “Forget West Hollywood: Choosing Alhambra as a Gay Asian couple”

  1. Robert Verduzco

    My husband and I have lived in Alhambra for more than 3 years and love it. Thanks for sharing your story. People here are very easy going and I love that cool and welcoming attitude.

  2. Great article Inthava! I grew up in Alhambra and would give my left leg to be able to live there again. Your story only made me miss it that much more! I was part of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance when it first started at Alhambra High School ( I dont know if it still exsists) and I must say that I never really felt hate for the gay community there. It’s a great place for you two to start a family. Its a great city that welcomes everyone. Minus the norrow-minded (Alhambra can do without you).

  3. Good say, I lived in Alhambra for more than 20 years and there’s a gay couple lived in our complex more than 5 years and the residents in our community most are Asians(Chinese?), there seems normal to us nothing special because of that couple.
    See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. We just followed the Confucius said.
    Welcome to Alhambra! #BreakNecks!

  4. Hey! Cool article. Thanks for sharing. Keep on kissing! (It’s the straight couples who make out that sort of gross me out)

  5. Great job on this article, Inthava. It was interesting to read about the reception you’ve received in Alhambra and your take on why it’s been that way. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I enjoyed your article Inthava. Thank you for your willingness to share a very personal story in very public way. I applaud you!

  7. Shameful and what a waste of space.

    1. inthava bounpraseuth

      Hello, Javier. Thank you for reading the article. I’m glad it’s been able to raise awareness, one way or the other. In regards to shame–a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace–we obviously don’t harbor any of these emotions since we’re proud enough about who we are and our relationship to feature it on this site. I don’t agree with your opinion, but I do respect that it is your opinion. Thanks!

    2. Javier- the same comment can be made about your life. Thankfully, you haven’t gotten the same credibility to have a section in any newspaper. Inthava, great article. I admire how you capture the essence of love between you and Mark in your article. Now I’m sure that if you were writing about a woman, there would be more people sapping over the remarkable struggles you have overcome. But I know that you write this article more for yourself, than the validation you need from the world. Congrats!

    3. @Javier: The only “waste of space” I see here is your comment. There is nothing “shameful” about loving someone, regardless of their size, height, color, or sex.

      @Inthava: I enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing a piece of your life with everyone!

  8. Thank you for a great article that has opened people’s minds in the San Gabriel Valley! I like your discussion on what may or may not be comfortable in the minds of the public. Many commonplace items today were shocking to the public 50 years ago!

    Harold Kameya
    founder, API PFLAG

    1. inthava bounpraseuth

      Your support is greatly appreciated, Harold.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story and offering perspective. Born and raised in Monterey Park, stories like this offer insight to such a culturally rich city. I know you will be able to create a home where ever you and Mark choose to start your family; and I certainly hope your home will remain in the San Gabriel Valley. Keep sharing your story and keep inspiring.

    1. inthava bounpraseuth

      Thanks a bunch, Sammy! We really appreciate your support.

  10. inthava bounpraseuth

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and kind words.

  11. I love this story, so sweet.

  12. Congrats on your post, Inthava!! Miss you guys! 🙂

  13. Thanks for highlighting this aspect of Alhambra’s diversity, too.

  14. “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?”

    I’m not sure that’s being thoughtful or looking away. I doubt people tolerate any couple, be it heterosexual or homosexual, making out in public, but most people are fine with affection: People ignore it.

    And that sentence–it just strikes me as if your expectation was pretty low along with your self esteem. I admit I don’t understand the dynamics of a homosexual couple and their neighbors, but give your neighbors, like myself, some benefit of the doubt.

    1. inthava bounpraseuth

      Hi, Robert. Thanks for your comment. In no way are we “making out” in public–unless you consider a peck on the lips or cheek making out. My point was that we’ve had no problems at all and that we’re grateful. We have great neighbors, by the way. If we met, Robert, I’m sure we’d get along. Again, thanks for your comment.

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