As a young man growing up in San Jose, California, Evan Low would spend time secretively browsing the LGBTQ section of Barnes & Noble, fearful of being outed.
Attempting to “fit in” evoked a sense of loneliness and isolation that left Low considering conversion therapy to change his sexual orientation.
Low didn’t publicly come out until he ran for Campbell City Council at age 21, but, luckily, he received some support from his friends and family.
“Ultimately, my relationships with my family became stronger. My experiences have shaped who I am today, and my family has been supportive of me living out and proud every step of the way,” he told NextShark.
Now a 36-year-old assemblyman, and as the youngest openly gay Asian American to become mayor in 2009, Low is fighting to eradicate conversion therapy in California.
In 2018, Low authored AB 2943, which would have classified conversion therapy as consumer fraud, increasing protections for consumers, and make “sexual orientation change efforts” an unlawful business practice.
The bill was eventually pulled by Low after Republican California State Assemblymember Travis Allen and right-wing One America News Network (OAN) claimed the legislation would be used to ban the Bible.
“It was truly a lesson of the times that we live in, where an inflammatory idea can spread like wildfire without anyone bothering to see if there is any truth behind it,” the assemblyman said.
Low met with religious leaders throughout California and discovered that those who opposed the bill were also against conversion therapy or had little awareness of the practice.
Temporarily halting the bill gave Low an opportunity to spread awareness after gaining attention from several people in the religious community of California.
On Sept. 26, 2019, Low filed with the Secretary of State the Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 99, which was written concurrently with Evangelical and LGBTQ leaders.
The bill aims to shine a spotlight on how much psychological harm and anti-LGBTQ stigma is caused to members of the LGBTQ community.
“Unfortunately, there are many religious organizations and individuals that continue to scapegoat the LGBTQ community and refuse to listen to either the scientific evidence or the harrowing personal experiences of thousands of survivors of conversion therapy,” Low said.
Besides keeping the discussions about conversion therapy going, other challenges LGBTQ and Asian Americans face in the community include a housing crisis in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.
“There is an enormous draw to live in the Bay Area due to the opportunities here for LGBTQ+ and Asian American individuals, but the limited availability of housing deters many young people from making the jump,” Low explained. “The rapidly-increasing cost of housing also pressures families like mine, who have been in the Bay Area for multiple generations, to leave the area for regions where housing is more affordable.”
Despite Low’s tireless efforts for the LGBTQ youth along with the bravery of advocates and allies, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a predictable backlash to the successes of the LGBTQ civil rights movement,” he said. “The voices of hate and fear only seem loud because they shout over the softer voices projecting love and acceptance.”
For youth struggling to find their identity and place in this world, Low advised finding a close friend or family member whom you can be open and honest with. There is no wrong or right time to declare your sexual orientation or gender identity. Let the world know who you truly are when you are 100% ready.
However, like many openly-LGBTQ people, Low is confident that the coming out process is actually easier than we imagine.
“The truth is, some people might have a hard time accepting you, but anyone who rejects is doing so out of their own lack of self-love and acceptance,” the assemblyman assured. “When you come out, many people will surprise you with kindness and acceptance, and once the burden is off of your shoulders you will be able to develop healthier, more authentic relationships.”
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