SUNY UM is a gay, 2nd generation Cambodian American, and a long time volunteer for API Equality – Northern California. He has worked with us during Breakthrough Conversations, at PRIDE parades, at the API Heritage Festival, and now, currently, with our Dragon Fruit Project, Suny is currently finishing up his last month in Public Allies – Silicon Valley/ San Francisco, with the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health in Palo Alto. He works to build capacity through their health database and by supporting youth in their advocacy efforts.
Suny’s dedication to justice started even sooner, when, at the age of 16, Suny was disowned and kicked out from his house by his father. Houseless and lost, Suny turned to his community. Through these rough times, Suny became motivated to be involved in the API community and Southeast Asian community, in order to “empower those with similar experiences.”
Outside of all the work Suny does with Public Allies, Suny also spends his time doing consulting for a disability justice and advocacy organization in San Jose. Suny also says that he tries “to be as active and involved in API Equality – Northern California as possible.”
“I believe that in order to see the progress I want to see in my community, I need to take an active role. APIENC takes an active role in the LGBTQ API community and provides a space to explore my own identities.”
Suny is currently a transcriber for the Dragon Fruit project, and has had the chance to look deeper into LGBTQ API stories.
“Through Dragon Fruit Project, I learned more about what it takes to get your message out there without having the Internet or social media; the community was the message and the community took an active role in activism.”
The community is at the center of Suny’s work and life, and he hopes that the LGBTQ API community can see the need to stay active and involved, to ensure justice for all people. He’s enjoyed the gatherings in which his community at API Equality – Northern California can come together and share stories and emotions. These are the times that remind Suny that there are places to share your true and authentic self.
“Now that we have marriage equality in California, the work is still not over. We still need to ensure equality in other issues that affect the API community (e.g. homeless youth, trans* identities, etc.).”
Thank you for all of your dedication, Suny!
FUN FACT: Suny created a 6 minute video called “My Mini Story: Gay 2nd Generation Cambodian American” After it was unintentionally posted on YouTube, it gathered about 35,000 views before it was taken down. On one occasion while Suny was studying abroad, his Thai classmates singled me out and made it public that he was that person in that video, to his own surprise!