Amazin LeThi, Vietnamese LGBTQ Sports & Human Rights Advocate
Amazin LeThi is a global Vietnamese LGBTQ sports and human rights advocate and thought leader. She is also a former competitive bodybuilder, entertainment executive and the first Vietnamese internationally published fitness author. Amazin has captured audiences with her story, from the United Nations to Google and governments from all around the world.
‘Coming Out’ is a very western ideology in the east it’s all about ‘Coming Home’ and what we will do for the family and how we will support the family unit with our career and life and usually multiple generations live within the family home with the eldest child helping to support the family unit.
When did you have that “a-ha” moment and realise you were different?
I wouldn’t have necessarily called it an ‘a-ha’ moment though I probably knew around age 6 or so that I just felt different inside and that lead to me questioning my sexuality.
How would you describe your experience of coming out?
‘Coming Out’ is a very western ideology in the east it’s all about ‘Coming Home’ and what we will do for the family and how we will support the family unit with our career and life and usually multiple generations live within the family home with the eldest child helping to support the family unit. From my childhood years into my teens then to my early adult life as I became more comfortable standing in my truth with my sexuality I started to live as my authentic self. I’ve never had an actual ‘Coming Out’ experience.
How did your childhood and family background impact both the timing and the way you came out?
When I was a child, I suffered a tremendous amount of discrimination and bullying which followed me into my teenage years because I was Asian and from the LGBTQ+ community. I always felt I had to hide my identity and could never feel like I could come out or be my authentic self. For a long time, I struggled with my sexuality as I didn't have the words for how I felt inside nor did I know how to express my feelings as I never saw an LGBTQ+ or Asian LGBTQ+ person in the media or community. It wasn’t till my late teens that I really started to feel comfortable with my sexuality and wasn’t till a young adult that I really started to feel comfortable being my authentic self and not feeling like I had to hide my sexuality anymore. I had always thought straight people don’t have to ‘come out’ they just live unapologetically as their authentic self and that’s what I do every day.
What would your advice be to anyone trying to come out?
If you have to ‘come out’ for whatever reason, maybe to a parent, relative or someone in your inner circle, I suggest you make sure you have a support network before you make the decision. It’s important to take your time in this decision and don’t let anyone push you into revealing your sexuality or gender identity if you aren’t ready or don’t feel comfortable. In creating a support network first choose someone close to you that you can trust and who will also be supportive if you need them there when you decide to ‘come out’ to a parent or another family member. ‘Coming Out’ will always be part of your life in different stages but it’s also important that it’s always on your terms. I always prefer to say ‘inviting you into my story’ rather than ‘Coming Out’ because this is your story and you own it, so you can invite whoever you wish into your life, and if you so choose, not everyone you meet will have this privilege.
What was the most difficult experience you faced in your life because of your sexual orientation / gender identity? How did you handle it?
I’ve been discriminated against in life, sports and business because of my sexuality and with that being Asian. For ethnic groups it’s a double whammy of difficult experiences being part of the rainbow community layered on top of being Asian. It was very difficult when I was a child as I didn’t know how to respond nor did I have any support system and athlete activism and sports equality didn’t exist then and it was the same in the work place as a teenager as ERG Pride networks didn’t exist and I didn’t know my rights in the workplace. Society has progressed a lot since I was younger when we didn’t have this openness around being LGBTQ that we have today so it was very difficult to deal with then. I’m a very different person now and stand in confidence with my sexuality. If I have a difficult experience at all because of my sexuality, I challenge the person or entity and I know my rights as well, in terms of discrimination based on sexuality, and there is far more support with organizations and society as well.
Who is the most important role model in your life and why?
The American actress Margaret Cho became a very important role model growing up as she was the first LGBTQ Asian person that I saw in the media who was unapologetic about her sexuality and very outspoken when it came to what she believed in and her advocacy work in the community. Through the years she’s always been an important figure in the Asian queer community and for Asian women because she has pushed the boundaries on all fronts from sexuality to completely breaking down the stereotype of Asian women in media and society.
Now broadening your horizon, describe your experience being a member of the LGBTQ community at work? In your industry?
I’m fortunate that I’m self-employed and in the contract work that I do I can choose to work with companies that are LGBTQ inclusive. A lot of work that I do as an advocate, professional speaker and advisor to companies and governmental bodies is around how to create more inclusive environments and how to champion equality in the countries they work in through the lens of sports as well as sharing the unique challenges and barriers that Asian LGBTQ people face in being their authentic self in work and life.
And, what could make the biggest positive impact for the LGBTQ community?
Besides data gathering to assist in creating and changing policies, storytelling is so much about the impact we make in the LGBTQ community. As a child I never saw anyone that looked like me in the media nor did I hear my own story and I know how impactful that would have been to have seen and heard a mirror image of my own Asian LGBTQ story reflected back at me, and how it would have helped me to feel more comfortable with my own sexuality. Asian LGBTQ people rarely hear their own LGBTQ story and we face great difficulties in our LGBTQ journey for so many reasons that stem from our culture and lack of representation in the community.
Finally, and on a less serious note, what stereotype do you love the most about the LGBTQ community?
We are flamboyant, stylish and fabulous!
More about Amazin
As a thought leader and through conversations, panel discussions and Q&As, Amazin shares her personal journey of homelessness to becoming one of the most visible and influential LGBTQ activists in the world. Her story was included in the It Gets Better campaign and the first White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Asian anti-bullying campaign Act to Change.
GLAAD and NQAPIA have recognized Amazin for her contribution in accelerating LGBTQ sports equality and she has been listed in many mainstream articles for her contribution; these include, Australian Pride Power List, Out 100 List, Human Rights Campaign - Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Honours list, 2020 Go Magazine 100 Women We Love List and 2020 Global Changemakers. She is the first Asian LGBTQ Athlete to be honoured at the Brooklyn Nets 4th Annual Pride Night at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn with the 'Game Ball Delivery’. In October 2020, Amazin was named the first Asian and LGBTQ official judge for their first ever ABB FIA Formula E Championship Open Call Talent Presenter Search. In 2020, Amazin was only one of 10 listed in the #Attitude101 100 LGBTQ Trailblazers under sports.
Amazin was invited to launch, campaign and run global advocacy projects with governments and human rights campaign groups. In 2019 Amazin’s work included the launch of both projects in collaboration with the LGBTQ Institute at the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
The first Asian Pride in the USA in Washington DC presented by the Capital Pride Alliance and the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
The first Asian LGBTQ Southern Voices event in Georgia and UN LGBTQ Business Standards for the entire southern region of the USA with the UN.
During Pride Month 2020, Amazin partnered with (The Advocate) to host the first Pride Month Asian LGBTQ voices Instagram live series; her guests included out Asian Hollywood actors: B.D Wong, Leo Sheng, Leonardo Nam, Rain Valdez and Jake Choi. Amazin was also part of the first 24-hour Global Pride 2020.
Amazin is a Stonewall UK and Athlete Ally sports champion ambassador, a global ambassador for Vietnam Relief Services and health and fitness writer for Livestrong. In 2020, Amazin will make LGBTQ history by becoming only one of two Asian ambassadors for Copenhagen2021 and the Commonwealth Games Pride House.
In 2021, Amazin will launch the Amazin LêThi Foundation with a global sports campaign. In 2022 she will initiate a flagship program to support and address LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, doing it through leadership and development and using sports as the platform for change.
She advises governments and companies all over the world around LGBTQ equality and most recently was part of the Team Biden campaign as part of their Out For Biden Team: LGBTQ and Asian communication digital advisor.
Born in Saigon where she was left in an orphanage by her mother, Amazin is a transracial adoptee who grew up in an all-white background. Amazin was bullied constantly as a young child and it was because of this that she went into bodybuilding at the tender age of 6, going on to become a competitive bodybuilder in her teens then qualifying as a strength and conditioning coach.