Interracial gay couple discusses love, hate

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022
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Amos Lim, left, and his husband, Mickey Lim, are happily married but still face anti-Asian prejudice on occasion. Photo: Christopher Robledo
Amos Lim, left, and his husband, Mickey Lim, are happily married but still face anti-Asian prejudice on occasion. Photo: Christopher Robledo

For Amos and Mickey Lim, a married gay couple who live with their 14-year-old daughter in San Francisco, the road to love was filled with challenges.

Amos Lim, 52, is an emigre from Singapore, a country where it's not easy to be gay. Mickey Lim, 58, is a white man. Their love for each other and for their daughter runs deep, but they admit that at times they must deal with the prejudices of the outside world.

The couple met online in 1995.

"I think I reached out because I was living in Singapore and was struggling with being gay," Amos Lim recalled in a recent interview. "I saw a post that said the reason there's no love in gay relationships is because we don't have role models, and Mickey replied saying that's not true, that there was a couple that just released their book called 'Straight From the Heart,' so I emailed him and asked him if he minded getting me the book because it'll probably be banned in my country."

"Straight From the Heart: A Love Story" (1995) was written by Rod and Bob Jackson-Paris and was one of the first books by a gay couple in the national spotlight. Bob Jackson-Paris was a bodybuilder and Rod Jackson-Paris was a former Playgirl Man of the Year.

That online reply from Mickey Lim was the beginning of their relationship. At first Amos Lim struggled to get a visa to come to the United States, but he finally got an education visa in 1999 and came to the U.S. to attend school.

"And the rest is history," he said.

Before that, it was in 1997 when they met in person for the first time, when Mickey Lim visited Singapore. Thirty minutes after meeting they knew they were meant for each other. Both had boyfriends at the time and they each ended their respective relationships.

Amos Lim spoke of the difference between living as a gay man in Singapore and living a gay life in the Bay Area.

"It's night and day," he said. "It's not that I never came out to people in Singapore, I have a very close group of friends that I'm out with, I'm out with my family, and my extended family all know, I'm sure a lot of people know, but we don't talk about it."

According to Amos Lim, gay life in Singapore was non-existent, unless one went to bars or sex clubs regularly. Going to dance clubs, he recalled, was risky because the police might raid the club and arrest people.

"Things have changed in the last 20 years," he said. "When I went back in March, I'm noticing more out people on the streets. We have an annual Pride event called Pink Dot that's being organized now. I think they've been doing it for 15 or 18 years now. I don't have to worry about talking about my life here.

"In Singapore, depending on the group of people I'm with, I tend to be more circumspect and not over-share. I don't have any rights as an LGBT person in Singapore, not even to get a spousal visa [for Mickey] to come and live with me in Singapore," Amos Lim added.

By contrast, they own the house they live in in San Francisco. The men report that, like any couple, they occasionally argue, but that they love each other dearly. They said that their families are supportive of their relationship.

"We exchange messages when we work saying that I love you," said Mickey Lim. "We check in every day when we're away from each other. We're happy!"

Both have good jobs. Mickey Lim is a pharmacist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. Amos Lim works in the economic justice program at Chinese for Affirmative Action, a civil rights organization in Chinatown for Asian Americans. His duties include helping limited English-speaking Asians look for jobs and improve their skills, and to advocate for them when laws are introduced that impact them. Both enjoy their work.

Amos Lim, left, and his husband, Mickey Lim, urge people to report bias incidents to authorities. Photo: Christopher Robledo  

Anti-Asian prejudice
The couple has been, on occasion, subjected to the anti-Asian hate that has increased in recent years. In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed two anti-bias bills collectively called the No Place for Hate Campaign, though they were watered down from their original versions in the state Legislature.

The first, authored by state Senator Dave Min (D-Costa Mesa), is Senate Bill 1161. Called "Improving Public Transit Ridership Safety" it aims to protect LGBTQ+ people, cisgender women, and other vulnerable public transit riders. It requires the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University to create a community survey for California transit operators to strengthen and promote passenger safety.

The second is Assembly Bill 2448 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and is titled "Expanding Civil Rights Protections at Businesses." It directs the state's Civil Rights Department to create a first-of-its-kind pilot program that incentivizes businesses to create safe and welcoming environments.

The new laws come as California has seen a spike in anti-Asian incidents. In June, Attorney General Rob Bonta released the state's annual hate crimes report that saw reported incidents in California increase 32.6% between 2020-2021, with the number of hate crimes against Black people still the most frequent overall but whose increase was 12.5%. Hate crimes against Asians "increased dramatically" by 177.5%. "Anti-Hispanic or Latino bias events increased 29.6%," according to the report, and "among hate crime events involving religious bias, anti-Jewish bias events were the most prevalent and increased 32.2%." Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people increased by 47.8%, although reported anti-transgender bias events fell 29.6% and those concerning gender bias decreased 12.9%.

Mickey Lim recalled a time when their daughter, then aged 2-3, was having a meltdown at a party. Amos Lim took the girl out into the lobby.

"And somebody comes up and says, 'Should I be concerned?'" Mickey Lim recounted. "Should they be concerned about what? With a white blonde girl and an Asian man and she's having a fit. And Amos said, 'She's my daughter.'"

"I'm used to it," said Amos Lim. "The verbal is easier because you can react or reply or address it. It's more the stares when you go to the grocery store and you're walking with a 2-year-old white-haired girl that doesn't look like you and they're either following you or tracking you or checking back to make sure things are OK. At first it was disconcerting, but after a while I ignore it because I get it all the time."

Amos Lim added that while he's never been subjected to violence, their house has been egged four times.

"I know the first time it was because we had a No on Prop 8 poster on our window," recalled Amos Lim, referring to Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that voters approved that temporarily banned same-sex marriage in California. After a federal trial Prop 8 was found to be unconstitutional and that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, two years before the court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. The Lims were active in the No on 8 campaign.

"There was the time when [Donald] Trump was elected and our garage was egged," Amos Lim said. "And there was another time when he went on about immigrants and we were egged."

In fact, when the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020, Trump repeatedly called it the "Chinese" virus, which inflamed anti-Asian sentiment among some of his fervent supporters.
These incidents were "disconcerting," according to Amos Lim.

"The truth is that if it was just adults here with no kids, I'd be less worried, because I know I can take care of myself," he said. "But now that we have a kid, I am more worried that the information I put out identifies where I live."

Amos Lim added that it's important when subjected to a hate crime to report it to authorities.

"There are victim compensation services available at the district attorney's office," he said, referring to the San Francisco District Attorney's office. "There are also websites and organizations which collect data about AAPI hate, so it's important that whatever incident that happens to you be reported so that somebody knows about it, so that you might need services, you might need help. Data is important. If you don't report it then people will assume that it doesn't happen."

"In health care, if you don't document it, then it didn't happen," added Mickey Lim. "So you have to document it. In this day and age, documentation is essential. So anybody that has anything happen, it has to be documented. You have to go there."

Amos Lim tried to relax after the incidents that happened to the couple by taking walks on the beach, but after the anti-AAPI incidents began, he stopped, saying that he didn't feel safe.

"Anything can happen," said Mickey Lim. "And that's kind of always embedded in the fear, and I see that in him, I feel that in him, and there's nothing I can do about it. I can't protect him as he goes out to take a walk, just to take a walk."

When asked if he had anything to say to the people perpetrating the hate, Amos Lim replied that he had nothing to say.

"Hate is toxic," said Mickey Lim. "It serves nothing. However evil you are, it's a rabbit hole."

Added Amos Lim, "It takes so much more energy to hate than to love."

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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