By Hannah Smith, August 30, 2022
Sociology Professor Anthony Ocampo is set to release his second book, “Brown and Gay in LA: The Lives of Immigrant Sons” 21. The book shares the stories of gay children of immigrants and how they navigated these two aspects of their identities. As a gay son of immigrants from the Philippines, Ocampo shares how he is personally connected to his book and how he hopes his story and the stories of these men helps others.
“It almost felt like it was a contradiction to be both gay and in immigrant culture. Part of the reason I wanted to write this book is very personal because I just wanted to hear the stories of other people whose lives were like mine,” said Ocampo. “When I turn on the TV or watch a movie, I don’t really see a lot of stories on screen that resemble mine. And I wanted to render that story in writing.”
Finding people that share his life experiences has helped Ocampo find a sense of belonging and passion since his undergrad days at Stanford University. Ocampo shared how going into college as a first-year student, he often felt insecure in his academics and considered giving up or transferring. But once he took a Filipino American history course, he began to find his sense of belonging and purpose in college.
“It was the first time I read anything on Filipino Americans, it was the first time we talked about Filipino American issues in class, it was the first time I was in a space where I could write about that and I thought that was very cool,” said Ocampo. “Not only did I really enjoy the class, it totally transformed my sense of belonging in college. After that I took a bunch of other ethnic studies classes in college that allowed me to meet other professors who really inspired me to want to pursue that career myself.”
After receiving his doctorate in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011, Ocampo came to teach at Cal Poly Pomona, where he has taught sociology ever since. Ocampo also began researching for his current book during his time at Cal Poly Pomona. As part of his research for “Brown and Gay in LA,” Ocampo connected with many gay men that all shared similar experiences as children of immigrants yet had all felt alone in their experiences. During the early stages of research, Ocampo had published an article of his early findings and had college aged students come to him sharing what his story meant to them. This showed the power of storytelling to Ocampo and inspired him to continue with his work.
Ongoing LGBTQ issues over the years also shaped the research Ocampo did, as well as inspired him to keep going and working to share his story and the story of other children of immigrants. As he interviewed members of the LGBTQ community, the lens of the issues that were important at the moment kept shifting. Ocampo began researching at a time when gay marriage was not legal federally, and he wrapped up his research and began writing at the time of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 — a gay nightclub that primarily served the Latino community.
“I felt like, here I am writing this book and the communities that I am writing about are literally getting murdered in a mass shooting across the country,” said Ocampo. “It felt more urgent to have to write this book than the first one was.”
Apart from sharing his life stories in writing, Ocampo was also recently featured in the Netflix documentary “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch.” Ocampo worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in 2003 and eventually was involved in the lawsuit against the company for their racial discrimination within their hiring practices. The documentary premiered earlier this year and Ocampo was blown away by how a story he thought nobody would care about anymore reached so many people and prompted direct messages from total strangers about how they had experienced the same type of discrimination from the company.
Along with his personal experience shaping his writing, Ocampo also shared his time teaching at Cal Poly Pomona has helped him become a better writer, and he often shares his manuscripts and articles with students, welcoming their feedback both positive and negative. Now Ocampo plans to focus on research on Anti-Asian hate and how the criminal justice system treats Asian Americans. He also encourages more people to share their stories and put themselves out there.
“I want to encourage all Cal Poly Pomona students to remember that their stories matter, and their stories have the power to inspire so many people beyond their imagination and the hardest part is self-belief,” said Ocampo.
Feature Image courtesy of Anthony Ocampo
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