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Faces of Pride | Marpheen Chann highlights intersectionality in new book about his life

Chann, a writer and activist, is an Asian-American gay man who was adopted into a white Christian family in rural Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — Marpheen Chann's talent for playing the piano is one of many he accumulated over the years to keep himself going.

Chann, a self-described "over-achiever," is a child of Cambodian refugees who moved to Maine, where he was later adopted by a white Christian family.

As a young kid, he said it was difficult to find his place in a small rural town.

"I think it was hard when I was insulated," Chann said. "You're trying to figure out who you are in this tiny space in a place called Maine."

Chann said he moved to Maine with his biological mother in the back of a U-Haul truck and lived with his biological family until he was nine. He and his siblings ended up in the foster care system and bounced around to a few different homes for several years after. 

He ultimately found a permanent home in Naples when he was adopted at the age of 12.

He quickly found himself forced into a new life and a new world. Like every American kid, Chann played little league, had birthday parties, and went to church.

"Before that, I was with my Cambodian family, was going to Buddhist temples, and spoke a different language," Chann said.

What really made Chann feel different though, was something he did not admit until he was in his 20s: he is gay. 

"At first [my parents] were in denial. There were like, 'No you're not gay,'" Chann said. "But once I started breaking down the barriers a little more and saying that it's ok to me then it just opened the flood gates."

Living as an out, Asian man he slowly gained more and more confidence as a writer, speaker, and activist. He even reunited with his biological family. 

Chann was the first in his family to graduate college with a degree in political science and went on to law school.

More recently, Chann was elected to the Portland Charter Commission and became a staunch advocate fighting for immigrant rights and standing up to anti-Asian hate. 

He is now a published author with a new book titled "Moon in Full: A Modern-Day Coming-Of-Age Story."

Chann said he wrote the book to get all his thoughts about his journey of self-discovery out in the open in hopes that it could help others celebrate their differences. 

"Humans are complex," Chann said. "We all have multiple identities. One identity doesn't define who we are as a whole person."

The book's release comes during Pride Month. Chann said he feels it is an especially important time to remind people about the importance of intersectionality with the LGBTQ+ culture. 

"I think it's important to celebrate LGBTQ pride, but people shouldn't treat people as just gay people or straight people as just straight people, " Chann said. "There are a lot of different facets and factors that make up who we are."

You can find more information about Marpheen Chann and buy his book at marpheenchann.com.

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