Connie Chan was born on January 16, 1954 in Hong Kong. Her father owned a stevedoring company in Shanghai, but in the wake of communism rising to power in mainland China, her family first fled to Hong Kong and then to San Francisco when Connie was one and half years old. Connie’s father started working in a steamship company, and subsequently moved the family to Honolulu when Connie was five.
Growing up surrounded by a heavily Japanese American community, Connie initially was worried about her Chinese background, but her mother continuously encouraged her to be proud of her heritage. Her 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Au, praised her love for learning and encouraged her to apply for and then attend the private Punahou School, where Connie accessed a rich collection of extracurriculars and books until she graduated high school.
Connie then attended Princeton University as part of Princeton’s fourth ever co-ed matriculating class. She studied psychology and became involved in various students of color and social justice-centered student groups. As she set her mind to pursue her PhD in clinical psychology, she volunteered in hospitals and, drawing on her own background, developed a passion for working with immigrant communities. She also started researching Asian American sexualities and queer sexualities, on topics ranging from the Asian mail-order bride business to the rise in gay-affirming psychology alongside the emerging AIDS crisis.
Amidst the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Connie worked closely consulting with the AIDS Action Committee and Fenway Community Health Center in Boston. She also was appointed to a committee on gay and lesbian concerns in 1986 within the American Psychological Association, where she worked with giants of gay and lesbian psychology including Evelyn Hooker, Steve Morin, Linda Garnets, and Esther Rothblum. She also helped pioneer the APA’s Division 44, with the goal to create an openness and field of inquiry for gay and lesbian issues.
As she became deeper involved in LGBTQ+ psychology research, she found that the existing research was primarily on gay white men. She focused her research on Asian American women and sexuality. She explored topics such as LGBTQ+ Asian men and women in straight public-facing marriages, feelings of bringing familial shame by being LGBTQ+, and implicitly rather than explicitly coming out to parents and family members.
As she reached her early 30s, Connie wanted to have children. She and her then-partner both got pregnant via sperm donors, and gave birth to two children around seven months apart. After Connie and her then-partner split when their children were around four, Connie met her wife, Mary Jane, at a party in Boston. In 2000, they became one of the first 50 same sex couples to legally get married in the US, and they were married by their friend, Kim, in the Arlington Street Church. Their wedding photos were featured in the Boston Globe.
To this day, Connie continues to conduct research on LGBTQ+ and Asian American issues. Outside of work, she is an avid marathon runner who has iconically waved the pride flag upon crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon and treasures her time with her children and grandchildren.