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Photo: Garrige Ho/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Chantale Wong will serve as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank. Photo: Garrige Ho/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Chantale Wong is the U.S.’s first LGBTQ+ person of color in an ambassador-level position

She will serve as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank after confirmation in the Senate.

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On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Senate voted to confirm the first openly LGBTQ person of color to serve in an ambassador-level position. Chantale Wong, whom the Senate confirmed in a 66-31 vote, will serve as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank. 

Wong, who was born in Shanghai, China, brings more than 30 years of experience in finance, technology, and the environment, according to a White House news release. She previously served as acting budget director at the Treasury Department and as NASA’s budget director.

LGBTQ advocacy and political groups see Wong’s confirmation as a sign of progress. 

The nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, celebrated her confirmation with a statement from Interim President Joni Madison. 

“For too long, the ranks of ambassadors have failed to reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Ambassador Wong’s confirmation is one step closer to achieving a future where all members of the LGBTQ+ community can see themselves reflected at the highest levels of government,” Madison said.

Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Wong’s confirmation is part of a wave of LGBTQ officials appointed to high-ranking roles by the Biden administration, such as Secretary Buttigieg and Admiral Rachel Levine — the first Senate-confirmed openly gay and transgender cabinet-level appointments respectively. 

“While there is still much work to be done on elevating LGBTQ nominees to federal judicial roles, we are heartened to see LGBTQ individuals finally being represented in the highest levels of government for the first time in history,” Rupert-Gordon said. 

Wong holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Master in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Ambassador Wong previously served as the Alternate United States Director of the Asian Development Bank and held a series of other senior government positions, including at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Department of the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute, also praised Wong’s success. 

“As the first out LGBTQ person of color confirmed to an ambassador-level position, Ambassador Wong is also a symbol of hope and strength for LGBTQ leaders and community members fighting for LGBTQ rights across the globe,” Parker said in a statement

After she was nominated by Biden last July, Wong explained some of her plans for the position in a Facebook post. 

“If I am confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I will serve with humility and with [the] purpose of advancing U.S. interest at the Asian Development Bank and the region on behalf of my fellow Americans,” she wrote.

Wong was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the board of the Asian Development Bank as the alternate executive director 22 years ago.

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Wong wrote on Facebook that “it is with great pride and humility I will serve once again at the ADB and knowing the challenges ahead will be great.”

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