Living and Leaving a Legacy: Intergenerational Conversations with LGBTQ APIs

by Sammie Wills | February 3, 2014

lts reflectionEvery year, Stanford University holds the Listen to the Silence conference, a conference that brings together students from the Bay Area and provides a platform for exploring Asian Pacific Islander issues and activism. On January 18th, API Equality – Northern California was pleased to present our workshop, “Living and Leaving a Legacy: Intergenerational Conversations with LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islanders.”

The workshop, which focused on the experiences of those who have participated in The Dragon Fruit Project, raises the question: what comes to mind when you think of “intergenerational conversations?” For myself, intergenerational conversations are an opportunity to talk with and learn from elders, while they talk with and learn from the rising generation (and everyone inbetween!). These exchanges are so vital because too often are histories only written by those with privilege and power. I never had the opportunity to hear of LGBTQ API folks in my history books–and I honestly didn’t even know they existed until later in life. This lack of rich perspectives impeded on my sense of self and clarity of identity.

Our workshop was a chance to provide clarity for people across generations. Clarity in identity, empowerment in history, and exhilaration in the future. The panel of guests that attended all held a different role in the Dragon Fruit project: from transcriber, to interviewer, to interviewee. As our guests spoke on their own experiences, the conference participants listened to the legacies of LGBTQ API activism. In turn, the conference participants also spoke on what they think of LGBTQ activism nowadays, and were able to ask additional questions to the guests.

For myself, this workshop framed all of the amazing progress made by activists before me, and it also highlighted the need to keep fighting for justice and cultural change. Only one year ago at LTS 2013, I nervously sat in on the “Queer and Asian” workshop. At the time, I knew little of API LGBTQ communities, and I had never been in a formalized workshop that touched on the intersection of identities. Fast forward to one year later, and I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on LGBTQ API communities. Just as our panelists and guests spoke about their identity development and activism, I was able to see my personal growth as an LGBTQ API person and as someone dedicated to these communities.

But, being dedicated to LGBTQ API (or any communities) can be difficult. The issues faced by marginalized groups are different in 2014 than they were in 1964. Our fights aren’t always as reactionary. They aren’t always as publicized in the media. They aren’t calling for the same liberations. Yet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t as important. It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of movements and of justice–it’s easy to talk in circles around privilege and oppression and marginalization, but sometimes it’s hard to remember why these things are humanized, crucial issues in the first place. It’s scary when these issues seem unsolvable, and it’s difficult not to burn out when you hear about API women assaulted by police, Trans* folks being killed, and Asian countries criminalizing queerness. Hearing stories of love and resistance from the elders in the room gave me a chance to ground myself in the history that came before me. From their “small acts of activism” to their huge, movement building work, people created change just by living as their true selves.

The Dragon Fruit Project will continue to be a platform where these legacies are resurfaced and documented into history. Join us for the next transcribing day, March 9th.