Daring to Hope for a Just World: Reflections from the 2018 NQAPIA Conference

by Yiann Chou | September 10, 2018
Image description: Yiann is standing while holding an electric guitar, smiling toward something to the right. (Photo credit: Corky Lee)

Image description: Yiann is standing while holding an electric guitar, smiling toward something to the right. (Photo credit: Corky Lee)

Yiann Chou, one of our APIENC volunteers, attended the 2018 NQAPIA National Conference this past July in San Francisco, CA. They also performed with their band, kapwa the band, at the Arts Showcase Night.

I felt grateful to be at NQAPIA, simply because it gave me an opportunity to witness queer & trans APIs in their power, and existing as their authentic selves. I was especially struck by this at the intersectionality panel, where I listened to the stories of people advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in Christian & Filipino spaces, LGBTQ+ Southeast Asian refugees combating police brutality and deportation, and Pacific Islanders fighting for queer and trans justice. Their stories brought me to silent tears, and I felt overwhelmed and raw, because their existences reminded me of what I haven’t dared to hope for.

Lately, I’ve been worn and tired of trying to find answers to injustice and trauma. For too long, I felt consumed with seeking resolution, going in circles in my mind about uphill battles: the pastors and leaders who will never be held accountable for attempting conversion therapy and for outing me, Christian institutions that won’t be held accountable for firing LGBT-affirming staff, friends and family members who will never affirm queer and trans people, a god who I don’t know truly cares about me or is real. I feel overwhelmed and tired just thinking about people whose lives have been taken or broken apart by police brutality, deportations, unfair housing conditions, lack of access to medical/ mental health resources.

I’ve been shelving my heavy emotions around these traumas, so that for a time so that I can recover and enjoy life. Life has been pretty good: I’m financially stable these days; I have the luxury of working part-time and working on music the rest of the time. I have friends who care about me, and my mental health has been drastically improving in the past year. I’m glad I’m taking the time to enjoy life and fill my headspace with things besides pain.

But sometimes I feel the temptation not just to shelve my feelings about injustice, but to pretend that I’m done with it. I’m reminding myself that I can enjoy my life, but also revisit and confront pain and injustice. I can’t pretend that I don’t need healing or that injustice doesn’t continue to affect people around me.

I still value the time I take to recover from engaging deeply with injustice, but I don’t want to give into the desire to forget about it. I’m challenging myself to stay connected to the hope evident in the resilience of LGBTQ+ APIs around me, and I’m grateful that NQAPIA provided a space for me to find that hope. I’m challenging myself stay hopeful that a just world is possible, not just for myself, but for everyone who needs it.

(Fun fact: I also performed at the NQAPIA arts & cultural night with my band, kapwa the band. People got up and started dancing during our set, it was a good time! Here’s a cute video of us from that night.)