Michelle Wang


Michelle is smiling at the camera holding a sign at what appears to be a protest.

MICHELLE, who identifies as Asian, American, and Queer, is an active volunteer with APIENC. She is part of the Communications Committee and has also helped coordinate APIENC events. Michelle is also a software engineer during the day.

Michelle volunteers with APIENC to stay connected and give back to a community that is very important to her. Ever since she was younger growing up in the Midwest, she remembers feeling guided by the experiences of belonging to disparate pieces of a single but fractured identity — being Asian at home and American at school. After moving away from the Midwest and finding herself in San Mateo (CA), Michelle volunteered with Rape Trauma Services as a sexual assault counselor. It was her first direct exposure to trauma informed spaces. Much of what she learned there has informed perspectives that she has now. Although she met incredibly resilient people whom she admired, it ended up being an anxiety-inducing experience for her, because, in her words, “I’m not even very good at talking to people who aren’t in crisis at the moment.” Michelle hopes that one day, the LGBTQ API community will feel content and free enough that there will be less need to be advocating for ourselves, and we can harness more energy to be allies to other causes and communities.

Michelle’s favorite APIENC moment: meeting MLin at Anderson Bakery for the first time after filling out the volunteer interest form. She remembers enjoying awkward silences between conversation and thinking, “This is someone I can get along with.” A fun fact about Michelle is that she only encountered Spam Musubi a couple of years ago, despite the fact that Spam is from her home state of Minnesota. She thought the concept was really weird at first but she likes it a lot now!

Yi-Yi Kung

Yi-Yi stands behind a table, smiling, and displaying peace sign with their right hand. On the table are zines and artwork on display.

Yi-Yi stands behind a table, smiling, and displaying peace sign with their right hand. On the table are zines and artwork on display.

YI-YI, an active dissenter of the wine-whine merger, is one of the many artists in the APIENC family.

Yi-Yi grew up in Georgia where it was hard to find queer and/or Asian community and to be grounded in their identity as a queer, ace, Taiwanese American. Outside of APIENC, Yi-Yi works in tech on issues of accessibility. This feels important to Yi-Yi because it contributes to the work we can do to make things that people need (like food, shelter and community) more accessible to everyone.

After coming to the Bay Area, Yi-Yi wanted to find an organization that served either queer or Asian people. When Yi-Yi found APIENC, they were excited because they didn’t have to choose one aspect of their identity. Yi-Yi decided to go to a Dragon Fruit Project working day and since then, Yi-Yi has been volunteering with APIENC in different capacities. They continue to volunteer with APIENC because they feel welcomed – their favorite memory with APIENC was a potluck they attended because the event had a quiet space for art and a retreat from crowds, and they felt that their access needs were met. Yi-Yi also appreciates how APIENC strives to disseminate queer API stories and make them accessible to folks who may not have grown up around these types of stories.

As a current APIENC volunteer, Yi-Yi dreams for the sustainability of our livelihoods. Our community is diverse and Yi-Yi works towards a future where all of us are able to live the lives we desire.

Catch their work in the latest Dragon Fruit Project zine!

Physical, Emotional, and Material: Reflections on Community and Care


Photo Description: Six 2017 APIENC Summer Interns sit on the window sill of an outside deck at the CAA office in San Francisco, looking toward a wall of skyscrapers.

APIENC’s summer internship is transformative and revolutionary. Never before have I been given so much time, space, and intentional care to focus on my own self-growth and process. I have learned that actively creating the world we want to see requires constant self-reflection and reevaluation, to ensure that our path towards liberation makes sense for us and our community. Thank you, APIENC, for another opportunity to reflect and grow:

As an APIENC intern this summer, I was tasked with strengthening our engagement with LGBTQ API elders and aging communities by setting the foundation for an intergenerational community care network. In an effort to better understand our community’s needs, I spent much of my summer building 1-1 relationships with elders and aging folks. They were often eager to speak about their histories with activism, their personal struggles with aging, and, importantly, creative ways for folks across generations to support one another. In retrospect, these 1-1 spaces of mutual communication, values, and care were healing experiences for me; the normalization of asking and giving within these conversations laid foundations for interdependence and trust.

I could feel at my core the abundance of creativity, time, and energy that exists within strong interpersonal relationships. This feeling felt true in all of my internship experiences, from the ways our intern cohort, Sammie, and MLin built with each other over 8 weeks, to the intentionality with which we brought folks into our space and helped them feel connected. In just two months, the relationships I built and saw others build helped me feel more grounded in myself and my community than ever before. These relationships are radical spaces of love and vulnerability that can heal our traumas, ensure the sustainable thriving of our communities, and serve as sources of community care. I have learned that intentional relationship building is often the bedrock of community organizing.

Yet, while this is all very true and very tender, I am forced to remind myself that valuing relationships can also come with contradictions. During internship check-ins, I was often given positive feedback about the care and emotional attentiveness I brought to community interactions. While I love that expressing care is one of my primary ways of engaging with community, I couldn’t help but feel conflicted as I asked myself, “Am I expressing this care for myself too? My work is important and fulfilling, but am I being honest about my needs?”

Image description: Six interns have their backs turned towards the camera. Their jerseys read, "Tender '17."

Image description: Six interns have their backs turned towards the camera. Their jerseys read, “Tender ’17.”

My relationships with community members are the most important spaces of healing, love, and growth in my life, AND building a relationship is a labor of love – meaning that it is real work and takes a ton of emotional energy. I often struggled this summer with finding a balance between focusing on my relationship building with others at work, and healing myself. I know that these two sides are not mutually exclusive and that personal healing is an inherent part of this work, but what does moving forward look like? What does it mean when your primary way of engaging with community can also harm yourself?

I am brought back to my 1-1 conversations with community elders. One of the primary needs that elders and aging folks in our community stated is the need for social and emotional connections. Whether it is me, or other folks who partake in this community care network, investing emotionally in relationships is going to be a key part of meeting this need. In fact, emotional energy and work are going to be key in meeting any need, from the physical, mental, or material, and in both intragenerational and intergenerational spaces. So, in the context of our community as a whole, how do we engage in care-related work while still keeping in touch with ourselves? And, how do we create transformational, not transactional, relationships that actively (re-)energize us?

While I am still in process with many of these open-ended questions, I think much of the answer lies in the idea of living interdependently. Interdependence asks for vulnerability in communicating your own and listening to others’ needs. An interdependent community care network should be multi-directional and should reinforce each individual’s personal agency as a receiver and giver of care, resources, and labor. This can mean fighting for opportunities for elders to create their own systems of care, while encouraging organizers to pave their personal paths to healing. In either case, an intense dedication to community relationships can also be an intense dedication to oneself; it is our responsibility to do this for ourselves, and to make sure those around us are doing it too (to the extent that we have the capacity to do so).

Community care should ultimately be a renewable resource, for all of the movements, communities, and spaces we are a part of. While I can’t say with much concreteness yet what this looks like day-to-day, I believe in our power as a community to create it. I leave you with a few questions to imagine with:

  • In an ideal community, what does caring for each other feel and look like, physically, emotionally, materially, and beyond?
  • In what ways do community care and personal care intertwine, and how do we make space for all of it?
  • How can we reframe the contradictions in our lives/communities as opportunities for learning and growth?

Thank you for joining in this process and growing with me.

Image description: Six interns and two APIENC staff members take a selfie outside. They are making faces at the camera.

Image description: Six interns and two APIENC staff members take a selfie outside. They are making faces at the camera.

Bringing it Home: Reflections on NQAPIA’s Regional Summit

Picture Description: Lina speaks into megaphone with her left hand up while Sasha W holds megaphone.

Photo Description: On the left, Lina speaks into megaphone with her left hand up while Sasha W, NQAPIA organizer on the right, holds a megaphone.

For me, going home usually means anxiety. I’m not talking about general nervousness and a jittery stomach – when I go home, I usually have to spend the next day in bed, physically ill. Fresno, the city I grew up in, has historically been a place of pollution, suburbia, and conservative values that vehemently reject so many parts of who I am. And yet, home has always been a place of longing; I have seen the love and support this community can have, if only for a select few. I’ve always wanted to feel like I could drop by, sit a spell, and rest in all the ways I need.

This summer, I came back home again, but under slightly different circumstances. NQAPIA’s (the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance’s) regional summit was held in Fresno, and for the first time in my life, I saw hordes of people who were API, and queer… in Fresno. For the first time in my life, I met API parents of queer kids, who shared their stories of love and acceptance, and who continue to show up in all the ways they can. We built skills around creating better systems of care, identifying leadership types, and organizing direct actions. Then, we took them to the streets, marching in Clovis and demanding that Senator Devin Nunes reject the RAISE Act, which would extensively reduce the number of legal immigration to the US. Although Nunes himself didn’t show up, the community did – many people honked their support as they drove past, and took flyers when we hailed them down.

Technically, marching in the streets, doing interviews, and organizing mass actions are not new to me; I’ve organized in the Bay for my entire college career. However, this action hit close to home, literally. I saw support from a city I never thought I could come out to. It wasn’t all rosy; we saw Trump signs on the way here, and more than a few disdainful looks from people nearby, but I expected that. I never expected to see so many of my queer Asian American family members causing a ruckus full of love, song, pain, and joy. I never expected to see so many people from my hometown in full support of it. With the support of my APIENC crew, and the new family I found at NQAPIA, I was able to reclaim and rebuild my relationship with the physical space that I called home.

NQAPIA changed my entire perspective on what is possible, and where it is possible. I know how deeply this work impacted me, and because of that, I ask you to consider: what is the work that you want to do, and where does it most need to happen? Organizing in the Bay Area is critical for maintaining and growing spaces of freedom and joy, AND it is just as critical to consider those who are in less welcoming places, those who live their truths through more covert means. When you are able, show up for them too. When I go home, I still get anxiety, and I still get sick – there’s uneasiness in my stomach, but now, there’s a small pang of hope, too.

Daily Acts of Resistance – A NEW Dragon Fruit Project Zine!

Image description: A preview of the center page of the 3rd Dragon Fruit Project Zine. Background graphic is orange with overlayed text and graphics such as "What keeps us alive?"

Image description: A preview of the center page of the 3rd Dragon Fruit Project Zine. Background graphic is orange with overlayed text and graphics such as “What keeps us alive?”

This summer saw the release of the 3rd Dragon Fruit Project (DFP) Zine! For those unfamiliar, a zine, shortened from fanzine or magazine, is a self-published work often featuring original texts and images that give voice to those outside of the mainstream. It also serves to visualize important issues and promotes freedom of self expression. The theme of the 3rd DFP Zine is Daily Acts of Resistance, showcasing community art on how we resist and heal through the dissemination of queer and trans API stories.

The zine effort was lead by APIENC summer intern, Ralph Leano Atanacio. His individual project for the summer was DFP Quality Control and Dissemination. This included doing quality control on DFP interviews, while also coming up with a dissemination plan to further visibilize DFP and amplify the hxstories of the people featured in DFP. Thus, the 3rd DFP zine was born.

Ralph shared some of his own reflections about the importance of the zine and the process of compiling the content:

“I think the zine is important because it allows us to further share the amazing content within the DFP. It makes the DFP more accessible than it already is by combining visual and written art to highlight the transformative power of reading the hxstories of our people. The DFP zines bridge the gap between the stories and the reader by making tangible the guidance, healing, and inspiration that people take away from learning about the people who reside in these interviews. It helps those unfamiliar with DFP to be able to imagine and envision what they can personally get out of these interviews for themselves and for their own communities.

When I was assigned the task of making a zine, I did not know what a zine was, much less how to pronounce it. Through the help of people in the APIENC Community, I was able to really learn the ins and outs of what a zine is, who it is for, and what the zine making process looks like. I was very anxious to see if people would respond and contribute to the zine, but the first submission took that anxiety away. The first submission exceeded my expectations and really made me look forward to what people will come up with. It was powerful and raw and I was moved. Leaning into the uncertainty of what art will be created made me hopeful. These are truths people will bare, and I felt special knowing that they want to share a piece of themselves to a greater public.“

Check out the zine online here.

We’re Still Here, We’re Still Struggling, and We’re Still Fighting: Reflections from Trans March

Group of APIENC-affiliated folks posing on a street corner with fists up and holding up signs at this year's Trans March

Group of APIENC-affiliated folks posing on a street corner with fists up and holding up signs at this year’s Trans March

This past month, APIENC, along with Gabriela-SF, ieumsae, and VietUnity organized a trans, queer, and allied Asian and Pacific Islander Contingent for Trans March. Our contingent was 200+ people strong. Avery, core member of APIENC’s Trans Justice Working Group and part of the community safety security team at this year’s Trans March, reflects on why it is important to them to march every year.

Trans March has always been the only piece of Pride celebrations that I look forward to. The parade and the parties stress me out because they don’t feel like they’re for the queer community, especially the most vulnerable of us within that community. So many amazing people are doing the work of organizing and supporting the livelihoods of TGNC (transgender and gender non-conforming), black and brown communities, and struggle to help us get free.

Trans March feels like the space where we can acknowledge that work being done every other month out of the year. The parties and parade—with corporate sponsorship, increasing flashiness, and gimmicks—don’t uplift that work. At Trans March we can show up and say, “we’re still here, we’re still struggling, and we’re still fighting.”

This year was only my second Trans March and it was again a beautiful experience. But, it felt very different because I was part of the security team for our contingent. It was incredibly rewarding to be trained as part of the team keeping us safe, if only for those couple of hours. Police were present alongside the march, but being able to act as mitigator between them and our people was empowering.

I’m looking forward to marching with my TGNC family as long as I can, because at the end of that day, I know we’re doing all we can to support each other’s healing and liberation. I feel the community, I feel the joy when we’re in streets together.

Avery Nguyen is a queer and trans descendant of the Vietamerican diaspora, hanging on by a thread to their first home, San Francisco. They are the sugar uncle to three dog nephews, and are currently trying to find their place in the movement. You can read more about Avery here.

A Story of Transformation: Give OUT Day 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 10.32.21 PM

Image Description: A happy group of smiling people gathered around a laptop in the CAA Community Room.

On April 20, 2017, over 20 Team APIENC fundraisers and phone-bankers helped engage 248 unique donors and raise over $11,000 for GiveOUT Day. APIENC also placed second in the San Francisco Bay Area Small Budget leaderboard, earning a bonus of $3,000 and bringing the fundraising total to $14,675 (far surpassing the $8,000 goal)! Over 60% of APIENC’s annual budget comes from grassroots fundraising, and this year the funds will go towards powering our upcoming leadership development programs including the summer internship, our summer leadership exchange intensive, a high school training camp, and more!

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 10.32.47 PM

Image Description: A still capture of Sammie Ablaza Wills and MLin smiling on a Google Hangouts with multiple participants during the Give OUT Day Livestream.

The fundraising committee and a number of superstars helped make GiveOUT day happen: from to training our team of volunteers, to setting up the phonebanking HQ, to getting the word out through social media, and more! Michelle Wang, a Core Committee member, shared some reflections from their first GiveOUT Day fundraising experience:

“This was my first time actively fundraising for an organization and cause that resonated with me personally. I was definitely nervous about reaching out to people and made the commitment to participate as a way to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. Thanks to some incredible coaching, it also gave me an opportunity to reflect and refocus on the values that brought me to volunteer with APIENC in the first place: commitment to community, compassion, and self truth. I ended up doing much of my outreach in the days before GiveOUT Day, writing emails and sending text messages to family and friends. I only made a few calls on the day of the phone bank, but much of the anxiety and hesitation I had previously experienced had already melted away as responses from family, friends, and coworkers rolled in. The conversations that I was afraid of having never materialized and  I was incredibly humbled by the tremendous support that poured in and helped me surpass my fundraising goal.” – Michelle Wang

In case you missed out on some of the festivities on April 20 and want a chance to relive the magic, you’re in luck! It was APIENC’s fourth year participating in GiveOUT Day, but it was the very FIRST year of GiveOUT Day livestreams! Filmed and broadcast in real time directly from APIENC headquarters during the daylong phonebank, you can now catch the archives on the APIENC Youtube channel to learn even more about our summer interns, initiatives that are yet to come, what your horoscope means, and to catch a star-studded line up of APIENC guest stars.