Thanks to our Ancestors: Reflections from Trans March 2018

Image description: APIENC Summer Organizers and volunteers raise their hands in the air, Julie in the center, smiling

Hello everyone! My name is Julie Le and I use they/them pronouns. I am a Vietnamese and Southeast Asian American rooted in Oakland to refugees from the Vietnam War. This summer, I am an APIENC summer organizer and I’m work with VietUnity towards coalition building and membership engagement.

For me, I’ve always thought of community as being surrounded by people that are willing to be present with me. People who will share space, experiences, vulnerabilities, and hold my voice. For me, community never felt like something tangible in the world, because everything felt so hopeless. The violence and trauma that has been inflicted onto trans and queer Asian and Pacific Islanders deterred me from understanding and accepting my identities. But that changed when I got the opportunity to take part in Trans March 2018. This year was my first experience with Trans March and Pride itself, and it proved to be an empowering experience. Before, Pride always felt like an event for capitalistic America, and something I did not relate to, or want to take part of. It wasn’t until after I understood the history and origins of the Trans March and Pride that I felt a connection to my queer identity and a connection to the community that gathered to fight for the same cause: trans justice.

Image description: 4 individuals carry the APIENC contingent’s banner at Trans March 2018. The banner reads, “We’re Asians and Pacific Islanders, Trans and Proud.

The most awe-striking moment of the day for me was when everyone was gathered right before the march. Looking around, I saw people that looked like me. I saw other queer and trans Asians and Pacific Islanders present and ready to make our voices and presence heard. as the people before us had. From learning the history of Trans March, to thinking about our own contingent starting with 30 people, to being surrounded by nearly 300, I was incredibly amazed at the power our ancestors have given us. The banner we carried read, “We’re Asians and Pacific Islanders, Trans and Proud,” a throwback to the “We’re Asians, Gay and Proud” banner that dates back to the 1980 issue of Gay Insurgent (click here to watch the story behind the photo!). I felt so connected in the ways that people before us, with less resources and access, were able to be resilient to pave the way for us today to exist. Back then, our ancestors were still able to create spaces for themselves through media, presence, community spaces, and so much more, even when there was a higher risk of danger to their lives. Being able to be present at Trans March, I felt connected in the strength and energy that was passed down for our APIENC contingent to be there and take that space. Looking around, I saw folks that were older than me and folks that could’ve been my uncles, aunties, or elders in another space. There we were, together in unison, fighting for Trans and Queer Liberation. It was an honor to be in a space that so many people have fought with their literal lives to create, and to be with so many other people that carry the same passion and resiliency to continue this legacy of resistance.

I was incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of people, and the air of resiliency and strength that everyone seemed to carry with them. This empowered me to be present. In that moment, I realized that my existence matters. Our existence matters, and no one can take that away from us. As much as people try to hold us down and keep us from being heard, we resist. We continue to push forward to create a space for us and the people after us.

It really meant a lot to me as I was able to share the space of APIENC and Trans March with my younger sibling. I’m the first in my immediate family to explore my queerness in relation to my Vietnamese identity and this has been a difficult journey. In relation to my present day and my history, I was never given the opportunity to explore various issues that are important to my existence. Sharing Trans March with my younger sibling meant a lot to me because I wanted to be able to give them the resources and opportunity to explore their identities and be able to develop their sense of self without restrictions from our parents or without feeling like it was wrong to explore their identity. We marched together, holding the Viet Unity banner, and in that moment I felt so powerful and so connected to my sibling in a way I couldn’t have been able to elsewhere. Through Trans March and through my work as an organizer, my sibling and I shared space, vulnerability, and the resources to explore ourselves and our identities together so neither of us would feel alone. For me, Trans March represents not just the present, but reflects an image of the past and an image of the future. The work we are doing to create communities that advocate, educate, and frankly, aggravate to be heard and represented isn’t something newly created. This space is made possible by those that risked so much before us and is something that will continue to be made so those after us won’t have to.

The work we do and the presence we hold is powerful not only in the movement building we do, but in the spaces we create to heal, rest, and build relationships amongst one another. We do this work to build a true community, created by us and for us.

Image description: A panoramic group photo of APIENC’s Trans March 2018 contingent. Visible banners read, “We’re Asians and Pacific Islanders, Trans and Proud” and “Honor our dead, fight like hell for the living.”

Medha Asthana

Image description: APIENC volunteer Medha smiles at camera while sitting outdoors on a curb, head slightly tilted, with elbow on knee.

MEDHA is a volunteer and Core member of APIENC! Medha Asthana identifies as a queer Indian American, born in India and raised in the Midwest and the SF Bay Area.

Outside of APIENC, Medha is an Organizer at Californians for Justice. They work with high school students in East San Jose, empowering student as leaders of educational and racial justice in schools. This includes leadership development, base building, and political education. Medha really enjoys getting to facilitate and write curriculum, especially about QTPOC resilience, in which they get to center and ground students in their own personal story. It has been exciting and fulfilling for them to bring along students who have never been exposed to queer and trans livelihoods.

During Medha’s junior year of college, they studied abroad in Santiago, Chile and saw police repression and radical leftist student organizing for the first time. After coming back and graduating, they started community organizing with other POC. Upon return to the Bay Area, Medha started looking for a political home and found APIENC through a Direct Action Training. They first volunteered with last summer’s Leadership Exchange (LEX). Since then, Medha describes APIENC as a place of great growth where they feel really held and welcome. They now make the trip up to San Francisco from San Jose almost every other weekend. Medha has also worked with the Korean Resource Center and attended Bay Area Solidarity Summer, a South Asian political action camp. They have also done grassroots organizing in their hometown of Cupertino, pushing the community and the school board to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive and comprehensive sex ed curriculum.

Medha hopes that the LGBTQ API community can bring our full selves to the forefront of our lives and assert ourselves unapologetically and compassionately. In the API community, family is so important — whether given or chosen. Since so many of us struggle with existing in the in-between spaces and finding our places (both in and outside the movement), their greatest hope is for everyone to find and create and develop a family that sees us for who we are and welcomes all.

Medha’s favorite APIENC memory was the last Core Meeting that they facilitated with Ralph. They appreciated how everything worked out with so many folks pitching in, and felt honored and blessed to be part of a team that is taking on challenges with full-hearted care and investment for the work and each other. APIENC is a place where Medha feels grounded in value-based, intersectional, and close-knit community organizing that keeps them feeling okay in the rest of the world. For them, it’s a space where no one is being questioned, interrogated, or misunderstood.

Fun Fact: Medha can lift their right toe at a 90 degree angle! Ask them to show you next time you see them!

Skate with your fellow APIENC-ERS!


Learn How to Skateboard: Beginner’s Basic 101 with Lorl and Yams

BYOB: It’s bring your own board event!
Who: Everyone and all levels but centering queer trans folx beginners!
What: Learn how to skateboard (this entails the basics!)
Where: Golden Gate Park! (at the skatin’ place near 8th and Fulton)
When: Sunday, July 15, 2018 (1-5pm)
*yis, the rumors is true – there will be a raffle for limited edition APIENC merch.

Join APIENC’s Think Tank and Action Cohort (TTAC) on Climate Justice!

Image description: background is a vast lake surrounded by trees and a big sun with some fluffy clouds in the sky. The text reads: APIENC Think Tank and Action Cohort on CLIMATE JUSTICE | Thur. 7/12, 6:30pm-8:30pm, 17 Walter U Lum Pl, SF | RSVP: bit.ly/attac2018

Come join our APIENC Think Tank and Action Cohort (TTAC) on Climate Justice!
Who’s invited: Asian and Pacific Islanders LGBTQ people of all ages and genders
When: Thursday, July 12, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Where: APIENC, 17 Walter U Lum Plaza, SF (12-15 minute walk from Montgomery Bart, 3-5 min walk from nearby bus stops 1, 8, and 30)
Food: Please bring a food item to share!

➡ RSVP Here: bit.ly/attac2018

Access: Venue is wheelchair accessible, and has gender-neutral bathrooms. Please come fragrance free! This includes scented products. More details available here: http://www.eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/fragrancefree.html

Asians and Pacific Islanders and other indigenous people and communities of color in the U.S. and around the world are disproportionately impacted by climate change. APIENC is building a community of Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ folks to think together, build community, and figure out where and how to plug into the local, national, and global conversation!

In September 2018, activists, government officials, and industry leaders will gather in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Grassroots communities across the nation are organizing to ensure that the summit is representative of those most impacted by climate disaster: people of color, indigenous communities, poor folks, and queer and trans communities. Leading up to the Summit will be a variety of marches, meetings, workshops, and gatherings on topics ranging from racism and indigenous issues to impacts on women, young people, and labor.

Email Alma Soongi Beck (almasoongi@gmail.com) for more info.

March with us! Trans March 2018

Image description: Text reads "Asians and Pacific Islanders at Trans March 2018. Save the date: Friday June 22nd. Program: 5-6 pm March 6-8 pm RSVP: bit.ly/qtapiTM2018" Text is overlayed over 2017 contingent photo.

Image description: Text reads “Asians and Pacific Islanders at Trans March 2018.
Save the date: Friday June 22nd. Program: 5-6 pm March 6-8 pm RSVP: bit.ly/qtapiTM2018″ Text is overlayed over 2017 contingent photo.

Join APIENC (API Equality – Northern California), along with Third World Resistance for this year’s Trans March on Friday 6/22 to chant, march, and fight for liberation with trans, gender nonconforming, and allied API people! We want to show up to Trans March 2018 as a powerful contingent committed to fighting for justice and liberation of our trans communities. Fighting for justice and liberation of our trans people means that trans people have access to what they need to feel full and empowered in the world, whether it’s our legal rights, housing, healthcare, healing, and more.

In addition to the march, we’ll also be holding pre-march events to build community, get educated, and make art. Save the date for our Trans March teach-in, art build, and security training: Sunday, June 17th from 1-5pm at 955 7th St, Oakland, CA 94607 (10-15 min walk from West Oakland Bart). If you need carpool or assistance in getting to this location, RSVP HERE to let us know you’re coming and to receive updates up till the march. Invite your friends too: http://bit.ly/qtapiTM2018

MARCH INFO

DATE: Friday, June 22nd
TIME: Meet at 5 pm, street march 6-8 pm
WHERE: Contingent location around Dolores Park will be confirmed the week of Trans March

Access Info for March
Length of march: 2 miles (1-2 hour walk), from Dolores Park to Market to Taylor and Turk Streets. Please come fragrance free! This includes scented products. More details available here: http://www.eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/fragrancefree.html

Don’t forget to let us know you’re coming! We hope to see you there.

William Alvites

William, center, smiles at the camera.

WILLIAM is a member of our Trans Justice working group and has been involved with APIENC for over six months now, helping form trans&gnc specific spaces. William was actively involved in organizing our first ever Trans&GNC Rights and Empowerment Day, where he presented his very first workshops ever (!), helped organize the clothing swap, and supported a lot of event outreach. 

William identifies as a first generation queer trans Filipinx Peruvian person of color and currently works part-time as a Library Assistant at the San Francisco Public Library. He is attending San Jose State University’s Masters in Library and Information Science. If that wasn’t impressive enough, William also manages a grassroots organization, Across Gender, of which he is the founder and director.

William’s passion is outreaching to marginalized folx within the trans and gender variant communities. He started out by opening up about his identities on social media, in the hopes that his story would reach others in similar situations. One pivotal memory William shared was when he reached out to a few trans folx of color to share an intimate meet-up to exchange stories and experiences. At the end of this meet-up, a young person pulled William aside and thanked him: “As a person who has been medically transitioning for 2 years and knowing I’ve been trans since the age of 4, this is the first time in my life I have ever felt like I belonged.” Out of the life experiences that have impacted William’s life and work, this one experience really stood out.

“When I understood my identity as a biracial, first generation, queer, trans person of color I asked myself, ‘Where do I fit?’ and ‘Where do I belong?’. In life, especially while socially and medically transitioning, I never really felt I belonged in certain spaces, like puzzle pieces that didn’t quite fit,” says William.

William soon realized how lonely transitioning as a person of color can be and the toll it can take mentally and emotionally. When he reached out to trans people of color, especially youth, they often talked about this unique feeling of loneliness, hollowness, and emotional pain. Across Gender came to fruition because William wanted to create a space in which people can look into other people’s experiences, stories, and faces to validate and inform their own exploration of their identity, without forgetting their own experiences of themselves in the world.

William’s hopes for the future of the LGBTQ API community are “as we continue creating these spaces, the conversations, and pushing through boundaries, we also carry our history and roots along with us.

When asked why he volunteers with APIENC, William shared, “That’s simple, the people . . . MLin and Sammie are, hands down, the most hardworking and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” William also volunteers with Gender Spectrum where he works with trans and gender variant youth to provide a safe space for them to connect with others, share their experience, and feel the comfort of a supportive community.

Fun Fact! William is starting a YouTube series exploring all the haunted places in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Creating Liberation Together: Reflections from TGNC Rights & Empowerment Day

Seated workshop participants and facilitators during the TGNC Rights & Empowerment Day.

On March 24th, 2018 our Trans Justice Working Group facilitated APIENC’s first Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Rights and Empowerment Day (RED)! We made space for a whole day centering our TGNC Asian and Pacific Islander community, full of workshops that emphasized our rights, healthcare, and empowerment. At the event, we prepared an art and zine station, shared food catered by QTViet Cafe, and a held a clothing swap held by Across Gender. With over 50 TGNC API participants and allies, we celebrated ourselves, built community, and shared knowledge.

To be honest, I had work scheduled [on this day] and I didn’t know until the day before that my shift would end at 11 am. I sincerely thought I was going to miss out on something beautiful and magical that our Trans Justice Working Group made happen. Speaking of our working group, we’ve recently had new folx join our group and they willingly threw in their skills and connections to make this day happen. Shout out to Karlon, William, and Junior! 🙂 I feel rejuvenated knowing that we have more friends and comrades creating and visioning together.

A workshop facilitator from Critical Resistance charts for the Creating a Safety Plan & Abolishing the Police workshop.

Witnessing the day happen from start to finish made me feel the power of our people, and the power of our stories.Throughout the day, whether at workshops, through art, clothing, or food, we talked about the struggles of our time (binders! how can we make safer spaces!) and shared our tools for creating liberation (making safety plans, recipes for healing, talking to our families about our truth) which felt rejuvenating and healing all at the same time. Our stories matter. And they are so valuable. Especially hearing from the trans elders in the room, it made me realize “damn, I too can live that long — so be strong and keep on.

For me, trans justice means honoring the work of those who came before us — trans women of color like Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — and continue their legacy of liberation. Liberation also means collective healing. We face violence on many levels and we are all connected by this fight for our existence. We have to remember to rest to resist too! I’m so happy that we provided a space where our TGNC folx can come together and honor our growing trans selves and community.

We need these reminders that we are a large community and we aren’t alone. Hopefully, there will be more days where we can come together learn, eat, build and renew.

If you want to hear more about our experience planning for this TGNC Rights & Empowerment Day, check out William’s volunteer spotlight!