Ethan Li

January 7, 2019
Image description: Ethan stands indoors, smiling at the camera and holding a small whiteboard that reads: "I dream of resilient, safe, and interdependent queer & trans Asian & Pacific Islander communities everywhere."

Image description: Ethan stands indoors, smiling at the camera and holding a small whiteboard that reads: “I dream of resilient, safe, and interdependent queer & trans Asian & Pacific Islander communities everywhere.”

JAN 2019 | ETHAN LI

Ethan is a queer and nonbinary Chinese+Taiwanese American who grew up in the Midwest. They are a graduate student working on bioengineering research at Stanford while also building queer community:

Transitioning into my program while I’m still early in the process of navigating my relationship with gender has been challenging, but I’m gradually finding other non-binary grad students in engineering with similar struggles. I hope we can work together to make more space for each other, and for future students, so that everyone can bring our complete selves into these spaces more fully.

With APIENC, Ethan has been a dedicated volunteer on the Dragon Fruit Project Committee. They focus on proofreading and publishing the Dragon Fruit Project’s oral history interviews to the online Digital Portal. They also maintain and develop the Digital Portal to help make these oral histories more accessible to everyone. “It’s been rewarding to continue the years of community effort which have gone into this project, and I’m excited as we continue fulfilling the visions for the project,” shares Ethan.

Ethan grew up in the suburbs of the Metro Detroit Area in Michigan, where there was a lack of access to queer Asian role models, narratives, or community. This made it difficult to imagine a future they belonged in. When they came to the Bay Area for undergrad at Stanford, they got involved in student groups focusing separately on queer liberation & trans justice, Asian American issues, and queer Asian community building. Ethan describes how these experiences politicized them and brought them to volunteer with APIENC:

These experiences politicized me and pushed me to do a lot of learning and growth, but I also engaged with them by pushing and stretching myself in an unsustainable way. After some personal crises, I realized how far I was past my limits and how important it is to learn to practice personal and collective care. I also had started volunteering with APIENC at their Dragon Fruit Project Working Days to transcribe the oral history interviews they had recorded. Because of this, I got to hear queer Asians and Pacific Islanders from previous generations talk about how they had navigated their identities and built communities from the ground up. Hearing these histories helped me to recognize our ties to the legacies of folks who’ve come before us and made our lives and communities more possible, and the legacies we’re building for the people who will come after us. And as I’ve started getting more involved with APIENC, I’m grateful for the ways we hold each other as people and practice interdependence, vulnerability, and growth.

One of their favorite moments with APIENC was at a Dragon Fruit Project Committee meeting. Before the meeting, everyone cooked and ate lunch together by improvising from the ingredients they had on hand.

Ethan hopes that one day there will be resilient, interdependent, and accountable LGBTQ API communities everywhere, and that all of our communities will be in coalition and interwoven with other communities across differences.