Ethan Li

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.

Sharing our Learnings: APIENC’s Transformation with the Wildfire Project

Mioi Hanaoka (she/they) has been a long-time supporter and member of APIENC. She is currently part of APIENC’s Communications and Core Committees. As a member of Core, Mioi took part in APIENC’s set of retreats with the Wildfire Project over the course of 2018. Here is her reflection about the process.

Image description: APIENC Core, staff and Wildfire Facilitators (17 people total), pose in a group photo indoors, in front of big windows, smiling at the camera.

Image description: APIENC Core, staff and Wildfire Facilitators (17 people total), pose in a group photo indoors, in front of big windows, smiling at the camera.

Over the course of 2018, APIENC worked with the Wildfire Project—a team of social movement facilitators who fully committed themselves to helping APIENC grow and transform into being a stronger and more sustainable organization. Wildfire Project does more than just training and facilitation; they focus on supporting social movements to thrive and navigate rapidly changing external conditions. As part of the process we held three retreats, each spanning three days (Friday-Sunday), where the three Wildfire facilitators, APIENC staff and APIENC Core members engaged in tough questions and began new practices in order to create cultural shifts within the organization.

Some people might not be familiar with APIENC’s structure. In addition to the two full-time staff people (Sammie and Jasmin), the Core Committee is a collective of individuals rooted in the impact of our initiatives, and who are involved with the day-to-day work of the organization. Staff and Core co-create APIENC’s long-term direction and programs.

Image description: 4 members of APIENC Core stand facing the camera in the CAA community room presenting a flipchart with the heading "Responsibility"

Image description: 4 members of APIENC Core stand facing the camera in the CAA community room presenting a flipchart with the heading “Responsibility”

During the first retreat, we connected with our ancestors. We collectively reflected on our values and worked on an APIENC timeline, identifying key moments of change, both internally and externally. All of this helped ground us in the hard work that was ahead of us. Through this work at the first retreat, I witnessed a very important pivot. So many of us went into the year without an understanding of the purpose of Core. When we asked ourselves what our purpose was, we realized how much disconnect there was between Core and staff. We weren’t standing on common ground and we didn’t have a shared understanding of APIENC’s goal.

During this retreat, we witnessed a candid discussion between MLin and Sammie, the two staff at the time. Through their sharing and tears, I began to understand the weight of everything they were holding. It was extremely hard and emotional to see. MLin and Sammie reached their limit and were getting burnt out, not necessarily in the amount of work but in the weight of the work and responsibility of the entire community on their shoulders. If nothing changed, APIENC’s future was at stake.

In order to actualize our long term vision of liberation, we realized our work and structures have to be more sustainable in the ways that Core takes on ownership, responsibility and exercises collective agency. We had to distribute the actual work involved. Over the course of the first retreat, we collectively came to the understanding that every decision we make should bring us closer to our goal of liberation. We called it keeping our “eye on the prize.”

By the second retreat, we had established some new shared practices and further worked on what the structure of Core looked like. We reflected on this prompt: “Because APIENC is trying to _____, the purpose of Core is ____. Core members’ role in that is _____. Staff members’ role in that is ______.” Each Core member committed to our own individual practices, and Core as a group committed to shared practices. For example, we would be responsible for organizing and facilitating the quarterly potlucks. We started running meetings, as Core, on a monthly basis to discuss and assess APIENC’s work within each subcommittee and how they connect to the larger goal’s of APIENC. We started taking ownership over the challenges, successes, and goals of the organization. Rather than the weight being on two staff people, we eased the load by collectively holding it together.

Image description: 6 people with their backs to the camera are looking at a wall of flipcharts and post-it notes during the 3rd Wildfire Retreat.

Image description: 6 people with their backs to the camera are looking at a wall of flipcharts and post-it notes during the 3rd Wildfire Retreat.

The third and last retreat took place at the magical Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. One of the goals of this retreat was to solidify APIENC’s goals for 2019. The Wildfire facilitators guided us through an exercise that allowed us to think about where APIENC should focus our work, especially when taking into account external (political, economic) conditions. We asked ourselves hard questions about strategy: What are real solutions? What are false solutions? What is politically realistic? This exercise helped us understand where APIENC should be in the larger context of movement work. We also asked ourselves hard questions about accountability: What does it mean to be rigorous in the work? How do we hold each other as people, beyond our productivity? What does it mean to feel held in belonging?

Reflecting on the retreats, it wasn’t all logistics and structural conversations. I can assure you that the retreats were exhausting. They were only effective if we brought all of ourselves and all of our energy into the space. There was laughter, moments of introspection, moments of doubt and inspiration, moments of tears, and moments where we questioned if there was enough trust among ourselves to do the work. Core is comprised of 12 individuals (plus staff). We are all in different places, lead our own separate lives, and have varying levels of capacity. So sometimes it is challenging to remain focused and dedicated to our new shared practices as a group.

I’m still sitting with the uncomfortable fact that Core’s structure is still a work in progress. There are still questions left unanswered, but at least we know what the goal is. At least we know what is at stake and at least we remain focused on “the prize.”

It is bittersweet that our work with the Wildfire Project has ended. However, we will always remain connected with them and their network of social movement organizations. Our work with the Wildfire Project has left us with the necessary tools to ensure that APIENC continues to grow and transform in a sustainable way. We now know what healthy accountability looks like. We know the importance of grounding ourselves in APIENC’s core values. We know what it takes to achieve our collective goal of liberation. And we now know that in order to achieve this goal, we need to share our learnings with the rest of our community so that we can create meaningful change together, with a sense of purpose and agency.

It is a new year, and I want the APIENC community to think about a prompt that was given to Core members during the 3rd retreat. Fill it out and share it with one other person.

What we really need is _________. What we are protecting our people from is _________. What we believe is possible is ___________. (We = QTAPI people in the Bay Area)

JoJo Ty

Image description: JoJo is leaning against a wall, head tilted slightly and looking at the camera.

Image description: JoJo is leaning against a wall, head tilted slightly and looking at the camera.

JoJo (they/he) is an active APIENC volunteer and community leader. Jojo has brought their expertise on community walking tours to the Dragon Fruit Project Walking Tour and our Trans Justice Committee. More recently, they have helped create the graphics for our GROW Fundraising campaign!

Outside of APIENC, JoJo, who identifies as queer, trans, and Filipinx, is a student at City College of San Francisco and works as a Community Health Worker. JoJo’s own life experiences of navigating personal and institutional challenges have led to who they are today and have influenced their community work. Before APIENC, they were heavily involved in other LGBTQ spaces throughout San Francisco. They learned what resiliency looked like and the power of community by engaging with people of diverse identities and experiences. Those experiences helped JoJo gain a deeper understanding of themself and what it meant to have pride as a queer and trans person of color. JoJo started volunteering with APIENC because they wanted to build community with other QTAPI folx.

JoJo wants to see the LGBTQ API community uplifted through self-empowerment and liberation, especially in a world and in a time that attacks us with hate. Every interaction that JoJo has had, from meeting someone new to getting to know them better, has been memorable since they became involved with APIENC. Through the organization, they have gotten to know many leaders who do awesome work in the community and built meaningful relationships with them.

I’m transforming into a more powerful version of myself. Will you join me?

Image description: Jasmin is smiling and looking up.

Image description: Jasmin is smiling and looking up.

This is Jasmin Hoo, the new Community Organizer at APIENC. In this past month since I’ve started, I’ve been asked to reimagine what community care and accountability look like, stretched to practice new organizing skills, and encouraged to confront my own personal shadows that are standing between me and liberation. Everyday I literally feel myself transforming into a more powerful version of who I am. I am honored to be learning, growing and building with all of you, our APIENC community. APIENC is exactly the kind of community I needed when I first moved to San Francisco in 2005 and was exploring my own queer identity. Back then, I didn’t have any API queer and trans friends and mentors to safely explore and affirm my identity with. I didn’t have the opportunity to connect my personal liberation with the liberation of all. I didn’t have APIENC. Alone, it took longer for me to find myself, build my community, and feel empowered enough to be a leader in this work. Now, as the Community Organizer for APIENC, I am grateful to play a part in cultivating an intergenerational community of healing, growth and transformation.

This past year, APIENC has grown tremendously. From our 9th cohort of Summer Organizers, to our 300+ person Trans March contingent, to the launch of our Dragon Fruit Walking Tour—our community is abundant. Yet, political violence, xenophobia, gentrification, and transphobia are still hurting and isolating our people all the time. Now is the time for us to continue to rise up and grow new futures.

Jasmin is outdoors at a community garden holding a box of dead plant material while smiling toward the camera.

Jasmin is outdoors at a community garden holding a box of dead plant material while smiling toward the camera.

This is the final stretch of our annual fall fundraising campaign “grow: ourselves, our communities, our movements.” By Sunday, Nov. 18th, we need to raise $15,000 to ensure that our work continues. I am reaching out to you, our community, to ensure that APIENC can continue to be home for trans, non-binary, and queer API people to fight for the liberation of all. Will you support me by donating $30 by Nov. 18th, to grow ourselves, our communities, and our movements?

Here’s how you can grow with us:

Please also RSVP to our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch happening Sunday, November 18th in Oakland!

Love and solidarity,
Jasmin Hoo
APIENC Community Organizer

grow: ourselves, our communities, our movements

Image description: A graphic featuring a large tree with many pink fruits. Text reads “#growAPIENC, grow with APIENC: ourselves, our communities, our movements.”

Image description: A graphic featuring a large tree with many pink fruits. Text reads “#growAPIENC, grow with APIENC: ourselves, our communities, our movements.”

From November 1 – 18, grow with APIENC!

This Fall, we need to raise $15,000 to continue growing our work. From our 9th cohort of Summer Organizers, to our 300+ person Trans March contingent, to the launch of our Dragon Fruit Walking Tour, our work continues to reflect the abundance of our communities. We need YOUR help to make sure it continues. Can you donate $30 today?

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/apienc
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/apienc
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/apienc

graphic by Jojo Ty and Tori (@altoriego) !♥

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

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.)

Nancy Chen

Image description: Nancy is outside, smiling toward the camera. She is wearing a red floral shirt. In back of her is a pond with plantlife growing in it.

Image description: Nancy is outside, smiling toward the camera. She is wearing a red floral shirt. In back of her is a pond with plantlife growing in it.

Nancy Chen (she/her) has been volunteering with APIENC since 2015. She started off transcribing for the Dragon Fruit Project and joined the Core committee in 2017, APIENC’s leadership body. Nancy identifies as queer and non-binary.

Outside of APIENC, Nancy works with elementary and middle schoolers at the Chinatown YMCA, just up the block from the APIENC office! Back in her high school years, Nancy was involved with the youth program at the Chinatown Community Development Center and was previously involved with Reading Partners doing literacy work with children. Nancy aspired to be a freelance writer, so she studied English Literature at Smith College and graduated back in 2015. While looking for work as a freelance writer, Nancy did admin work but found it challenging. Eventually, she realized she missed being in Chinatown, so she decided to shift her work back to her community. She’s dabbled in some arts/arts education non-profit work around SF and been around the Chinatown community in various capacities. Her experience helped politicize her understanding around access to affordable housing and safe living conditions for low-income immigrant families. Nancy found herself doing an AmeriCorps term at the Y, and now she is here!

When Nancy started volunteering with APIENC, she was a “smol bb queer” and super scared of joining because that meant coming to terms with her queerness. She was tasked with transcribing a Dragon Fruit Project interview for the very first time. Nancy remembers how it was really impactful to transcribe someone’s story. That interview resonated so deeply with her own experiences and helped her realize that she made the right choice in filling out that volunteer interest form. Nancy’s love of APIENC has continued on to this day! She loves fighting for collective liberation, celebrating resilience and being in community with wonderful folks who share these values. Her hopes for the LGBTQ API community are that we continue thriving.

Want to know a fun fact about Nancy? Here are three! Nancy is a Virgo and a Hufflepuff. Also, she really doesn’t like Oreos.