Official Letter of Concern Follow-up with Boston Pride

The QAPA leadership was invited to a meeting with Boston Pride to discuss our concerns and hear our criticisms. In attendance were 7 representatives from QAPA, QSAC, and MTPC, all part of the Queer Asian community of Boston as well as 2 Boston Pride board members.  We delivered the list of the following four demands to Boston Pride of which they were verbally amenable to.  

Meeting with Boston Pride (6/1/17, 4:30pm)

Location: Boston Pride Office, Boston, MA

Our Demands—

We demand that Boston Pride publicly issue an apology for the harmful impact of their actions on the transgender community and works to ensure their actions in the future do not perpetuate harm and instead celebrate transgender people of all genders and backgrounds. 

Boston Pride (6/2/17): http://www.bostonpride.org/2017/06/message-to-our-community/

We demand that Boston Pride publicly use their visibility and access to media to increase community awareness of the November 2018 ballot measure.

We demand that Boston Pride incorporate mandatory trans competency trainings for all current and incoming board members and volunteers, to learn how to be affirming and inclusive of transgender people of all genders. We demand that they recognize and pay transgender people of all genders for their labor in helping them become a culturally competent organization.

We demand that Boston Pride actively recruit transgender people of all genders (and of color) as paid speakers, paid performers and as marshals for Pride 2018 so at least 50% of speakers, performers, and marshals are trans.  

Official Letter of Concern to Boston Pride 2017

Dear Boston Pride,

The Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance is disappointed by Boston Pride’s lack of transparency and accountability to the LGBTQ community and for their lack of understanding and respect of the transgender community.

In April, Boston Pride put out a press release to promote their Stronger Together Rally. Despite the intentions to bring the community together, several poor decisions about the language used contributed to the erasure of the non-binary transgender community and further distanced our communities from each other. Despite receiving feedback about problematic language in their press release, Boston Pride still released their statement saying “We will rally in solidarity with women, with Muslims, with immigrants, with people of color and with our trans brothers and sisters.” This sentence is othering and we expect better from LGBTQ organizations. Non-binary trans people are constantly rendered invisible in discourse even though they are simultaneously hypervisible and targets for harassment, especially non-binary femmes of color. The decision of Boston Pride to issue the press release that renders a large and under recognized portion of the LGBTQ community invisible demonstrates the lack of intentionality and understanding of the transgender community. Although Boston Pride then adjusted the language on their web page, they made no efforts to acknowledge or rectify the harm of contributing to non-binary erasure.

As a small Asian & Pacific Islander focused LGBTQ organization, QAPA understands the importance and visibility of Boston Pride. We are grateful that Boston Pride has reduced the cost of organizations like QAPA to march in the pride parade but continue to be concerned that not all members of our community feel safe or welcome at Boston Pride.

We ask that Boston Pride publicly acknowledges their missteps and works to ensure their actions in the future do not perpetuate harm and instead celebrate transgender people of all genders and backgrounds; only then can we truly be stronger together.

http://bostonspiritmagazine.com/…/boston-pride-to-host-jun…/

http://www.bostonpride.org/rally/

https://patch.com/…/boston-pride-announces-stronger-togethe…

Sincerely,
QAPA Steering Committee

Community Organisations Signed On (updated as received):
Queer South Asian Collective (QSAC) - 5/30/17
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) - 5/31/17
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF) - Boston Chapter - 06/05/17

No strangers

The following remarks were given by QAPA SC member and MTPC SC member, Maxwell on January 14, 2017 at the Queer + Trans Liberation Rally. My name is Maxwell.  I'm here because I also volunteer with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.  We are a grassroots organization that advocates and educates on behalf of the trans and gender non conforming community.  We are led and run by that community, and in 2011 MTPC worked to pass protections for trans folx in credit, housing, employment, and education.  And in July we made a law protects trans folx everywhere else.

But even though we thought we would be able to move on to other real issues, unfortunately for the next two years, we’re going to be forced to defend these protections.  Because almost as soon as we passed the law for BASIC rights, it was put up for a recall vote.

This some bullshit.  Our humanity is not up for a vote.  And it is not subject to the whim of the voter.

But the odds are not in our favor.

Because this is the Trump era.  And now and besides being worried about the safety of myself and my community, I now fear that my grandmother will be denied healthcare.  I fear that my friends will be deported.  I fear what years of permitted racism will do to my soul.

But even in the face of that oppression, I still have privilege.  I have the ability to be stealth and go back into the closet.  I could just fade away.  I would Much rather be sitting on my couch watching Steven Universe.

Which is why I need you.  This beautiful queer community that has always understood equality in all its shades.  Because we are not political footballs.  The rights of me and my family are not up for debate.  They are civil rights.  Unalienable rights.  And oppression knows no boundary.

So I need you to do the one thing that Trump can’t do.  Listen.

Listen to your neighbors.  To your coworkers.  To the person who fixes your car or sits across the aisle in your sociology class.  We need to challenge ourselves and put ourselves back into genuine human connection with the other humans of our world.

Because this is not going to be a fight of legislators and speeches.  This is going to be a fight waged over kitchen tables.  With pie.  Neighbors talking to neighbors.  Listening.  So find that person in the PTA who you’ve never talked to before and invite them over for tea.  Knock on the door of the abuela next door and bring her a slice of pie.  Or make some dumplings and bring them to the church down the street.  I’m serious about the food.  They won’t be able to resist your pie.  Because only a stranger will deny our rights.

Our emotions are just one part of our story.  I am angry.  I am scared. Probably many of you are as well.  I am also a queer trans man of color.  I am a husband, a son and a brother.  I am a volunteer and a coach, a chef and a friend.  We are real human beings who have rich and complex lives.  Swap out your adjective for a noun and find the folds of your intersectionality.  because this is just the beginning and we need all of you.

 

For Pulse in Orlando, for us everywhere

I was in disbelief when my friend told me the news about Orlando's Pulse this morning. It felt surreal, remote. I may struggle with the eloquence others have expressed, but I can at least try. It feels jarring when just yesterday I was at Boston Pride, a moment of community and celebration. Today we mourn.

With 50 confirmed dead and many more injured, there is a wake of many familes and friends who are heartbroken today. What must it feel like if you didn't even know your loved one identified as lgbtq? How many families are reeling in the confusion and hurt of it all? Make no mistake - this was an act of hate. It was a latinx night at Pulse so I can only imagine how many QTPOC lives were lost or in the limbo. What felt so remote, suddenly felt so personal. This could have so easily been me or any of my friends. It has been repeated, but lgbt clubs aren't like "regular" or straight clubs. They are a place where we feel we can feel unpolgetically free, a place of radical self-love and celebration.

I have built my community on the dancefloor. QAPA has organised countless events at clubs, and I've made my share of closest friends at Queeraoke or Milky Way. For someone to violate that kind of sacred space, for someone to steal and hurt so many lives, it is a heartbreaking tragedy with a rippling effect everywhere. Where can we be safe? What does it mean to be safe? Can we ever be safe?

I also want to take this moment to discourage any Islamphobia rhetoric that will consequently make those of that faith unsafe. Many of our LGBTQ+ are also Muslim or Sikh and will be unfairly targeted for how they appear or what they believe. Hate has no religion. Think about all that hurts even more lives than the lives lost at Pulse. For us, Pulse is a visible body count. But the pervasive transphobia, homophobia, police brutality, racist immigration policies, and more takes so many more lives than we can even grasp. To the LGBTQ+ youth that we lose to suicide from immense bullying and in the face of domestic policies that turn the other way. To the QTPOC lives and futures we lose to police brutality, incarceration, or deportation. Just because your politician didn't use a gun doesn't make them less guilty of the blood on their hands.

Please mourn for the lives we lost in Orlando. We will feel this heartbreak, but please also understand this is not a simple incident and it only represents the work that remains for us to do. Hold each other gently, love fiercely, and work hard to make sure this never happens again.

What to do when your own face hates you

So yesterday I watched the Mass House of Representatives debate and ultimately pass HB 1577, a bill we affectionately call the Trans Equal Access Bill. I have worked on this bill for over 6 years, and I have spoken about it at length before. This bill would protect transgender people from discrimination in all public accommodations, a legal term for spaces like libraries, restaurants, hospitals and parks. In short, every place that isn’t your home, workplace or school. Those spaces also sometimes include locker rooms, and often times include bathrooms, so of course it has been derided as “The Bathroom Bill” by the opposition. They argue that predators posing as transgender women would use this bill as a cover to prey on women in bathrooms. They forget that criminal activity perpetrated by anyone in a bathroom is already a crime. But the root of their fear is the passive crimes: peeping or upskirting, and ultimately the most dreadful, exposure of male anatomy in a women’s bathroom.

I sat in the gallery of the state house and watched the parliamentary procedures. It can be a dry process, and this day was long. As guests to the proceedings, the gallery is not permitted to interrupt, cheer, applaud or offer commentary in any form; doing so would be a cause for ejection. This bill was the only thing on the schedule, and it still took 7 hours to go through all THIRTY SIX proposed amendments. I live updated to Facebook for the entirety of the proceedings.

PA-FB image

Most of the 36 amendments were attempts to remove the heart of the bill and limit the basic protections that the legislation provided. With each proposed amendment, an opposing legislator would get up and talk about what is essentially transphobic fear, coupled with a sexist righteousness to be protector of women’s modesty and virtue. After several hours of listening to the rhetoric, I quite frankly became numb to the monotony of white cisgender men droning on, and thankfully, each and every amendment was voted down, and by large margins.

But the board looked way more green than red, and the count was quickly rocketing up.

We picked up a lot of steam once we got to the last few proposed amendments. Speaker DeLeo made a sneaky return (having abdicated several hours of procedural work to his deputy Patricia Haddad) and we cruised into the vote. It happened so fast I almost didn’t realize it was happening. It took confirmation from the vote board turning green to realize THIS WAS THE VOTE. And then it happened. We had expected the vote to pass, because our own polling numbers showed we had more than a majority of votes. But the board looked way more green than red, and the count was quickly rocketing up. The final tally was 116 votes in favor of the bill, and 36 opposed. One hundred and sixteen. That’s TWELVE more than a super majority, and a Governor’s veto, the thing we were all afraid of, was no longer a possibility. In the din of the applause and back slapping, I quickly ran outside, stating “Time to go to work” to my friend James who was sitting in the gallery with me.

Our plan was to form a line and thank the legislators as they exited. To cheer them on for doing the right thing and as they say “stand on the right side of history.” But I came to a screeching halt because the opposition had already beaten us to that exact plan.

A wall of people were standing there, holding signs and chanting “Shame!” to the legislators exiting. I was completely taken aback and afraid of what looked at first glance, like a riotous mob. The signs were pretty vile, they depicted the men’s glyph peering over the bathroom stall wall at the women’s glyph and said “No Bathroom Bill.”

And to my great shame, most of them were East Asian.

Photo by JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

We did our best to drown out their chants of “Shame on you” with our own applause and cheers of “Thank you.” The hall with it's marble finishes quickly became a cacophony of echo. The media was whirring, taking photos and grabbing 10 second interviews from anyone who wanted to step in front of the camera. I saw my friend Bobbi who also serves with me on the MTPC Steering Committee engaging with someone from the opposition. Bobbi, who I have always thought of as a pacifist looked like she was going to strike the man who was forcefully shoving his sign in her face and vacillating back and forth between “You’re confusing." and "You're just confused.” with “what about the children.” I walked over to Bobbi and gently tried to get her to disengage from the confrontation, knowing the lights and cameras were focused on us. Bobbi added “I am a parent too, what about protections for my child” and walked away.

it was very clear that when she thought about the transgender menace, she was not thinking of transmen. And she most certainly wasn’t expecting someone who was East Asian.

The crowd started to thin, and I saw the heart of the opposition and their terrible signs. And then I did the thing that I told all of our constituents not to do. I walked up to one East Asian woman and said “I’m transgender, do you want me to use the women’s room?” The look on her face was alarming. She did not try at all to hide the fact that she was judging me. But it was very clear that when she thought about the transgender menace, she was not thinking of transmen. And she most certainly wasn’t expecting someone who was East Asian.

This was a modern day battlefield.

I squared my body, put my hands in my pockets and locked slanted eye with slanted eye. Here is my loose memory of the things she said to me.

“I’m thinking about the future generations.” “We need to protect the children. I don’t want my five year old daughter exposed to male anatomy.” “You need to be stronger. I think you are too easily offended.” “Are you Chinese? Where were you born?” “What do your parents think of you?”

As I write this, I want to tell you that I refuted every one of her arguments with tact and grace. But it’s been less than 24 hours and I cannot remember the exactness of the exchange. I hope that I remembered to smile and be polite and respectful. I think I kept my voice to a non threatening decibel level. I was very aware of my body movements.

I tried to explain to her that I am indeed a strong transgender man and that I don’t belong in the women’s room. I told her that my parents love and support me and give me the strength and mandate to fight for my rights. And yes, I am Chinese, my father was born in Hong Kong.

But really, the lights, the screaming, and the setting were never correct for a civil discourse. There was no moderator, clock, or footnotes. This was a modern day battlefield. In action movies I always thought it seemed so farfetched that every single combatant from side A would square off against one combatant from side B. But here we were. The rest of the room melted away, just extras and set production, and it was just the two of us locked in the world's most polite fight of whose feelings were more important, who was right, who was wrong, and why.

This to me seemed the most ridiculous and illogical of all her arguments.

She repeatedly said “I want you to know that I love you,” and kept touching my arms with both her hands. It seemed a strange exchange. I live in a world where you don’t touch another person without their consent, but I know she was trying to connect to me as a human being. It was a small way that her Christianity was manifesting. But even though it was a loving touch, and her words were meant to be kind, her eyes, and her heart were patronizing and condescending. It reminded me that until recently my own experience with Christianity had not be pleasant, but imperialistic with tones of superiority. I was also keenly aware that after almost 10 years of testosterone, I am very much male bodied, and men do not touch women that they do not know. I kept my hands in my pockets and was grateful for my suit jacket.

She also kept saying, "This isn't personal." This to me seemed the most ridiculous and illogical of all her arguments. Of course this was personal. Why else would we both have spent hours at the statehouse listening to parliamentary procedure. No one does that in their free time. And unfortunately, our society has made going to the bathroom, something that is very personal, into a public activity. Yes, this is personal.

Mason, my ED, was circling our tete-e-tete and I finally pulled away. I asked if she wanted to converse further. She just kept reiterating her beats, "I want you to know I love you," and "this isn't personal." I walked away wondering if this conversation could ever be resolved, and knew that there could never really be a victor.

What if I could have spoken to her in Mandarin?

So many emotions are swirling in me right now. If we had more time, would I have been able to convince her that trans people aren't threats? Would my chances have been better if I was wearing something different? What if I could have spoken to her in Mandarin? If my mother was standing next to me, would she have gotten into a fight with her? Would she have gotten into a physical altercation with this other mother?

In my preparations I was expecting the legislators to be horrible. I knew it would be a long day of assaultive language veiled in savior complex. But the hours of procedure left me completely unprepared for the opposition. And then to meet an opposition that was both vitriolic and had my face was like stepping into a bad twilight zone episode. And I am left hurting, wanting and confused. We may have won that vote yesterday, by several touchdowns, but there is still so much more to do in our own communities.

Statement of Solidarity

Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA) is in solidarity with community members at the Boston Spirit Magazine's LGBT Executive Networking night. Boston Spirit Magazine has elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker as their keynote speaker despite the stalemate political climate with legislation (House Bill #1577, Senate Bill #735) to protect our trans, gender non-conforming, and agender friends and family in public accommodations. This is so much more than a bathroom bill. Public accommodations include any place outside of the safety of home, work, or school. This bill passing will protect LGBTQIA friends and family in public parks, hotels, public transportation, restaurants, medical facilities, theaters, malls - it is all encompassing. Yes, as it stands right now, in "liberal" Massachusetts, these places can legally discriminate and throw someone out of any public accommodation with no legal recourse. Too often people forget that this does happen in "liberal" states, and it will continue to do so if we do not have these legal protections. We could tell you to check yelp for places around town who have discriminated against folks, but we should not need to rely on these kind of resources to find out where we can be safe. Our LGBTQIA family should feel safe everywhere.

The road towards justice is long and winding. We still have to fight against deportations, police brutality, and perhaps apparent tonight you will see the clear disparities between our QPoC folks and non-PoC LGBTQIA folks. While many QPoC and immigrant folks are struggling for survival, there is an executive networking night for their privilege. Our presence is not only for folks impacted by this accomodations bill, but to show that our QPoC community is united and will not be silenced.

We urge everyone to show your solidarity. Show that we are here, we're not going anywhere, and we demand nothing less than full protection for everyone.

Protections for all

Many of you here know that besides my work with QAPA, I am also involved with a the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. We advocate and educate of behalf of transgender people in MA. It is work that I am incredibly proud of.For the past year the LGBTQ community of MA has been working to pass a bill that would protect transgender people in all places of public accommodations. Yes, that includes bathrooms and locker rooms. But it also includes grocery stores, movie theaters, public parks. The MBTA. Hospitals.

Many of you have heard me talk of this exact bill before. Many of you have come with us to the State house to ask for these protections. Many of you have written and called your legislators. Thank you. And I will confess, that I did not want to talk to you tonight about this bill. It is late March and I had hoped with all my hopes that we would have been done with this bill and able to move on to so many of the other topics that affect our diverse community. Issues like poverty, healthcare, youth homelessness, and immigration.

But it hasn't passed.

And I have grown weary. I have seen up close and personal what it means to be part of the political system. It is a big clunky system which systemically oppresses marginalized people. People of color. Transgender voices. We have repeatedly asked legislators what piece of paper, which business owner, or which brave human being they need to hear from in order to pass this bill and give us these BASIC protections. And time after time, we have provided that testimony, or statistic. But yet they keep asking for more. They keep moving the goal posts.

It's been exhaustive work. And I don't want to do it any more. But we have to. Because my friends right now we are under attack. Transgender people are being targeted with open hostility at every level of our society. Transgender women of color are being murdered. An Arizona transman with Aspergers was shot and killed by police, in his own home. In the past three months alone, bills which dehumanize trans people have come up in South Dakota, and Tennessee. And just the other day in North Carolina, the home state of my mother, their state government made it law that forces a transgender person to use the facilities of their birth certificate. And even though I stand here with a mustache and baritone voice, I do not have a birth certificate that matches my gender identity. So does that mean I use the men's room knowing that I am breaking the law and could be arrested. Or do I use the women's room and face violence.

It's confusing, it's dehumanizing and it's wrong. And it scares me to death when the system creates institutionalized ways to oppress me and discriminate against me and those I care about. Every one of these attacks means we have to invest more resources into playing defense. Rather than working on so many other issues that need our attention. Issues like poverty, healthcare, youth homelessness, and immigration reform.

So I am asking you again. In your program is a postcard. On the table is a pen. It a gift from QAPA. It is the most powerful tool that we could ever give to you. Lend us your voice. We must tell Governor Baker that Massachusetts is NOT North Carolina. And that transgender, gender queer, gender non conforming, and non binary people have the right to live full lives. Because public spaces are our spaces. And our lives are your lives. Thank you.

Given by Maxwell Ng @ QAPA’s Community Catalyst Awards Dinner, 3/26/2016 China Pearl, Boston

Be part of History

  Way back when I was just coming out, I was confused. Of course there was the usual internalized confusion of "what," but I was also struggling with the ever looming question of "how." How was I going to come out to my parents and stare down their expectations. Coming out means coming to grips with that, and I hadn't the faintest idea how to do it *and* keep my family intact. Yes, I had queer friends in my support network; they were all white; we went to Boston Pride together.

alanna1

And that is where I was standing, 20 deep in the sea of people casually observing from the sidelines when the folx from QAPA marched by. One of them saw me, and aggressively pushed through the crowd in order to flyer me. It was the only time I enjoyed being racially profiled.

Seeing them frolic down the street was the very definition of "Pride." They enjoyed being with each other and painted an enviable picture for a happier future. A future where I could be BOTH Queer AND Asian, something that I had simply not even considered.

It's been 20 years since that experience, and QAPA still serves that valuable and necessary link to community. In fact QAPA has been getting it done for almost 40 years. Decades of shared coming out stories over dumplings and dim sum. Hundreds of hours discussing the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and religion over a hot bowl of congee. And thousands upon thousands of origami cranes, tenderly folded over appletinis.

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In a couple of weeks, members of QAPA, past and present from across the country, will gather to celebrate. We celebrate the work that was done then, and the work that continues to get done. We will assume our place in queer history as the oldest LGBT API organization in the United States. Come to our gala. Honor our past. Celebrate the "we." Be part of history.

Community Catalyst Comes home to Boston

bannerWe at QAPA are ecstatic to announce that in honor of our 37th Anniversary (what a beautiful prime number) we are hosting for the first time a Community Catalyst Awards dinner in Boston.

The dinner will feature a 10-course traditional chinese banquet, performances, dancing and most of all YOU!

We are especially looking to connect with as many past QAPA/AMALGM/BAGMAL Steering committee members as possible.  This is a great opportunity for a reunion AND to connect to the current QAPA members.  Let's embrace our multi generational strength! If you are a past QAPA/BAGMAL/AMALGM Steering Committee member, please email us at qapa@qapa.org.

 

For more info about the Catalyst Dinner, check out our event page.

Spread the word!

Defy Stereotype

QAPA - DEFY STEREOTYPE TEES - ORDER DEADLINE: FRIDAY AUGUST 7

Support social justice.  Support QAPIs.  Buy a t-shirt!  Just $12!!!
2015 pride
Our Defy Stereotype T-shirt is a bold indictment of the expectations of what it means to be LGBTQ and API. Purchase of our T-shirt will help support QAPA run!  Get yours and make a statement today.If you don't want to pay for shipping, select the "pick-up" option during check-out and pick up your shirt at Max's house in JP. Shirts will be printed by 8/14/2015.

TakeiLikeGay

 

On sale now at http://www.melsenink.bigcartel.com/

SCOTUS Decision

A landmark decision from the Supreme Court of the United States. Followed by [embed]https://youtu.be/i2crZ4_xgKg[/embed] Yes indeed today is a landmark day in terms of gay and lesbian rights. Here in Massachussetts, the right for same sex couples to get married was awarded to us in 2004. And now, with the SCOTUS decision, as President Obama has reminded us "We are all created equal... and people should be treated equally regardless of who they are or who they love." Same sex couples now have access to over 1,000 rights and benefits afforded at the state and federal levels. Same sex couples can now protect their foreign born partner through marriage.

But yet there is still work that remains to be done. To quote our friends at HBGC, "As a civil rights community, we must tackle the growing distance between "legal equality" and "lived equality” by ensuring that legal and policy protections improve the daily life and experience of marginalized and vulnerable individuals—particularly people of color, people living with HIV, immigrants, undocumented people, and low-income people."

Let us take the moment to celebrate this hard fought and well earned victory.  And then let's get back to the fight.

Aaaaand.... We're back!

Sorry for the technical difficulties folks.  Despite the error messages you may have gotten when coming to this site, we are and continue to be a force to be reckoned with.  Some recent happenings for QAPA in the area:

  • Hosted a screening of the film "Documented" at MIT.
  • Ran a charity 5K with ATASK
  • Spoke on a few panels about being queer and API
  • Went to a play
  • Went to New York
  • And in general met and chatted wth so many wonderful people.

We're getting ready for Boston Pride, and our annual summer BBQ.  So please come out and say hi!

2015: Year of the Patriotic Goat

zodiac-sheep Please join QAPA to bring in the Year of the Sheep on February 1st at 4pm at the home of one of our steering committee members.  The evening festivities will include food and drinks and a 50 inch TV for the Superbowl if you wish to stay for that. Lunar New Year is all about food, fun, and family; so what’s better than to eat delicious food, drink delicious drinks, and spend the evening with your QAPA family AND watch the Superbowl?

Check out our meetup for address!

Marking the Day of Reflection: #TDOR

[Author's note: This post is in conjunction with NQAPIA's coverage of Trans Awareness Week.  It is an update to a post from 2012.  Please to Enjoy!] Boston TDOR

Foto: © Anh Ðào Kolbe/adkfoto.com

 

It’s Trans Awareness Week (TAW) across the country; that means communities everywhere are busy holding educational and social events.  This week of events culminates with an event called Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR): a candlelight vigil where we remember and memorialize people around the world who have died for being Trans or gender non-conforming.  TDOR started here in Boston, after a woman by the name of Rita Hester was murdered in Allston just for being who she is: a Trans woman of color.

When I was still a baby queer, I like so many others trying to figure out identity, searched high and low for community.  I had been exposed to the lesbian and gay community; a community that has become it’s own culture, complete with genre music, media icons and cruise ships.  As compelling and as shiny as this world of unicorns and rainbows is, it was not where I belonged.

What I found instead, was TDOR, and let me say, it was a stark difference.  TDOR is not a glitter clad parade down Main Street USA.  There are no Dykes on Bikes or Go-Go boys.  It is NOT a celebration.  It is a somber, solemn event, where the names of murder victims are read from a frighteningly long list.  And as dark as this event can be it continues to be one of the largest events for the Trans community: a time to be with friends and loved ones, and a time to recognize our fallen.

This year, one of those names that will be read aloud is Leslie Feinberg.  Feinberg came to me the same way she came to so many of you.  In the gut wrenching 1993 novel, Stone Butch Blues.  I was 19 when someone pushed that text into my hands with the mystical command “You must read this.”  The story was dark and real, and gritty and terrifying.  But it also seeded a magical quality of truth, perseverance and hope.  Maybe it was naïve of me to squint my eyes through the passages of sexual assault, and bathe in the paragraphs that described so perfectly, the joy of finding a person to love.  But I did these things, and took Feinberg’s words as a blanket, a road map, and a shield into my own journey that I knew would be plagued by heartbreak and discrimination.

And here I am, so many years later thinking about a world without Leslie Feinberg, and I am at an incalculable loss.  One of the unfortunate side effects that I’ve experienced since starting testosterone is that I no longer have the ability to cry.  So I find it ironic that the one most influential author who enabled me to start my path has also rendered me unable to shed tears over her death.  Consequently, I can express tremendous rage.  Feinberg was a warrior poet and a pioneer who would never allow herself to be victimized, but still was suffering from basic human discrimination by an inability to access health care as a transgender person.  This is an injustice that horribly affects so many, and is something tangible that I can punch with my activist fists.

I like to remind people that gay pride in the USA was catalyzed by the Stonewall Riots in NYC.  On that fateful night in June of 1969, a group of drag queens and butch dykes had the gall to fight back.  They took a stand and said they would not be targeted any longer for their gender presentation or identity.  The modern gay civil rights movement owes it’s start to Trans and gender non conforming people who were being abused, persecuted and murdered.  Today, we will read hundreds of names of people who were killed violently: people like Jennifer Laude, the 26 year old Filipina whose hateful murder also highlights the problems with US armed forces serving abroad. And we will also add hundreds of other names of people like Leslie Feinberg who were killed by systemic and institutionalized transphobia.

My own personal copy of Stone Butch Blues was battered and loved, with notes in the margins and torn cover.  Just as it was shared with me, I needed to pass it along and share with others.  TDOR is in all our roots.  Please remember.  Come this Sunday to the Boston/Cambridge observance of TDOR.  Or, find another TDOR near you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Takei Coming to Boston

george-takei  

QAPA is Co-Presenting a special screening of "To Be Takei" as part of the Boston Asian American Film Festival. Come see it!

http://www.baaff.org/to-be-takei.html

 

Mr. George Takei Himself will be in attendance this night.  So buy your tickets NOW before they sell out again.

Members can also use the discount code 'QAPA' for a discount of $5.

 

george-brad01

Urvashi Vaid - GLAD's 2014 Spirit of Justice Honoree

I'm very pleased to offer discounted tickets to this year's GLAD Spirit of Justice Awards Dinner. Urvashi Vaid will be honored as the 2014 recipient, marking the first time an Asian lesbian has received the honor and putting her in a circle with Deval Patrick and Chief Justice Marshall. Because of QAPA's place in the community, any QAPA members who would like to attend, simply enter in PROMOSOJ14 to purchase $75 tickets (in lieu of the $250 ticket) and then select Maxwell Ng/QAPA as your table captain.

QAPA will be seated with our friends, MASALA, of whom Hema Sarang-Sieminski has worked tirelessly for LGBT refugee asylum. And I am hopeful that we can also honor our own Janson Wu who has given so much as GLAD's Deputy Director.

This event is the premier networking event of Boston's LGBTQ community, drawing thousands of people.  Purchase discounted tickets here.

Multi Lingual PSAs

As part of a collaboration with the Asian Pride Project, NQAPIA has released a series of PSAs of parents speaking directly about their love of their LGBT children.  These PSAs have been recorded in Mandarin (with English subtitles)

Cantonese (with English subtitles)

Japanese (English with Japanese subtitles)

Korean (with English subtitles):

Laotian (English with Laotian subtitles):

Hindi (with English subtitles):

Tagalog (English with Tagalog subtitles):

And will be airing in Asian ethnic television stations across the country.

This is a resource that is greatly needed and I am thankful for all that helped to put this project together as well as the parents who contributed their voices.  More still to come.

May meets June: The Intersection of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Queerness

This post can also be found at MTPC's website as well. In May I celebrate and honor the work that has been done by my Asian and Pacific Islander brothers, sisters and siblings in the fight against racism. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the completion by Chinese laborers on the transcontinental railroad as well as the first immigration of a Japanese person to the United States.

And in June I remember and honor the work that my LGBTQ brothers, sisters and siblings have done in the fight against homo/transphobia. June is the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event that is credited for creating the modern LGBTQ Civil Rights movement. While most of the time, it feels like this work is distinctive, isolated and separate, for me as a second generation Asian American and an out transman, these worlds have always been linked.

 

Have you looked at a map recently? Asia is big. Really big. There are 49 countries in Asia, a region that stretches from Saudi Arabia to the Kamchatka Peninsula and includes 60% of the world’s population. “Asia” as a concept was created when westerners were exploring the globe looking for exotic lands and rare spices. In fact, the earliest disputes about the border between Asia and the “western” world were centered on the Caucasus Mountains and so we interpret Asian to mean other.

Today “Asian Pacific-Islander” is a geopolitical term that refers to blobs of color on an atlas that are approximately close to each other. But in the “melting pot” of American race politics, to be API means you have yellow skin and slanty eyes. It possibly also means you’re good at math, have demanding parents and slur your Rs. To be Asian American is to remove all the subtlety and nuance of a rich cultural heritage and to boil it down to a degrading stereotype that was created during the Wild West, institutionalized at Tule Lake, and given household recognition by Stanley Kubrick.

I remember as a child in the early 80s, my mother would caution me repeatedly, “Make sure you tell people you’re Chinese.” The fear was that if people thought I was Vietnamese, I would be construed as The Enemy because “we all look alike”. In 1982, Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death by two Detroit autoworkers. Even though he was not an autoworker, or Japanese, they blamed him personally for the rise of Japanese automobile companies. He was brutally murdered for the way he looked and the perceptions of his race. In the months immediately following, Asians all over this country realized that it didn't matter where we were born or who our parents were, we would still be labeled a Chink, a Jap, a Gook, and hated for simply because we are different. Vincent’s murder inspired a movement of togetherness that has lived to this day. In fact, immediately after the attacks on 9/11, Japanese Americans who survived Tule Lake were the first to come out in solidarity to make sure the same institutionalized racism didn't happen again to Muslim Americans.

Power politics 

I talk about these things incessantly because so many people don’t know the fundamental link between racism and homophobia the way I have experienced. Vincent Chin’s murder changed hate crime legislation in the United States. Something that happened again with the murder of Matthew Shepard. So much of the hatred in this country is based on perception of power. Most recently, a troubled misogynistic young man went on a killing spree in Isla Vista aimed at the women he perceived to reject him. It is difficult to rationalize any of his actions or his beliefs, but it is very obvious that his own internalized racism at his half Asian self was a contributing factor to his self loathing.

Intersection Junction, what’s your function? The simple truth is that no one’s identity is simple. For me, my world and life are profoundly shaped by the color of my skin. I have long said that the two things people see about me are 1.) my race and then 2.) my gender. Before I say a single word, they assume that I don’t speak English, and that I will be submissive to them.  2011 statistics show 46.9% of hate crimes were motivated by race and 20.8% by sexual orientation. In my own life I have been subjected to decades of microaggressions that are in accordance with those statistics.

To be both API and LGBTQ in this country means you stand at the cross roads of intersecting identities. Often times we are forced to choose allegiances. We can either fight to end racism OR end homo/transphobia, but apparently not both. Could you choose to favor the right half of your body and willingly remove the left half of your body? Could you select between your head and your heart?

The author shaved his mustache to raise awareness for API Heritage month.

 

Queer it up America

People who are Asian American or Pacific Islander are subjected to stereotypes that only limit us.  We must continue to defy those stereotypes and break down the imagery that dominates this thinking.  Not all Asian Americans come from stable two parent homes.  Not all Asian Americans work in STEM careers.  Not all Asian Americans are yellow.  Similarly, just because you’re a gay man, doesn’t mean you’re automatically a hairdresser.  Just because you play softball doesn’t mean you’re automatically a lesbian.  LGBTQ people have been working for decades to break down these misconceptions by living their diverse and full lives in between the extreme polarities that people perpetually use to try to define us.  We should all be working to breaking down the same and preposterous myths and stereotypes of racism.

When I sat down to write this blog post I was inspired by this blog post about pioneering Black Transwomen. My intent was to try and write a historical perspective of API LGBTQ persons who have been doing trailblazer work. But I am not a historian, and sadly, my cultural knowledge is hugely augmented by Wikipedia. And while I could sit down and do scholarly research, I am hampered by language and terminology that is not always culturally appropriate. We need more Asian American elders who are doing pioneering work. I was mournful of the death of Senator Daniel Inouye, and most recently the death of Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese Internment Camp Survivor and Civil Rights Activist. But I am also thankful for contemporary LGBTQ activists like Helen Zia, Patrick Cheng and Pauline Park who continue to work on Civil Rights and recognize that their visibility doing so inspires us all to do more. And I am excited about rising stars like Andy Marra who bravely puts her own personal life into public scrutiny. I look forward to the day when I can rattle off hundreds of names of API LGBT activists who are household names and hope that you do too.

 

For additional reading (Thanks Prof Mo for the Bibliography):

Q & A: Queer in Asian America, ed. Alice Hom and David Eng (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998) Asian American Sexualities: Dimensions of the Gay and Lesbian Experience ed. Russell Leong (New York: Routledge, 1996) Howard Chiang and Ari Larissa Heinrich, eds., Queer Sinophone Cultures (New York: Routledge, 2014) Martin Manalansan, Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003)