Spotlight on...Chai

Every so often, QAPA will highlight members and allies who have made an impact raising LGBTQ awareness within the API community.  Our second guest is The Network/La Red's and QAPA's own Chai Jindasurat.  Chai attended the annual conference on LGBT issues and equality, Creating Change, in Minneapolis this past February and shared his experience at this amazing event.

I had the privilege to attend the annual Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change at the beginning of February in Minneapolis. Through my position at The Network/La Red, I sit on the governance committee of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ which has an in-person meeting at Creating Change each year.  I went to Creating Change for work, but the experience of being there did not feel like work at all.  There were plenty of professional development workshops I could have attended, but being at Creating Change was a rare chance to delve deeper into all the issues that I feel connected to, including the queer Asian Pacific Islander movement.  I chose to attend the day-long institute Building a Queer API Movement which was a closed track for API people only.  This was the first API institute to take place at Creating Change, and happened thanks to a lot of behind the scenes work by NQAPIA, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.  The institute was awesome.  The organizers did a great job of making the space feel safe for the vast diversity in the room.  After all, no queer API experience is the same!

We addressed this head on by participating in sharing circles where people who identified with a certain category spoke about their experiences while the larger group listened.  The categories included East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Mixed, Pacific Islander, API Adoptee, and those who didn’t feel like they fit into any of these categories.  I participated in the Mixed group, which was actually the largest with those identifying as mixed race or mixed API identities.  It was so nice to hear peoples’ stories about being queer and API.

Other topics discussed at the institute were the visibility (or invisibility) of APIs in queer people of color movements and the larger mainstream LGBT movement, model-minority theory, queer sexualities in API history (which was extensive and amazing!), and LGBTQ API work being done across the country.  An important conversation that occurred was that Creating Change took place during the Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays of the year for many API communities. During the opening ceremony of Creating Change, the organizers of the Queer API movement were featured and they brought this issue up loud and clear.  The fact that Creating Change was notified that the conference would conflict with the Lunar New Year and chose to hold it then anyway was announced.  The speakers expressed their struggle with deciding to spend the New Year with their families or at Creating Change.  It was very powerful.

I attended various other API and non-API focused workshops and caucuses throughout the conference.  I would normally feel like I was taking one hat off (like my API one) and putting another on (like my anti-violence one) attending all these different things, but being at Creating Change was a refreshing reminder that you never really take off your various hats or experiences.  It was grounding, and it was that rare space where you felt like you could be your whole self, as you should be. Assumptions were challenged, truths were spoken, and you could feel the movement-building happening.  Creating Change left me feeling connected, energized, and ready to come back to work in Boston.  Overall, it was a rockin experience.

For more information on The Network/La Red, check out their website: http://www.thenetworklared.org.  And for more information on the Creating Change Conference, visit their website: http://www.creatingchange.org