AAPIP Voices

I Know How It Feels to Be Judged For Being Different

By: Steve Li, 2012 DREAM Summer Intern

Attending the 2012 NQAPIA conference was truly a privilege, being able to share a space with many individuals who identified themselves as LGBTQ API. Never have I seen so many come together from different generations to work for social change in the LQBTQ API community.

When I first arrived at the conference, I was expecting to see an older generation of LGBTQ APIs because of the cultural stigma and the taboo of sexuality in the Asian community. But I was pleasantly surprised when I saw many individuals who were under twenty or in their early twenties. I saw this as a sign that more youth are embracing their sexuality and coming out at a younger age in the Asian American community, which is a step in the right direction.

Attending the Digital Storytelling workshop at NQAPIA made me realize how different movements are using storytelling as a tool to organize and empower their community. Through this workshop I learned about the Banyan Tree Project, a national campaign that uses narratives sharing the personal journeys of API community members to break the stigma around HIV. It was very powerful and touching to hear the stories of API individuals who are living with HIV and how it has affected their daily life and their families. Just like the Banyan Tree Project, in the Dream Act movement youth have used storytelling as a powerful tool to break stereotypes and stigma that surrounds undocumented immigrants by taking back their narrative and sharing their own personal story and struggles, instead of just having the media portrayal of undocumented immigrants.

In addition, during the Friday session opening plenary I was inspired to see a diverse group of speakers ranging from a health policy consultant to an artist and activist who are working toward change in the LGBTQ community. One of the speakers that stood out to me was Rev. Trinity Ordona who has been organizing in the community for over 40 years. When she said, “When politics become personal that’s when you become an activist”, it helped me reflect on my own identity and how I was introduced to this movement.

I was impacted by our broken immigration system two years ago. On September 15, 2010, my home was raided by Immigration Custom Enforcement agents (ICE) because I was undocumented. I was body searched, handcuffed and shackled outside my doorstep. I was put in jail and detained for over two months. This not only had an impact on me but for my family as well. My parents were deported after being detained and I was forced to put on an ankle monitor for 5 months last year. This was one of the most difficult times that I ever had to endure. I had to say goodbye to my parents not knowing the next time that I would feel their embrace again. As a result, I have a duty to fight for social justice in this country not only for myself but also for anyone who is treated less than equal. Because I know how it feels to be segregated, criminalized and judged for being different.