By: Catherine Eusebio
A clashing of identities was a common theme from the participants of the conference. Many people expressed that they had to fully leave behind their ethnic or religious self because it was at odds with their queer identity. As an undocumented person, I made the connection with compartmentalizing my own identity, at some moments hiding my activism to fit into certain groups of friends. It was uplifting, however, to hear someone say, “We do this [social justice oriented] work to heal ourselves so that we no longer have to exist as fragmented people.”
I had the privilege of attending several workshops, such as “Coming out as Muslim” and one facilitated by Southeast Asian queer youth leaders. These workshops encouraged me to think about the challenges that immigration, religion, and international politics add in shaping the queer experience. It made me wonder whether my knowledge of queer APIs would be the same had NQAPIA not been intentional about creating the space for these “minority within minority” communities.
Do we need AAPI organizations? And of those organizations, do we need a regional queer AAPI space, a queer Muslim space, a queer Southeast Asian space, or a queer Dreamer space? The NQAPIA conference showed that each person is a collision of several identities, all of whom have a uniquely different experience influenced by race, ethnicity, class, religion, and national origin to name a few. Diversifying and uplifting these voices through spaces like NQAPIA builds and continues to strengthen our democracy. Such differentiation ironically encourages inclusion — not only within mainstream US society, but also within our own movements — by being intentional about representing each nuanced perspective.
Beyond ethnic and religious perspectives, the conference also had a wide range in age groups from high school students to those well-seasoned by years of wisdom. These discussions about encouraging and sustaining intergenerational collaboration were a highlight for me. What happens when a young, energetic activist starts a family or has other capacity limitations? One organization shared that they were looking to create sustainability by creating roles for people at different life stages. I left the conference feeling that this movement is uniquely and truly committed to a holistic sense of “community.”
Within the immigrant youth movement, “Undocumented and Unafraid” is our slogan and rallying cry. We exist. It is a political and disobedient act to affirm our existence. What NQAPIA taught me, however, is that simply existing as a Dreamer is not enough. I am also an Asian American. I am also a woman. As such, I have the ability to generate a unique sociopolitical analysis of American society that I now feel empowered to assert.
Leaving NQAPIA, I realize that highlighting our differences does not undermine our solidarity. Rather the celebration of our differences serves to encourage (and even force) inclusion both within the broader US and within our own communities.