Denver National Queer Asian Leadership conference
Denver conference 9/5/2008 – 9/7/2008
I flew into Denver with a whole lot of open mind for the NQAPIA conference. National Queer Asian Leadership conference doesn’t happen that often and I was very happy to represent QAPA (Queer Asian Pacific Alliance the oldest queer Asian organization in USA. Was founded in 1979 and its almost 30 years and we are going strong). The long flight from Boston or getting outted in the airport because I was dragging big carry on that someone makes me gay? I never heard that before but it did really happen :). You guys should ask Anouksha or Deepali who I met at the Airport and we headed to the hotel together.
My buddy Kit Yan from QAPA was there, you all know about him the famous slam poet and part of “Good Asian drivers”. I learnt a lot from Kit in the past few years I knew him, he opened a lot of doors for me and made me understand the plight and fights of the Trans and Trans Asian community. Amit Dixit from Boston MASALA was representing his organization and I alwasy appreciate his energy whether its Queer South Asian related activism or HIV Aids related fights.
This is a pan asian conference including Asians from the Main land, South East Asians, South Asians and the Pacific Islanders. This is another unique thing about the conference. Historically Asians and South Asian communities have their own organizations and there are few points or intersections but they survive and behave like two different communities.
The day we landed we had a reception and we met the local dignitaries. We met Gill Foundation executive director, his staff and local dignitaries. Not only it was an eye opener, it was heartening to see Queer and non queer local community leaders there to support the conference and the cause. Let me ask you this, how often do you hear about the National Asian Queer leadership conference or the Queer Leadership itself. Hats off to Glen, Ben, Mala, Andy and Gill foundation to make this happen. They worked so hard to make this happen and I am so proud of their achievement and leadership. This inspires me to do more for the community and the cause. Its not an empty promise and I am not known for that, If I commit, I am 200% or I am not there.
Members from the following organizations were represented there. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD, QAPA, MASALA, Anushka Fernandopulle Consulting, NQAPIA, National Asian/Pacific American Womens’s Forum, Trikone Atlanta, Asian American Queer Women Activists, Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters, Gay Asian Pacific Support Network, API Queer United for Action, UC Santa Barbara, SALGA NYC, I2I:Invisible to Invincible, GAPIMNY, Shades of Yello, Providence Youth Student Movement, API Pride of Chicago, Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, Q-Wave, Queer Philly Asians, Trikone (SF), Satrang, South Bay Queer & Asian, API Equality-LA, AQUA, KHUSHDC, API EQUALITY, Audre Lorde Project, Dari Project, AL-Fatiha Foundation, Trikone-Norhtwest.
Day 2 was full of workshops, discussions and was a hectic day, followed by a nice dinner offsite. Some of the participants went for a club night and I was so tired and I didn’t feel like burning my midnight oil that weekend. The Austin trip few days later was in my mind and I didn’t want to exhaust myself and also I am feeling like a old man at 35. What the heck?
Day 3 was a half a day one and it everyone went back to their homes. It was hard to say goodbye, but its the fact and reality.
40 plus Asian queer leaders from different organizations and different walks of life were there. It was a unexplainable feeling of a big family and comfort that we are not alone in this fight. I looked around the room we had East Asians, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, South East Asians in the room. We were all connected by one mission and one cause. How often does this happen? its not that often and its the reality. Most of the representation was from East and West coasts, one from Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri each. This showed that we need to get those people energized and organized in those underrepresented states. Yes there are Queer Asians in those states but we have to find a way to help them get organized and be visible.
I don’t question the existence of “Long Yang” theme clubs across the nation, but I don’t think these clubs are serving the Queer Asian movement. These group in general reinforces the concept of Older White men and the younger Asian men. This is a stereotype as a Asian gay man, me and many of my peers are asked or forced to fit in. But many are resilient and wont settle for such arrangements and its wont work. Personally I don’t like to be exotified and looked upon as a exotic piece of meat vs a good productive human being who is civic minded and works for the community. I have a lot to offer and unless I get a chance I wont be able to show that side of me. As a minority we are expected to be a stereotype played by media and the community or exotified by the majority community. This is counter productive and doesn’t help us to assimilate it to the majority and treated as equals. Whether you have lived here all your life or you were adopted and raised by a parents from different race or you just got off the plane doesn’t matter, we are still Asians and we have to embrace that aspect of it and make changes that is necessary within the community.
There are many of the Asian queer organizations in this nation. We do a great job locally and take care of the local needs as much as possible. As local community organizations mostly we are volunteer based organizations. We pick our fight on various grounds and its very difficult path I say. We have limited resources at our disposal and very limited manpower to go with that. We always think about the local needs and we seldom work with other organizations within our local confines or nationally. Even if we say we do work with other organizations, its unstructured and very minimal. We reinvent the wheel so many times and its mind boggling. We all work as separate islands and we ought to get united, get organized and interface with the other groups and make the movement stronger and share our triumphs and failures.
This is a rare opportunity for us to get united nationally and do things from a national view point. Who we are locally shouldn’t influence working nationally. I think someone from Boston, NYC, SF, Chicago, Austin, Kansas are equally effective in this fight. We may have history behind us, but we have to think that we are one community and work towards achieving the feeling of a one big family and do what we are supposed to do. There is a lot to be accomplished nationally and we have a huge advantage of helping the GLBT community back in our home countries. They need us and if we can build a stronger foundation we can weather storms like Ike, Katrina and ones that may come tomorrow or the day after.
We can withstand the onslaught of White privilege, racial inequality, gender bias, right wing and many more that comes our way. If we stay united we can take the bull by its horn, otherwise we end up facing the Bull shit. I will let you choose what you like the Bull or the Bull shit?