Building a world of safety, dignity, and care is up to us.
The summer after I realized I was trans, I spent a lot of time online. I wanted to learn about other trans people and be seen in my experiences. The internet helped me do so discreetly, during a time when I experienced a lot of scrutiny at home for my gender expression. I read about trans identities, exchanged affirmations with others who struggled with unsupportive loved ones, and scrolled through fashion advice for men, hoping to learn what to wear other than basketball shorts. As a dedicated science nerd, I also found statistics and studies about trans people. I still remember these numbers—they told me how many young trans people feel alone, how many experience suicidal ideation, and how many don’t have the support they need to feel safe. These numbers were given with no context, with no ways to support the people whose experiences they described. At a time when I craved more knowledge about trans experiences, reading these statistics left me feeling hopeless about my own future.
Today, nearly eight years later, I still spend a lot of time online. But now, I’m not just sitting alone in my room, thinking about the isolated numbers that float across my social media feed. These days, I spend hours each month with a group of other trans Asians and Pacific Islanders. Together, we learn and practice how to ask for help, we build relationships with other trans organizers of color, and we work on the TGNC API Needs Assessment, now titled “Up to Us,” to uplift our own community’s needs. Now, I’m part of APIENC.
“Up to Us” is a community-led research project that unearthed the needs of nearly 200 trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) APIs in the Bay Area. This research uplifts our experiences with housing, police, mental health, migration, and more. I believe this research is important, and I’m so excited to be sharing it. Today, I want to share what I’m most proud of—the way we did the work.
I remember pouring over survey questions with other Trans Justice members in March of 2019. We had all experienced voyeuristic, invasive questions about our gender and racial identities, and we were determined to not replicate those patterns. We phrased questions to encourage people to use their own words to name their identities, added content warnings to allow folks to skip triggering topics, and made a plan to compensate our participants. Rather than hire outsiders, we learned together and trained each other on how to analyze our data and communicate our priorities.
Throughout the process, I saw my fellow Trans Justice members bring kindness and intention, even when the work was hard. As we get ready to share these findings, I’m reflecting on how trans people are not just passive subjects of this project. We were leading this work and learning the skills we need to research our community’s needs and build solutions to respond to them. I learned that when trans people work together, we’re able to transform ourselves and the world around us.
Now, I’m asking you to be part of creating solutions, led for and by our own people. To ensure our work can continue to grow, APIENC is raising $15,000 in our Our World, Our Solutions campaign. Since I began work on “Up to Us”, I’ve been excited about the work that comes after the assessment—the work that addresses our needs for mental health care, safe shelter, connections, and so much more. Can you donate $30, so TGNC API people can continue to build solutions for our communities?
Here are more amounts that mean a lot to me:
- $181: for the 181 transgender APIs who responded to our survey to uplift our needs!
- $90: for the 90 survey questions that each participant answered
- $60: for the 6 contributing artists that are featured in the final report
- $23: for the 23 months we spent outreaching, analyzing, and strategizing during the research process
- $16: for the 16 authors and researchers of Up to Us!
- $__ – anything that feels right for you!
As we launch the assessment, I still worry about the magnitude of challenges our community faces. But, this project reminds me that a different world is possible. I’m reminding myself of the name of the needs assessment: it’s truly up to us to build a world in which trans people of color can live with safety, dignity, and care.
In hope and solidarity,