Boundless Possibilities & Imperfect Experiments
There I was—sitting on my chair at home, hundreds of miles away from the seven other people on my Zoom screen, feeling vulnerable and nervous, and yet, so warm at the same time. I was asking my fellow APIENC Summer Organizer Team for support around gender identity. I felt so emotional I had to type my thoughts into the check-in document instead of saying them out loud. Nonetheless, my team held me gently and patiently, and sent so many affirming messages to say that they loved me and were here to support me through my gender journey.
Before I applied to APIENC’s Summer Organizer Program, I was unsure about my gender identity and didn’t really have the space to explore my gender with others. My thoughts on being trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) were limited by what the world, media, and those around me told me. I thought that being TGNC had to feel a “certain” way. I was also nervous that I just “wanted to be like TGNC folks” and that I wasn’t actually TGNC. I didn’t want to take up space, and so I denied my experiences and only later realized that there is no one TGNC experience.
When I started the Summer Organizer Program, I learned many powerful lessons about trans and queer API hxstory, asking for help, and organizing. I learned that trans and queer API people have always existed and will continue to exist. I pictured myself in this timeline and envisioned futures where we can exist fully, joyously, and where there is abundant, radical community care. In APIENC’s Asking for Help workshop, I learned that asking for help encourages us to be vulnerable with one another and build trust, that we deserve to have our needs met, and that asking for help is rooted in abundance rather than scarcity. For AACRE’s COVID-19 Response Week, I helped organize workshops that helped Bay Area teams and organizations learn about volunteer support, online facilitation, and mutual aid. Through the summer, I learned how important it is to experiment imperfectly, not only in our work, but with each other, for myself, and in my identities. This lesson carried me throughout the program, and gave me abundant space to expand my limiting thoughts around gender.
Throughout the Summer Organizer Program, I witnessed people in APIENC express and embody their gender identities in ways that were so vast and limitless, and truly saw how there are no rules or binaries in expressing gender. During one of our team meetings, I remember sweet Yuan, another trans person and APIENC staff member, changing names on Zoom. That act encouraged me to embrace other names for myself, allowing my identities to remain flexible, with names like “soapaloaf” or “sop.” Being able to name and rename myself allowed me to see myself in different ways and experiment with who I want to be and show up as.
It was a difficult, but powerful move for me to ask my fellow Summer Organizers and APIENC staff for support around gender. Identifying my needs and asking for help are practices I haven’t always been able to embody throughout my life. Now, with the help of APIENC, these practices are still hard, and they feel so much more possible. That moment of asking for help was full of tears, happy tears, like coming home to myself and who I am—being brave enough to be vulnerable and explore.
Unlearning my thoughts on gender and reimagining gender in a liberating, boundless way has seeped into so many other parts of my life. My gender journey has helped me realize that we can be anything we want, which has been healing and given me so much power. I feel even more connected with trans and queer movements, and my transformation impacts the way I show up for our collective liberation. Through APIENC’s Summer Organizer Program, I learned to practice abundance rather than scarcity, ask for and receive help, and embrace interdependence and self-determination. I try to embody these practices with my friends, partner, housemates, and in movement spaces. I feel deep changes within me and how I think of myself, others, the world, and I see even more of what is possible for our communities.
Apply for the 2021 APIENC Summer Organizer Program today! Applications are due March 1, 2021.