Trans and non-binary APIs: we have what it takes.
My name is Leo Shanti Hegde, I use he and they pronouns, and I am excited to share that I’m APIENC’s newest community organizer!
I’m a second-generation Indian American who grew up in Edison, New Jersey. I attended college on the ancestral lands of the Cherokee and Shawnee people in Nashville, Tennessee, and since 2019 I’ve lived and learned on unceded Ohlone land, in Oakland. I still don’t have the perfect labels for myself (and that’s okay!), but I describe myself as a non-binary transmasculine person who’s bisexual. I like to think of myself as a jack of all trades: I’m a musician, an engineer, an acoustician and—of course—an organizer!
I joined APIENC in my search for community. My final year in Nashville, I was navigating an intense part of my gender journey. I knew a total of three trans and non-binary APIs, and I felt alien to the majority of people around me—like a chasm opened between me and the people I had always looked to for comfort. I knew the Bay is a historical hub of trans and queer power, and I used a job opportunity as an impetus to move here, hoping to understand how I could possibly fit into the world I saw around me.
At first, I felt scared, and incredibly alone. I regretted leaving the East Coast, where I could call up my parents or my friends when I felt unsafe. Sharing a meal or kicking it with some Wii Mario Kart always comforted me. A few months into my move, I attended my first meeting at 17 Walter U. Lum Place, and I was blown away after walking into the room. All around the table were other TGNC API folks, smiling and welcoming me into the space; seeing them made me hopeful about the future we could build together.
I joined APIENC’s Trans Justice Committee while the team analyzed data from Up to Us, our community-led needs assessment of trans and non-binary APIs in the Bay Area. When the study’s results—of the oppression we face in our health, our housing, and our safety—were first shared, it felt painful to hear. But it wasn’t a surprise; so much of it resonated with my own experiences, and the experiences of my friends who face housing insecurity, dire mental health challenges without knowing where to turn for help, and policing and violence in public. I knew I needed to leverage my time and skills, with my TGNC API friends, to build our own solutions: to meet our needs and resist the systems which push us down.
Now, we need YOU to join us. On Sunday, July 25th, our team will host WE HAVE WHAT IT TAKES, a community safety townhall for trans and non-binary APIs in the Bay Area. In recent months, we’ve witnessed heightened attention to violence against Asians, and a slew of new anti-trans laws. At APIENC, we know safety doesn’t come from policing, prisons, and deportations—it comes from having our needs for housing, healthcare, and community fully met. This is an opportunity to share the practices that keep us safe, and explore how we can end the systems that harm us and all oppressed communities. My trans and non-binary API community in the Bay Area: will you join us to share your experiences, and determine our future together? RSVP HERE!
In my time with APIENC, I’ve learned to identify and practice the things that keep us safe: the capability to meet our needs, to set boundaries, to heal and grow and care for each other in community. At the townhall on July 25th, I hope we can take a deep breath and ground in knowing we belong, and we can build a safer Bay Area with each other.
With love and care,