OUR BEGINNINGS

Image description: Two TQAPI people are in the foreground smiling. There are several QTAPI and allies in the background holding signs like "We all deserve the freedom to marry."
Image description: Two TQAPI people are in the foreground smiling. There are several QTAPI and allies in the background holding signs like “We all deserve the freedom to marry.”

APIENC formed in 2004 as a response to a 6,000-person rally to attack marriage equality held by Chinese Christian leaders in San Francisco. Initially named the Asian Pacific American Coalition for Equality (APACE), and then API Equality, APIENC began as an emergent national coalition of LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander people and our allies focused on storytelling, organizing, and advocacy. Our inception as an organization came out of a specific moment in time—a time in which our community wanted to feel safe, affirmed, and validated in our homes, with our families, and in our bodies. Since then, our need to be safe and affirmed has not changed, but our tactics and strategies have shifted to best meet the needs of transgender, non-binary, and queer API people in the Bay Area.

Between 2004-2008, APIENC built local and national connections with API and LGBTQ organizations to secure marriage equality. During this time, the focus of the organization was to mobilize the API community to support marriage equality legislation, while generating media coverage in API and English media to support LGBTQ families.

FROM ADVOCACY TO GRASSROOTS ORGANIZING

Image description: A large crowd of APIENC members and supporters are standing outdoors holding signs and a big banner that says: "No Pride for Some Of Us Without Liberation For All Of Us."
Image description: A large crowd of APIENC members and supporters are standing outdoors holding signs and a big banner that says: “No Pride for Some Of Us Without Liberation For All Of Us.”

Changes in vision, mission, and leadership transformed our programs between 2009 and 2012. APIENC shifted our focus from advocacy work to emphasize storytelling, youth leadership development, videography, and art support spaces. At this time, we began our flagship program, the Summer Organizer Program, and began building deeper networks of queer and trans API volunteers to power our work. 

In 2013, as the Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act, APIENC entered yet another chrysalis. As the national conversation around “LGBTQ rights” changed dramatically, so did APIENC’s programming, membership base, and funding streams. With the understanding that our work must be accountable to and powered by our own communities, APIENC radically shifted our center to emphasize the leadership of those that have been historically marginalized under the LGBTQ API umbrella, specifically focusing on young, trans, and non-binary people across the organization. We built programs centering grassroots organizing, leadership development, and intergenerational storytelling. As philanthropy turned away from LGBTQ communities and refused to fund the economic and racial justice work our communities need, many organizations closed. APIENC’s vibrant community of small-dollar donors kept us afloat, funding more than 50% of our work by 2017.

GENERATIVE CONFLICT & PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP

Image description: a large group of TGNC API people stand in the middle of the street with fists raised, holding banner that says "We have always existed; we have always belonged".
Image description: a large group of TGNC API people stand in the middle of the street with fists raised, holding banner that says “We have always existed; we have always belonged”.

Following the 2016 federal election, APIENC’s membership grew rapidly as we expanded our community building events, Trans Justice work, and leadership development programs. Trans and non-binary APIENC members organized hundreds of community members and allies to mobilize at Trans March. Through our annual Queer Justice Leadership Exchange, Summer Organizer Program, and organizing projects, dozens of leaders transformed into values-based organizers. While there were triumphs to celebrate, the weight of this political moment was immense, especially on our staff team of two. We knew that, for this work to be sustainable and community-led, we needed a radical shift. By 2018, APIENC partnered with the Wildfire Project to catalyze a much-needed change in the way power and responsibility were shared across our staff, Core Committee, and membership.

Together, we invited generative conflict as an opportunity to talk about our north star, ground in what’s at stake in our work, and build a more healthy culture of assessment and accountability
With the powerful member-leadership grown through this process, in 2020, APIENC released “Up to Us”, a groundbreaking report on the needs of transgender and non-binary API people in the Bay Area. The report summarized our lived experiences with housing, employment, violence, and healthcare, and provided a framework towards safety and justice for our people. Grounded in these findings, APIENC updated our Theory of Change in 2021, with a renewed emphasis on healing justice, leadership development across movements, and community safety.

APIENC’s work comes from a long legacy of trans and queer API people who have organized for our rights, created connected communities, and made magic despite the violence of the systems around us. We are made possible by the people in our homelands who fought against colonization, by the divas & sex workers who rose up against police brutality, by the networks of activism made necessary by the HIV/AIDS+ crisis, by the Asian American movement elders who rejected orientalism, and by the healers who created space for our humanity.

It is in their memory that we work to get free.