This is Aisa, Director of Youth Organizing and Programs at Stop AAPI Hate. My team exists to engage, uplift, and build community with the growing number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. — including those who, like myself, identify as LGBTQ+.
In celebration of Pride Month, I caught up with two brilliant colleagues and advocates, Kenrick Ross (Executive Director) and Regine Reyes (Director of Programs) from National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), about their experiences living at the intersection of the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities in the face of growing attacks against both.
It was such a meaningful conversation — one that I am so excited to share with you. Keep scrolling to listen in.
– Aisa, Director of Youth Organizing & Programs
Aisa (she/her): Regine, it’s been an honor to learn from your lens and wisdom. What is your experience being part of both the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities?
Regine (they/them): I am rooted in and proud of all of my salient identities as a queer, nonbinary, Pinay, first generation immigrant, educator, organizer, rising from a working class and multiracial, historically redlined community. At the same time, I struggle to feel belonging in both the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities for all that I am.
The majority of homophobia and transphobia I have experienced have been in the AAPI community, namely my blood family and the neighborhood I was raised in. With much love, I believe AAPI communities could do more to combat colonized understandings of gender and sexuality; do more to show up in bold solidarity and nurturance for your queer trans kin.
Aisa: That hits home, Regine. Many times, we pursue social justice to get at structural and systemic issues we first encountered in our childhood home or neighborhood.
Kenrick, considering the growing wave of discriminatory laws and attacks on civil rights, what’s the significance of Pride Month today? How are members of the LGBTQ+ community coming together for the moment in light of today’s challenges?
Kenrick (he/him): Pride Month is probably more relevant this year than it has been in a long time, not only to amplify the tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ vitriol roiling across the country, alongside so many other attacks against the safety, security, and well-being of all communities LGBTQ+ people call home, but in affording us a reminder that in these uncertain times, there are boundless opportunities for community, allyship, and joy.
Aisa: Absolutely, Kenrick. As a friend in the movement often reminds me, the most radical thing we can do is root in joy—joy that lives beyond restrictions and assumptions, including the binary and heteronormative.
Historically, how have AAPIs participated in LGBTQ+ activism?
Kenrick: APIs have always been part of LGBTQ+ activism as long as we have been on this continent, and long before the United States came to many of our homelands, even though those forms of activism have not always fit into dominant narratives or have been erased from them. Our history, and legacy in activism spans centuries, and one aspect that is particularly obscured are the immense contributions of generations of AIDS activists, from the frontlines of protests to leading community and national public health organizations.
Aisa: Regine, as a youth and campus organizer working with emerging activists, what is something you wish to say to the next generation of LGBTQ+ AAPIs?
Regine: Our legacy of existence is much longer than the policing and oppression we are facing now. Be loving to yourselves and each other so that you can be in this movement for a lifetime. Learn from other movements, generations, technologies, and societies.
Aisa: To close this powerful discussion, what brings you joy this year?
“This year’s legislative session has introduced over 500 pieces of legislation targeting the human rights of trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and intersex communities. As such, joy is incredibly fleeting in comparison to the carousel of alarm, anxiety, and fatigue I feel as a nonbinary person.”Regine Reyes, NQAPIA Director of Programs
Regine: This year’s legislative session has introduced over 500 pieces of legislation targeting the human rights of trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and intersex communities. As such, joy is incredibly fleeting in comparison to the carousel of alarm, anxiety, and fatigue I feel as a nonbinary person. My resilience in spite of these monumental challenges is a testament to the power of my queer trans chosen family pod. We nourish each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually; with them having my back, I never forget my power.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Even in the darkest of times — when rights are at stake and lives are on the line — it’s important to remind ourselves that we are never in this fight alone.
During and beyond Pride Month, our coalition recognizes organizations like NQAPIA, and leaders like Regine and Kenrick who strengthen and amplify AAPI and LGBTQ+ voices through an intersectional lens.
To learn more about NQAPIA, visit their website at nqapia.org, or read “Coming Out as LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander Americans”, a NQAPIA-Human Rights Campaign Foundation resource guide for LGBTQ+ AAPIs.