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San Francisco Celebrates Queer & Trans Asian & Pacific Islanders

Group of young LGBTQ Asians

The queer Mecca becomes the first U.S. city to recognize LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islanders with an official week honoring them.

San Francisco is the first city in the country to honor the queer and trans Asian and Pacific Islander community with a designated week (May 22nd through May 29th, 2021) of celebration and recognition. 

“QTAPI San Franciscans have been shattering glass ceilings and bettering our city for a long time,” noted Rafael Mandelman who is currently the only LGBTQ+ member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and represents the Castro District. “Amid a spate of heinous anti-AAPI attacks in San Francisco and around the United States, and with state legislatures across the country targeting the LGBTQ+ community, this will send a strong message of support and solidarity to QTAPI people everywhere. Thank you to the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition for all of their work to create the first ever QTAPI Week here in San Francisco.”

According to a statement to the press, The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition, a collaboration of numerous queer and trans Asian and Pacific Islander activists and community organizations formed when Miss GAPA 2016 Juicy Liu saw a need to celebrate queer identity and raise visibility of LGBTQ+ Asians around the Lunar New Year. The Coalition’s first event, Enter the Roosterwas held at San Francisco's health and wellness center Strut to celebrate 2017’s Year of the Rooster. An annual event followed, each honoring the new year's animal: Ox Talks took place on Zoom in 2021. This working coalition of many QTAPI organizers and community organizations. 

In response to the murder of six Asian women in three massage parlors in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, the Bay Area QTAPI coalition mobilized thousands for direct action beginning with Castro to Chinatown: an LGBTQ+ Solidarity March. That was followed by a Rally Against AAPI hate. The Bay Area QTAPI Coalition proposed a QTAPI Week to create essential spaces for survival. 

“Growing up in Plano, Texas, I rarely saw anyone queer or trans and Asian or Pacific Islander,” said Michael Nguyen, lead organizer of QTAPI Week. The chair of GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance and cofounder of Bay Area QTAPI Coalition said in a press statement. “I am hopeful that QTAPI Week inspires all those in our community, especially our family and allies, to live their most authentic selves and see our collective strength and resilience in these turbulent times. Like Harvey Milk once said, ‘You gotta give ‘em hope.’”

“As a South Asian woman of trans experience, I have often had to navigate out of my cultural identity to ascertain my gender identity,” said Anjali Rimi, President of Parivar (a San Francisco Bay Area organization that is spearheading efforts to save trans lives in India's deadly pandemic surge) and cofounder of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition. “I am grateful for the visibility for QTAPI folx in the city of San Francisco and to be able to bring my whole self to this world.” 

“As May is a month for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage and June is a month for Pride, both also represent the necessity to recognize that our struggles and liberation are inextricably connected,” said Nick Large, one of the founding partners of the Bay Area QTAPI Coalition. “Our QTAPI week is a proclamation not only that we will take up space, but also that we will not allow ourselves to be under-voiced and have our diverse community ignored as a monolith. A racist model minority narrative dictates that we are all worker bees, void of individuality and material differences. It hides that Pacific Islanders in our community experience the highest rates of homelessness in the country, that refugees with no connection to their [U.S.] government-listed 'country of origin' are being deported, and that Chinatown has one of the highest rates of poverty in the city, in addition to a strong documented history of queer nightlife and refuge. Instead of shrinking ourselves, we choose in this moment to expand ourselves.”

The resolution, which passed unanimously details the rich history of San Francisco QTAPI community leaders like Margaret Chung, the first American surgeon of Chinese descent who wore “mannish attire” and had several romantic relationships with women; and Vince Crisostomo, a gay Chamorro HIV-activist who became the first publicly out HIV-positive Pacific Islander at World AIDS Day in 1991. It also shares the history of important organizations that were formed by and for the QTAPI community like the Gay Asian Support Group, Asian American Feminists, and the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, now the GLBTQ+ Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA), to create QTAPI connectivity, power and access to essential services like health care. 

“Thank you to the city for making public the value of queer and trans Asians and Pacific Islanders,” said Dr. Amy Sueyoshi, dean of the College of Ethnic Studies and Professor of Race and Resistance Studies and Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. “Let us devote at least one week to explicitly declaring to queer and trans API folks that they are seen and loved. As we celebrate this recognition however, it is simultaneously a charge for us to continue to better serve queer and trans BIPOC across San Francisco if not the larger Bay Area. In a racialized economy that privileges heterosexuality, queer and trans BIPOC in particular face economic insecurity, even for those in the middle class.”

QTAPI Week kicked off Saturday, May 22nd, with a press conference at 11am in Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro District. API Equality Northern California’s (APIENC) launched Queer Asian and Pacific Islanders Cis Allies Project (QAPICAP) on May 23rd, an intergenerational project to unlearn and end transphobia within the community.There was GAPA Membership meeting on Monday, May 24th focusing on GAPA’s actions in the face of anti-AAPI hate and preparing for GAPA Runway, the annual pageant extravaganza showcasing QTAPI talent and identity.

The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) LGBTQ Committee will present a conversation with community activists online on May 26th from 6 -7:30 PM. Drag Activist Juicy Liu will sit down with Harvard Professor and LGBTQ+ legal scholar, Alexander Chen. Additional support groups and online meetings will hold space for queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

The closing celebration of QTAPI Week will happen on Saturday, May 29th, with a solidarity danceparty in the parking lot on 18th Street and Collingwood in the Castro District from 11AM to 4 PM. Headlined by reigning Miss GAPA, Mocha Fapalatte, with appearances by Miss GAPA 2000 Chi Chi La Woo and Miss GAPA 2017 Ehra Amaya, emcees Estée Longah & Kristi Yummykochi of the Rice Rockettes, San Francisco’s only all-API drag troupe, and DJs Confetti Canon and Chico Chi will help unite our intersectional AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities in solidarity and celebration and show the world the power and resilience of QTAPI community.

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