JESS SUAREZ is a radical queer Filipina, passionate about feminist issues, sex positivity, and being a little bit snarky. At the beginning of 2014, Jess got involved with the Dragon Fruit Project as a transcriber. She has now worked to train others on how to transcribe, and she has shared her own story at our community gatherings. Jess currently works in San Francisco as a councilor for at-risk youth, and she’s been doing so for two years.

Working with children is one of Jess’s passions. Even from an early age, Jess was interested in making connections with individuals who have an abundance of energy and enthusiasm.

“I know I wanted to work with kids every since I was young. I remember playing teacher with my brother as a kid, that’s what I did!”

Jess recognizes that not all people have the time and energy to work with youth, and she states, “I pride myself on having that time and energy, just as I don’t have the time and energy to fit a lot of other jobs.”

In her spare time, Jess also volunteers with many other spaces. In college, she volunteered for St. Jude Childrens’ Research Hospital, with SF Pride, and with BOSS, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, which works with homeless youth in Berkeley. In addition to her time with API Equality – Northern California, Jess is training to be an HIV Testing Counselor in San Francisco.

Jess first got involved with the Dragon Fruit Project through our Community Organizer, Tracy. After volunteering for over half a year, Jess has seen this project grow into a groundbreaking tool of activism.

“I’m always shocked by the statistics given. It’s really upsetting, there is such a high population of API people in the bay area, and the fact that there was only 2 queer API womens’ stories documented [in 2012, before the project]–it’s really disappointing. It has to do with invisibility within and outside our community. And that really strikes a chord with me, every time I hear about it or live it, I become more and more livid. I like the fact that this project is proactive. Even though these are often the stories of people generations before us, we are interacting and engaging with them. We can document them and share them with people. Eventually, kids in SF will know that during those holidays that focus on a specific person, they can learn about cool queer API activists. Thats why I find this organization pretty groundbreaking, and I’m really excited, and it’s really necessary.”

Looking towards the future, Jess is ready to see the project thrive. She has had a great time at the transcribing days, and loves when people share their favorite part of the transcriptions. Jess says that, “For that 5 minutes that you’re transcribing or interviewing, history RIGHT NOW is happening.” One of her favorite snippets of transcription came from her own transcribing work, transcribing the story of Ben de Guzman. In his audio the interviewer asked, “What was it like coming out?” and Ben responded, “First of all, I had to come out as Filipino.” When Jess heard this, it “completely hit [her] on the head.” Growing up as a middle-class Filipino-American in a predominately White school, Jess has dealt with and continues to deal with shame and oppression around what it’s like to live with these multiple identities.

Through this project, Jess works to better find herself, and create history and community as we go.

“I hope we can break down some of these generalizations and stereotypes on how API queer people are “supposed to be” or even that we are “invisible.” We definitely exist. I hope this project can liven up the community across generations and say, “Hey we’re in too, and we are all in it together.” Because, if we don’t say anything, no one is going to be here to ask or listen.”

Thank you for all of your work and dedication, Jess!

FUN FACT: Jess aspires to be a stand-up comedian!