DENISE HUANG is a queer, 2nd generation Chinese American woman and current student at Mount Holyoke University, a women’s college in Western Massachusetts. Denise, as self-proclaimed “Asian American history geek,” came to APIENC in the summer of 2015, and has been helping to build up the transcribing and coding process for our Dragon Fruit Project.

Denise has had a multitude of volunteer experiences all throughout high school, but her investment in API identity, politics, and community came when she left the Bay Area to attend college. Coming back to the Bay Area for summer break, Denise wanted to volunteer with a community that matched her own identities, a community with shared goals that would keep her coming back.

“I keep coming back because it’s an inviting space with hilarious and accomplished people all working together on salient issues. I was familiar with LGBTQ politics and histories in several international contexts, but had shied away from exploring it at its interstices with APIs because to do so would mean entering a community, and acknowledging this, at the time, ignored part of me. But the sense of community here is like one that washes over you and fills you from the outside in, and makes me happy and curious to explore API communities through this lens.”

This summer, Denise spent her time reading through transcripts and listening to stories from the Dragon Fruit Project. As a long-time Bay Area resident, it was impactful for Denise to understand the lives of LGBTQ API people who attended her very-own high school, decades before she walked the same halls: “It was grounding, like a sigh of relief that I wasn’t imagining my sexuality.”

Through deep readings of the transcripts and and with stellar academic and research skills, Denise was able to revamp our Dragon Fruit Project categorizing system! By identifying key themes and moments in history that have occurred throughout multiple transcripts, we are shaping the narrative an LGBTQ API community in the Bay Area.

Looking towards the future, Denise is “uncharacteristically optimistic” that we can bridge the differences between LGBTQ API kids and their parents. She understands that it’s a tall order, and that “differences can stem from language barriers, fears of Western influence, or unfamiliarity.”

Yet, just as bridging those differences is difficult, Denise also knows that this work is important in instilling a stronger sense of self, community, and identity: “the beauty of the Dragon Fruit Project is that it merges the past with the present since it’s as much of a homage to our roots as it is a guiding light for today’s movements.“

Thank you for all the laughs, fun, and dedication you brought to the office this summer, Denise!

FUN FACT: Currently, the capstone of Denise’s bucket list is to have a Wikipedia page, or to at least win at pub trivia.