Jul 2020 | Gem Datuin

Image description: Gem stands outdoors amongst trees holding a fluffy gray dog in their arm while slyly smiling at the camera.
Image description: Gem stands outdoors amongst trees holding a fluffy gray dog in their arm while slyly smiling at the camera.

Gem Datuin (they/them) identifies as a queer, non-binary, pilipinx feminist & abolitionist and has been a member of APIENC since 2016. For the past year, they have been part of APIENC’s Leadership Development (aka SKATE Crew) Committee. Gem is also part of the Oakland-based band Coraza and for their paid work, they work at a nonprofit organization in Oakland.

Gem already knew they wanted to do social justice work before even having the words. They were born and raised on a small island in the Marianas called Guahan and dreamed of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. A few months after moving to the Bay, a quick Google search for “LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander Nonprofit San Francisco” led them to APIENC. They started volunteering for the Dragon Fruit Project and transcribed an interview with Vince Crisostomo. Gem was amazed and inspired to be assigned to his interview because he’s Chamorro (from Guahan), and it was really meaningful to them that his story was being documented.

Gem is also a part of GABRIELA Oakland, a grassroots womxn’s organization fighting for the liberation of all Filipinx womxn and people. Growing into and organizing with both orgs that represent two major parts of their identity that they grew up having internalized shame around, they were able to start healing and transforming that shame into pride. APIENC empowered them to believe in themself and to be supported in their growth as a leader. At both orgs, they were surrounded by fierce badass fighters, and it meant everything to them.

Gem’s favorite memory at APIENC was during the 2016 SF Trans March. It was their first Trans March, and it was an awakening for them. They pulled and helped guide the speaker wagon during the march while Sammie led chants. They remember leading chants for just a couple of minutes and being terrified. They felt scared of messing up something they truly cared about.

“I was marching alongside new friends, alongside a community where I could show up in a way I never felt fully safe to do so in the past. I remember wrestling with all the emotions–feeling bashful, feeling agitated, feeling joy, feeling nervous, feeling the powerful energy of our queer and trans ancestors…It was overwhelming, and scary, and beautiful.”

Gem Datuin

During shelter-in-place, they’ve been keeping busy by settling into a new house, decorating, and making a home with their partner, their senior dog, and two of their friends and their senior dog. Fun fact about Gem: in another lifetime, they were a volleyball superstar!