What would you do in a world without hope?
“What would you do in a world where compassion, hope, or liberation doesn’t exist?
How would you teach someone about it?”
This prompt was etched into my memories from a creative writing opportunity in 2018. Looking back, I would have explained the work and community of APIENC. From the past six years of being in the organization, APIENC has made compassion, hope, and liberation feel within reach.
My name is Reynaldo (Rey Rey) A Culannay Jr. I use he/they pronouns. I was born and raised on Ohlone land as a queer Filipino-American, and I grew up loving video games, photography, and skincare routines. Yet, for years I struggled to own my truth and history. The Model Minority Myth left me questioning my labor and aspirations because society envisioned me as a white-collar professional, even though that was not what I wanted. The male gaze left me questioning my sense of gender. Heteronormativity left me questioning my sexuality, and set milestones defined by heterosexual relationships. Recalibrating my own intentions took a toll on my health, and left me with a sense of despair. But through happenstance in 2013, at San Francisco’s Portsmouth Square—an area I drove past to get to my mom’s work—I found an organization that empowered me to build my voice with others: APIENC.
The Dragon Fruit Project—APIENC’s intergenerational oral history project of trans and queer AAPI elders and youth—was my introduction to the organization. The privilege to experience vast histories of queer and trans AAPI activists across different generations blew my mind. Reading and listening to others’ struggles and truths empowered me with an urgency to honor their stories and voices and share them widely—and the idea of the Dragon Fruit Project Zine was born! With creative volunteers, I curated and disseminated the zine.
During the process of assembling the zine, I got to know Vince Crisostomo’s story about love and activism. The vulnerability and truth embodied in his quote not only left me crying, but warmed my heart, and helped me relearn compassion, hope, and liberation.
And the feelings and thoughts did not just stop there. I got to know stories from other powerful figures such as Kat Evasco, Steve Lew, and Willy Wilkinson. The plethora of storytelling in the Dragon Fruit Project exposed me to the greatest lesson I cherish to this day: abundance.
This abundance stretched my imagination, and clarified my sense of reality. In spaces of QTAPIs, with the love and care that is possible when we are in community, I am allowed to feel safe, powerful, and loved. Being surrounded by other QTAPIs helps me grow out of my scarcity mindset, and see a bright future ahead.
Now, I’m asking you to help us grow this future by powering up APIENC. This Give OUT Day, the only national day of giving for LGBTQ organizations, APIENC is raising $15,000 in our “Power Up, Give OUT!” campaign by Wednesday, 6/30. Can you donate $40, so queer and trans APIs can continue to deepen our connections and document our histories?
Here are more amounts that mean a lot to me:
- $180 – for the 180 QTAPIs who joined us to rally and grieve at our community vigil in April
- $120 – for the 12th year of our Summer Organizer Program!
- $60 – for the 60 member organizers leading APIENC’s committees!
- $30 – for the 3 episodes of the Dragon Fruit Podcast launching this year!
- $20 – for the 20 members of our fundraising team!
- $__ – anything that feels right for you!
In a world where compassion, hope, and liberation doesn’t exist, I would teach someone through empowering them to share their abundance of truth and possibilities. I would encourage them to be a storyteller and an active listener. I would dare them to dream, because their energy and spirit will help grow a wider community with others who want the same goal. Fortunately for me and you, that space is APIENC.
In hope and solidarity,
Today, you can experience the abundance of Dragon Fruit Project stories through APIENC’s new Dragon Fruit Podcast series! Listen to the first episode “Sharing our Harvest: Fruits of QTAPI Movement Organizing” through our site: lavenderphoenix.org/podcast/.