Don’t make things harder for yourself.
These were the words my mother responded with after I came out to her on a sunny day in our backyard. At the tender age of 19, I felt emboldened to be honest with my family, but hearing her words reduced me to a much younger self who struggled to fit in.
I didn’t fully understand my mother’s words at the time. I was going to school just north of Chicago—a city with a vibrant trans and queer scene—and I felt optimistic. It wasn’t until I took an Asian-American Studies class and read a short essay on the lives of gay and lesbian South Asians in the 90s that I began to understand, and even internalize, my mother’s pessimistic attitude. The writers told story after story of being shamed, judged, and cut off from their families and culture. I felt my throat close up, my fingers unable to move. The magnitude of what I would have to navigate as a queer South Asian person began to feel unimaginable.
In that moment, my resolve hardened. I deepened my commitment to being independent. If my identity would make my life harder, I could meet the challenge by hardening myself.
Years later, I joined Lavender Phoenix after moving to the Bay. One of the first projects I supported was an Asking for Help workshop series for trans and queer South Asians. As someone who survived through independence, facilitating workshops about asking for help felt wholly inauthentic. Who was I to help others build a skill I struggled with and shunned?
I quickly learned that at Lavender Phoenix, being an expert isn’t a requirement to belong. In our workshops, we explored the stories we each held about asking for help. When I shared my own stories, the folks in the workshop listened. They affirmed that I had the right to ask for help. In that moment, I realized I hadn’t truly felt like I deserved to ask for help, let alone receive it, for a long time. I felt myself release my long-held expectations and plant seeds for a new way of living and being.
The vulnerability and tenderness we showed each other was incredibly healing, and I left that series with a new understanding. When we ask for help, we invite each other to practice care. Asking for help isn’t just welcomed in our community: it is necessary for our survival.
Now, I am asking you to help sustain our work. This Give OUT Day, the only national day of giving for LGBTQ+ organizations, LavNix is raising $25,000 by Thursday, 6/30. Will you donate $50 today to ensure queer and trans APIs can continue to grow caring relationships?
Here are other amounts that mean a lot to me:
- $150: for the 15 trans API volunteers training to become peer counselors!
- $70: for the 7 young trans and queer APIs joining our Summer Organizer Program!
- $20: for Lavender Godzilla and Phoenix Rising, the two historic newsletters we are named after!
- $_____: whatever amount feels right to YOU!
I write this email holding care for the parts of me that navigated isolation and independence to survive. And, I feel strongly connected to a new self growing within me, reaching outwards to build relationships of care, compassion, support, and interdependence. In the short time I’ve been with Lavender Phoenix, I’ve learned how to ask for help, how to lean into abundance over scarcity, how to create more inclusive spaces, and how to honor my history as a trans and queer South Asian person. Above all, I have learned, as Mariame Kaba says, that everything worthwhile is done with other people.