I learned the power of being honest.
Growing up, I could not imagine anyone accepting me for my queer and trans identities. I viewed these parts of myself as a burden that I had to carry, something ugly and unlovable. Believing that I could never show my queerness to anyone, I hid and silenced myself. In order to keep myself safe, I sacrificed my authenticity. In college, I began unraveling these internalized beliefs. I came out as a trans woman and nonbinary, and in the process of my social and medical transition I found a supportive group of people who understood me and loved me.
Yet, coming into Lavender Phoenix, the remnants of my past still stuck with me. I found myself retreating inwards in times of struggle, avoiding other’s company rather than asking for their help. I feared being vulnerable with others and worried that by showing weakness, I would be rejected. But as the weeks went by in the Summer Organizer Program, I found myself opening up, unlearning my fears surrounding intimacy, and learning how to share with honesty and vulnerability.
The first big moment came during the very first day of the program. As we trickled into this new online space, nervous and excited, Yuan, the current director of Lavender Phoenix, shared the structure of the day. We would be discussing LavNix’s history, values, and build relationships with each other, culminating in appreciations that we would give to one another. Surprisingly, it was the last part, giving and receiving affirmations, that terrified me. Immediately, I found myself struggling with the worries that no one would have anything to say for me and that I wouldn’t know what to say to others. I was not used to uplifting others and having others do the same to me. At the end of the day, when it was time to give affirmations, I don’t even remember who I appreciated or who appreciated me. But I do remember that I was overwhelmed with the love that everyone in that space had for one another. It was the first time I had ever experienced such a kind and warm community of queer and trans API people.
As the program progressed, it got easier to affirm others. I began to focus my attention on the actions of each of my teammates and recognize everyone for the work that they did. I gave specific appreciations that helped me get across how much I cared for each of them and how much they meant to me.
It got easier to receive affirmations and affirm myself as well. Each week, our full team came together to hear 1-2 team members share a snapshot of their life with the rest of the group. During the third week of the program, it was my turn to share my river of life. When it came time for me to present, I felt really scared. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say and I was afraid of the reaction I would get from sharing my story. But I knew that if I wanted to grow, I would have to face my fear of vulnerability. And so, as prepared and shared my river of life, I did it as honestly as possible. I shared the things that I loved and things that I hated. I shared my story of exploration and discovery. And I shared my experiences of hiding, of isolation, and of fear. At times, I was overcome with my emotions. But at every point before, during, and after, the other SOP team members held me with loving and gentle energy. They gave me endless loving affirmations that filled my heart and made me feel valued. In this moment, I was able to share my authentic story vulnerability and on my own terms. The parts of me that I felt had to remain hidden were received with open arms.
At Lavender Phoenix, I learned the power of being honest and vulnerable to those around you. I learned to express my needs to those that would both hear them and meet them. I found healing at Lavender Phoenix, healing that I want everyone in my community to find. At Lavender Phoenix I see a vision of the future that I want for myself and for the generations after me. A future where my identities are something that I can be proud of rather than ashamed. Where our communities embrace us in all of our complexities and multitudes. One where we are powerful and one where we are free.
Bio: Iris (she/they) is a nonbinary second-generation Chinese American trans woman. She joined Lavender Phoenix to find QTAPI community and has loved every second of it.