Lavender Phoenix formed in 2004 as a response to a 6,000-person rally to attack marriage equality held by Chinese Christian leaders in San Francisco. Initially named the Asian Pacific American Coalition for Equality (APACE), then API Equality, and then APIENC, Lavender Phoenix began as an emergent national coalition of LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander people and our allies focused on storytelling, organizing, and advocacy. Our inception as an organization came out of a specific moment in time—a time in which our community wanted to feel safe, affirmed, and validated in our homes, with our families, and in our bodies. Since then, our need to be safe and affirmed has not changed, but our tactics and strategies have shifted to best meet the needs of transgender, non-binary, and queer API people in the Bay Area.
Between 2004-2008, Lavender Phoenix built local and national connections with API and LGBTQ organizations to secure marriage equality. During this time, the focus of the organization was to mobilize the API community to support marriage equality legislation, while generating media coverage in API and English media to support LGBTQ families.
GENERATIVE CONFLICT, PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP, & A NEW NAME
Following the 2016 federal election, Lavender Phoenix’s membership grew rapidly as we expanded our community building events, Trans Justice work, and leadership development programs. Trans and non-binary Lavender Phoenix members organized hundreds of community members and allies to mobilize at Trans March. Through our annual Queer Justice Leadership Exchange, Summer Organizer Program, and organizing projects, dozens of leaders transformed into values-based organizers. While there were triumphs to celebrate, the weight of this political moment was immense, especially on our staff team of two. We knew that, for this work to be sustainable and community-led, we needed a radical shift. By 2018, Lavender Phoenix partnered with the Wildfire Project to catalyze a much-needed change in the way power and responsibility were shared across our staff, Core Committee, and membership.
Together, we invited generative conflict as an opportunity to talk about our north star, ground in what’s at stake in our work, and build a more healthy culture of assessment and accountability.
With the powerful member-leadership grown through this process, in 2020, Lavender Phoenix released “Up to Us”, a groundbreaking report on the needs of transgender and non-binary API people in the Bay Area. The report summarized our lived experiences with housing, employment, violence, and healthcare, and provided a framework towards safety and justice for our people. Grounded in these findings, Lavender Phoenix updated our Theory of Change in 2021, with a renewed emphasis on healing justice, leadership development across movements, and community safety.
In 2022, after a 3-year process led by our community, we decided to change our name from “APIENC” to Lavender Phoenix. To learn more about the history and intentions behind this powerful decision, visit our name-change announcement.
Lavender Phoenix’s work comes from a long legacy of trans and queer API people who have organized for our rights, created connected communities, and made magic despite the violence of the systems around us. We are made possible by the people in our homelands who fought against colonization, by the divas & sex workers who rose up against police brutality, by the networks of activism made necessary by the HIV/AIDS+ crisis, by the Asian American movement elders who rejected orientalism, and by the healers who created space for our humanity.
It is in their memory that we work to get free.