I am reminded I am enough
When my time as an APIENC Summer Organizer came to a close, I brought ink to skin, tattooing a representation of my transformation this summer. Now, on my right arm is an abstract person whose head is exploding, three bold eyes flying in different directions. If I could encapsulate this summer with APIENC in a sentence, it would be: “gaining new perspectives on things I previously saw differently in this world.” That’s exactly what my tattoo represents.
In 2003, I was born in the Islands of Fiji, where I spent five years of my life growing up. In 2008, my parents immigrated our family to the United States in search of a brighter future. My family upholds deep cultural values, and as I started exploring my sexuality further, I realized it wouldn’t be an easy feat to comprehend for them. Living at the intersection of my identities, I often felt confused, isolated, and deeply challenged. That intersection truly grew dark, with lights blacked out and traffic becoming heavy. From where I stood, I watched my identities clash, crash, and create chaos. I remember getting into relationships and having to hide them once I returned home. I remember my family finding out about my forbidden relationship, and going to great extents to eradicate what I had. I was a child when they offered money and wishlist gifts to leave someone I loved. I remember feeling ashamed of my identity, and developing deep insecurities of the way I expressed myself. At times, I felt as if the intersection would never clear up. I felt alone.
This summer, I found myself at this intersection again. Partnering with ASATA (the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action) through the APIENC Summer Organizer Program, I found my sexuality and cultural identity meeting each other once again. Despite my past trauma, fear, and insecurities, I found myself not ashamed for once. To my surprise, for the first time in my life this intersection’s lights started working, chaos disappeared, and traffic cleared. I began meeting other queer and trans South Asians for the first time, having conversations about our challenges with sexuality, and healing. All along, I had never been alone at this intersection. Looking back, I wished I could tell my younger self.
But what I could do—for my younger self, and for others—became my Summer Organizer project: a project dedicated towards the next generation. I drafted questions about life for queer and trans South Asians, and brought them to my 1-on-1 conversations with others like me. By documenting others’ experiences, struggles, challenges, and wins, I began creating what my past self craved so deeply to hear. These stories, narratives, and experiences we collectively shared helped me heal from my traumas. As I collect them, I hope they tell the next generation that their struggles aren’t being faced alone, and things do get better.
Or, in the words of other queer and trans South Asian friends I spoke to:
- “There’s so many exciting and beautiful things that you can create once you start coloring outside the lines. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to come into my identity and break out of narratives that frankly aren’t true for everybody.” – Leo Hegde
- “When I think forward to coming out to my family, I want them to understand that I am still just Nisha. There will be nothing different about me as I just open up a part of myself they haven’t seen yet. – Nisha Anais
- “Lead your life true to yourself and don’t give a fuck about anybody else. If I were to do this again, I would want to be so strong in myself that I couldn’t get swayed by other people’s judgements. I’d tell my younger self don’t worry about judgements, just be who you wanna be.” – Dipti Ghosh
Now, in the present day, I look down at my tattoo, and I’m reminded of this summer. One where I learned that I was never alone in my struggles. Where I healed from past traumas, and learned the power our history and past can harness. My conversations with my queer and trans South Asian friends blossomed into a project of radical care for the next generation, words my younger self craved to hear. I am reminded I am enough, there is space for me in this community, and I belong. And you do too.
Sajneel (he/him) is a first-generation, queer, social justice advocate. Through high school, he tackled budget cuts in his district by becoming an events commissioner and fundraised over $25,000 for his high school’s art program. He is passionate about uplifting marginalized communities through activism and liberation. Today he has his own start-up business, Avant-Garde, selling homemade, eco-friendly, and sustainable candles. He is interested in further studying business, marketing, and the perfumery industry.
To hear more participants’ reflections on APIENC’s Summer Organizer Program (SOP), check out Sophie (2020), Cassie (2020), and Troi’s (2020) reflections, and find more here.