Host Yuan Wang interviews Dino Duazo, Vince Crisostomo, Gisele Pohan, Doreena Wong, and Lori Lai to announce APIENC’s new organizational name: Lavender Phoenix!
Gisele Pohan, Doreena Wong, and Lori Lai were members of Phoenix Rising, the first newsletter for and by Asian Pacific Islander women and Dino Duazo and Vince Crisostomo were members of Lavender Godzilla, the first gay Asian Pacific Islander men. Leo Hegde is the community organizer and Yuan Wang is the executive director at Lavender Phoenix.
Learn more about the history of these two groups and how their names and legacies inspired the new organizational name: Lavender Phoenix!
Lavender Phoenix builds transgender, non-binary, and queer Asian and Pacific Islander power in the Bay Area. We inspire and train grassroots leaders, transform our values from scarcity to abundance, and build vibrant intersectional movements.
AACRE Thursdays is monthly radio show featuring an organization from the AACRE: Asian American for Civil Rights and Equality. AACRE Thursdays premiers every third Thursday of the month at 7pm. Find more APEX Express Shows here.
- Donate to sustain our work: lavenderphoenix.org/donate
- Instagram: @lavphoenix
- Facebook: facebook.org/lavphoenix
- Twitter: @lav_phoenix
Lavender Phoenix Transcript:
[6/2/22] APIENC Name Change
[00:00:00] opening: Apex express Asian Pacific expression.
[00:00:18] Unity and cultural coverage, music and calendar, new visions, and voices coming to you with Asian Pacific Islander point of view. It’s time to get on board the apex express.
[00:00:30] Yuan: Hi there. Welcome to AACRE Thursdays on APEX Express Radio. Thanks so much for joining us today. My name is Yuan and my pronouns are she and her. I’m the director of the organization currently known as APIENC. We’re an organization of Transgender Non-binary and Queer Asians and Pacific Islanders fighting for community safety, healing, justice, and sustainable movements in the San Francisco Bay Area. But today I am so proud and excited [00:01:00] to announce that APIENC is changing our name. What, after more than a decade as a pink or API equality, Northern California. From today onwards, we will be known as Lavender Phoenix. Woo. Our name lavender Phoenix is a commitment to our past and our future. It’s an homage to lavender, Godzilla and Phoenix rising. The first ever newsletters created by and for our lesbian gay and queer API elders in the 1980s here in the bay area, in them, our people challenged isolation connected and celebrated each other and kept each other safe.
[00:01:41] They committed to imagining each other and our community’s future, even when that seemed impossible. We chose this name after a two year process that involved over 200 original name ideas, a community-wide voting process and a final decision by apex core [00:02:00] leadership committee. And we are so proud to call ourselves Lavender Phoenix, because it reminds us of the generations of trans and queer APIs who fought for us to thrive and the generations that we will fight for too.
[00:02:13] So today I am joined by a small group of incredible people who I admire deeply and together. We’re just going to kick it and reflect a little on this history, our visions and dreams for the future. And we’re going to talk a little about this new name too. So I want to give everyone an opportunity to introduce yourselves first, will you share your name, your pronouns and your relationship to Lavender Godzilla or Phoenix rising? I’ll pass it over first to you Vince.
[00:02:45] Vince Christostomo: Hi Everyone, Vince Christostomo. Pronouns are he him his and I joined GAPA in 1991, 1992, so I sort of consider myself one of the second way folks. [00:03:00] And in the middle of the nineties, I was like forever co-chair and sometimes just chair cause my other chairs kept quitting and yeah. Then one of the other things, we had a Godsy award and I got one of those and I just want to say I’m so happy to be here because we don’t really honor our history. And if you think about it, whatever our gender, whatever past we walk, we’re like companions on this journey you know, to be able to share this. And I just, I’m so grateful to APIENC now lavender godzilla (actually lavender phoenix!) Uh, we’re doing this. I’m already choked up. So in case anybody isn’t there, every time I go to an APIENC meeting, I cry. So that may happen today I’m going to pass it on to Gisele
[00:03:40] Gisele Pohan: Thanks Vince. Hi everyone. I’m Gisele Pohan my pronouns are she her hers. And I hail from the early days of Phoenix rising news. We were, barely a newsletter back then. It was a couple of pieces of papers stapled together with really announcements of when our next potluck is. [00:04:00] And, who’s new in town kind of stuff. But, as API queers back in the day it was hard to find each other. So we created Phoenix rising as a way to reach out to other queer women of Asian descent and to, just have sisterhood together. So, that’s how I got started. And through that, I met some of the other folks on this panel and I’m looking forward to hearing all about them too. And I will pass it on to Dino next.
[00:04:31] Dino Waso: Hi, I’m Dino WASO. He, him his pronouns and I’ve been involved with GAPA since before it was even GAPA in 1987. And actually I was the first person to work on. I helped with the lavender Godzilla newsletter way back then. That was back in 19 87, 88. And I’ve been involved.
[00:04:54] I was involved with it for quite a few years. I was the, like the sole editor in the [00:05:00] two thousands, I think. So, so I’ve been really involved and I kinda, I really appreciate this forum too, because it’s nice to I acknowledged the fact that we had way back then. Cause recently I’m actually gonna be working on the GAPA newsletter again.
[00:05:16] And the w the newsletter before me had changed it to lab gods, he contracted the name and I wanted to go back and change it to collaborate and Godzilla. And our graphic designer said, oh, maybe we should tell people, what it means, because they might not have a context, even though it had been changed for only maybe a year and Lavender Godzilla had been around for decades.
[00:05:39] But there’s still people really. I don’t know about our history. So, so I really appreciate us having an opportunity to kind of share what we went through way back then. And we continue to to do right now. so thanks for having us here. And Laurie next person.
[00:05:59] Lori Lai: [00:06:00] Hi everyone. My name is Lori Lai. She, her hers, and I was one of the founders of Phoenix rising along with the, Gisele and Dorina and a whole bunch of other folks, actually that really deserve a lot of credit. Our, I think main mission was to create some kind of communications via Cole, create some community amongst queer. Women. And we, we’re, I think one of the few newsletters around of that kind and that kind, and I was editor of, I think for a bunch of years in the mid, mid to late eighties, And just enjoyed my role is trying to around people up and get people to write articles.
[00:06:44] And I mean, we had everything there. We had recipes, we had softball sports events that were actually real pieces expressing all kinds of topics. Bisexuality, anything was, is really, was a game. And we even had a kind of like a [00:07:00] dear Abby column for awhile.
[00:07:01] It was just, it was just fun. And I made use of my time as co-editor in high school newspaper. And I also wrote for my college papers too, to sort of get my editorial journalistic skills to, to bear. And it really helped that. During that time. The apple came out and it had a publishing program, which seems like, well, it was in the last century, but anyway, that was a major I think because before that we just had very shim, just hand typing these columns and then we would literally paste them and making it, make it into a newsletter.
[00:07:38] Very homespun. But after we got I bought a apple. Well, I don’t think it was a Macintosh at that point, but anyway, it was apple computer. We were able to in that tiny little screen actually have a real nice letter. I don’t know if it was PageMaker, but anyway, we, we got some program and away we went and never [00:08:00] really looked back, but I’m just so happy that, it helped a lot of women stay in touch and, and build that community for folks and I’ll pass it to Dorina.
[00:08:11] Vince Christostomo: Uh,
[00:08:12] Doreena: Thank you, Lori I go by she, her and hers. Yes. I’m so kind of thrilled to actually be able to talk about our history, because I think so many of us really don’t know our history and because we haven’t really kind of lifted up all the things that we’ve done and written it down, as they say, those who record history or are those, who they think make history, but that’s not necessarily true as we know at any rate. So yes has along Lori inches out. I helped co-found a Phoenix rising. Some of us had been organizing for many years before and I just Al and I were involved in one of the first Asian American feminist groups where actually most of us were lesbians. Although we may not have said that because it was safer to be a feminist.
[00:08:58] And actually, I, I [00:09:00] like to think back and think that, out of like, I almost all of us, well, about half of us, I guess, were out lesbians. And then by the end, almost everybody came out, not everybody, but almost at any rate. There’s a, during the women’s feminist movement with, with consciousness raising groups.
[00:09:15] And so that was one of those except for Asian women so there had been organizing going around since that group started in 1976. And then we, it was really hard because there were seemed so few of us to be able to connect each other. And Laurie has, has mentioned to create a sense of community. So in order to do that, we created Phoenix rising your very simple four page newsletter. and we wanted it to kind of serve as a way to build that sense of community. So people would not feel so isolated and alone, right. That you could, you could know that you were belonged to, that there were many more of us than just maybe the one or two you might occasionally see at the bars.
[00:09:59] And so, [00:10:00] I helped to start it because it started in 1984, but then I had to move and, and leave. I went to New York for law school, but I’m so happy that, Laura and chisel, and many others actually continued that for many years after that, because I think it was kind of a connection for the whole community so that we could keep in touch with each other. And it was kind of an informal way to create a network, which we eventually did create a more formal Asian Pacific lesbian and bisexual, transgender network out of that
[00:10:32] Leo Hegde: Hey everyone, I’m Leo. hegde, I use he and they pronouns. I come to this conversation as a part of APIENC well, formerly APIENC, now lavender, Phoenix. So I’m a community organizer with lavender Phoenix. That sounds really cool to say. And yeah, I’m just really excited to be here.
[00:10:49] Here’s some stories about Phoenix rising. Here’s some stories about lavender Godzilla and just learn how you all were creating community and combating isolation. As you’re all [00:11:00] naming right now. Just super inspiring to hear about and I’m excited to hear more.
[00:11:04] Yuan: Wow, amazing. Thanks so much for sharing. Y’all it’s so beautiful to hear not only your names and voices, but you know what a little bit of your relationship was with lavender Godzilla and is with Phoenix rising. I really want to just open it up and invite folks to share, you know, I’ve heard and talked to you all about the purpose of both of these newsletters originally and why you created them by. I’d actually love to learn, for you personally, as Lori, as Vince, as Dino, why did you want to be a part of this at the time? Why did you want to get involved and why did it matter to you? Vince, can we start off with you?
[00:11:40] Vince Christostomo: it’s interesting. I was in New York and I forget what the name of the. The gay bookstore, the alternative bookstore as they called it back then was, but I actually saw a copy of Phoenix rising and I looked at this, I said, this isn’t San Francisco.
[00:11:54] I think they charge people like $3 for it. So I don’t know, you guys may be missed out on the money [00:12:00] part. And when I moved to San Francisco with my then partner at the time, and I met GAPA they were putting together one of the magazines cause we had the newsletter and then we had these magazines.
[00:12:10] And so, I wrote a story. That’s the first thing I’d ever written and it got published. And I thought, wow, this is an outlet and myself and the, the person that I was dating at the time made the cover. And I think that that magazine had more light than the relationship because that didn’t last so long, I’ve actually been traveling in place. I was in China a few years ago this is like 20 years after the fact, and somebody brought a copy of that magazine to the meeting that I was hosting and asked this you and I’m like, yes. And they said, is this you? And they pointed to something on Grindr. I’m like, no, that’s not me. But know, it was my first sense of community.
[00:12:51] And I, I tell people like my mother, we didn’t have the Pacific Islander. My mother said we were Oriental, but we weren’t. And [00:13:00] so when this came up, I’d never written anything. And I, I loved, I loved the idea of having that voice and being able to, and if it wasn’t for Dino, I think it would have faded by the side. But Dino was always of coming up with these topics for us to write about and I’ll share one more thing. And then I’ll but one of them was about my dad that I wrote about, and it was shortly after I’d come out to him and I’m sure they’d come out to him and he’s passed. And so I went back to read it and it was one of the first sort of changes in our relationship. So, yeah, so it’s kind of a history and things that we didn’t think meant. Anything, we were just trying to meet a deadline in hindsight and the history actually turned out to me, mean a lot more.
[00:13:46] Yuan: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Yeah, that really means a lot. And if you still have a copy, I would love to read that sometime. Yeah. I’m really curious for other folks [00:14:00] on this, in this call, did any memories come up for you as Vince’s speaking here? Why did you want to get involved with those newsletters at the time?
[00:14:08] Gisele Pohan: Hi, this is gisele well, so with Phoenix rising, as Doreena mentioned, we were re a lot of us were originally from a, like, what they used to call a consciousness raising or, feminist group But I distinctly remember in college when I’d visit friends at different campuses, whether it’s SF state or UC Berkeley. And this is like back in the late seventies, late seventies. If you saw an Asian person who looked queer or gay walking down the street, you cast your eyes away. If you saw a Latin X person or an African-American person they’d raise their fists, they greet the each other, as brother, sister.
[00:14:48] And that, that struck me that why, why, why can’t I do the same with, my Asian sister or brother? Right. So, for me working on Phoenix rising [00:15:00] was a way to reach out and to say that we’re proud, of who we are. sorry. Yeah, I get weepy (laughs) but it was a way to stand up and say, I’m here, I’m queer get used to it. It’s like, we, we, we have place. So, and I met a lot of great people, so that was like a bonus.
[00:15:19] Anyone else have some thoughts?
[00:15:20] Dino Waso: Hi, this is Dino. I th I think I kind of echo, but Gisele always saying getting involved with GAPA really helped me find the sense of identity that, that was kind of vague before. Like, I would all be split between whether it’s gay or Asian. It, it never got combined both.
[00:15:40] Finally with GAPA it got combined into a whole, which was a really empowering for me and exhilarating and exciting. And that, that kind of translated a little bit into the newsletter because we would, because Kappa was brand new and we were sharing ourselves with the world through the newsletter and [00:16:00] So, it’s just like what I remember most about GAPA though, was I thought we would be just telling all these personal stories, sharing our voice. But actually in the beginning I looked at it through the old newsletters and in the beginning it was just kind of like notices things about what we’re doing. And but even that like 30 years later it’s still has an impact because it tells you what our community was doing way back then and kinda laying the groundwork for what the community is doing now.
[00:16:32] So, it’s nice to look back, but then also it’s, it’s nice to see where we’ve gone where we still have to go. And it feels good to, to feel like we’ve, we We shared something in the past, that’s able to let us move forward to, so yeah.
[00:16:49] Doreena: Yeah, this is, this is Dorina what giselse and Dino both are saying about being able to be your whole self and having been so [00:17:00] invisible for so long, and having been working through the pain of that isolation and kind of alienation from everyone else. So I’ve kind of like, I consider myself a product of many movements, like the Asian-American empowerment power movement, the feminist movement, the lesbian and queer movement, lesbian and gay and queer, so that I could kind of finally come to a place where I felt. It’s just us proud of being who I am or being able to be comfortable with who I am and trying to, reach out to others like me to kind of build that sense of, empowerment just feeling like I was worth while. And, and that is why I’ve always kind of my whole life.
[00:17:44] I still do organizing within the Asian American, Pacific Islander community, as well as the LGBT community, because that is where I get my strength. That is where I get my energy to keep going, cause I believe in social change and the only [00:18:00] way I can do it is getting kind of support from like my brothers and sisters, like on today’s call, right. Because that’s home to me. It is my family. And that is why, I helped start Phoenix rising. That is why I help organize different groups across the country, helped with API equality LA it’s just because we need to support each other because nobody else is going to do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves. And so the Phoenix rising was one opportunity to do that. And I’m so happy that people felt they could plug in and carry it on because without people being committed and carrying on all of those efforts, we can’t build a movement. We can’t build our institutions.
[00:18:45] Yuan: Thank you so much. Doreena this is Yuan again. It was so beautiful to hear everyone’s different thoughts there and memories, and, I’m really curious Everything that I hear in what you said, just speaks to such a deep commitment, [00:19:00] even when it felt impossible to make space for yourselves to be your full, authentic selves.
[00:19:05] To like Gisele said, create an environment and relationships where as queer trans and queer API people, we don’t turn away from each other or ourselves. When we see each other, we turn towards each other and acknowledge each other. And I also know though that, those years that a lavender Godzilla and Phoenix rising were really thriving and being created.
[00:19:25] Those were also not easy years for our community. A lot of that came in the weekend during the time in the Heights of the HIV aids crisis and the deep isolation and pain that came with that. And so I really want to ask you all as folks, listen to you today, what was it like to create and to connect and write and support each other through years that were so hard for our kids.
[00:19:50] Lori, I want to ask, will you start us off and share?
[00:19:52] Lori Lai: Yes. It was a very difficult time. I live on a very short street, a one block street, [00:20:00] Montezuma street in San Francisco, and we literally had seven guys die on our little street, including my next door neighbor. And it was just horrific when we would, I mean, while they could, they would, sometimes go out and have a walk and they were like walking skeletons.
[00:20:18] It was just, it was horrible and, spots all over them. I actually worked in the San Francisco general emergency room lab. So, We got to see quite a few cases at San Francisco general. And I handled a lot of the blood and did blood tests back then. We didn’t even have gloves. And so, we were risking our lives every single day that we were going to work, but, I just felt it was part of our job.
[00:20:46] I remember having blood tribes, because back then, I don’t know about now, but back then, you couldn’t get a unit of blood unless you got somebody else to donate for you. So they rounded up or not rounded [00:21:00] up and called up for a lot of lesbians to volunteer for our brothers because w they, they didn’t have often family, or if they weren’t in touch with their family in order to give blood.
[00:21:11] We went ahead and donated our blood so that they could actually have some platelets. A lot of them had bleeding problems and other problems because of their illness. So we were trying to fill in for that. And yeah, it was, I stuck myself with a needle once. I had to go through HIV testing myself.
[00:21:31] It was a long two weeks before I knew what the results were. So it was, it was very tough. I mean, not. When I look back it was like a war zone and it definitely, when you went to Castro, it was a very, very, very sobering to see people living with aids. There was at that time, no treatment.
[00:21:53] So, it was pretty much a death sentence. I can’t even I could never forget, one of the guys I think [00:22:00] it was at GAPA that somehow didn’t, even when he contracted HIV did not really engage with people. And he just didn’t tell his parents and somehow died alone in his, wherever he was living.
[00:22:15] And it was, everybody cried then. It was so sad to think that, he didn’t the shame or whatever it was that he was feeling. It was, it was just hard. And, I mean, all of us could have, at least visited him or done something more. But I think he just didn’t really, he kind of withdrew and, and I I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who was the only one I knew of, but yeah, it’s, it was very tough those years after me is,
[00:22:48] Yuan: oh, Lori, I see. I think Vince is, is ready to share some things. Thank you so much, Laurie,
[00:22:56] Vince Christostomo: thank you for bringing this up because I think most [00:23:00] everybody knows I’ve been living with HIV now for about 34 years. And. Around 94. I switched from from, I had a theater program to do things emotional, practical, voluntary support program for G chip.
[00:23:16] And it was incredible because many of the women in the community joined that. And there were so many folks that I am so grateful to. And then we had this big holiday thing, but another reason why I participated in lavender Godzilla was because so many of my clients needed to read those stories.
[00:23:35] They needed it. It was a way for them to know. So I would bring copies of it to their homes and things. And so many stories, what Lloyd has shared, that was actually typical in our community at times. So many people were so ashamed that they would just cut off. And I mean, it GAPA, we did have the HIV project and people bonded together, but many times when somebody knew they got it, they just kind of withered away.[00:24:00]
[00:24:00] And died. And so, it’s one of the things that in my work that I do now, I think about what is the ticket to get people out of their homes and connect, what is that thing that’s going to motivate them to do that. And, one of the things that did switch with our community just different from like the gateway men which make up the majority of San Francisco’s HIV is that in our group, there were a core group of us that survived and still see each other today and support each other.
[00:24:29] And still finally try to recall the various people in our community who who supported us. There was one Jaan, who was one of my Jaan was one of my volunteers who was from an, I think they died of cancer in the Either in the early two thousands, some said we shouldn’t have a program for everybody, not just for HIV, but for anybody in our community.
[00:24:54] And I think, eight Pink’s community care thing started to do some of that. I keep remembering, [00:25:00] forgetting, I didn’t say this has been that I guess UN said that for me, actually, when I do these things, then it’s only after I answered the question, the other point, but it’s . So emotional for me to think of these things, because the other thing is just has a personal age.
[00:25:17] He thought he was going to die at any moment. I remember just standing, watching our community. I think, God, this is really, this is what I’m going to lose. I never had that growing up. I never had that. Gay Asians. I knew were from the bars when they saw me as competition. So we didn’t really become friends.
[00:25:40] And I just, yeah, so just, I thought this is such a magnificent community and I was so proud to be a part of it and I will turn it over to somebody else cause I can feel my throat tightening.
[00:25:58] And we did a peer counselor thing too, [00:26:00] as I was going to shut up. And I started talking again, this has bins again, but we did this peer counseling where we actually were the only ones who did a co-gender thing, where we had someone, we had trans folks, we had lesbians, we had bisexuals, we had everybody from our community was represented in that peer counseling.
[00:26:17] I call it thing, but. It was a peer counseling group
[00:26:22] Gisele Pohan: events. This is . I was part of that peer counseling group. I thought, wow, this is such a kid. This is great. Asians helping Asians right on. So I joined this group and of course at the time I was older, I was like probably 30, but I had the best time and I met so many neat people.
[00:26:45] And that’s where I met Vince was as part of that group. Thanks for mentioning it. I had forgotten. So I’ll pass it on to someone else. Whoever wants to jump in and carry the ball.[00:27:00]
[00:27:06] This is young again. Just all I knew you just pass the ball on to someone else, but I also remember having a, really a conversation with you about this time, like working on Phoenix, rising during the time of the HIV aids crisis. And I remember you sharing some really powerful reflections with me, and I know people who are listening to this are, would really value hearing that too.
[00:27:27] And I’m curious, like, what was that like for you at the time? Not just as a writer and editor, but as a person. Yeah. Oh, this is just elegant. Thanks man. That there was such joy and life and festivity before aids hit. You’d go to the Castro we had, we had just the women alone. There were nine different lesbian, only bars in San Francisco.
[00:27:53] Okay. This is 24 7. Only for girls. And I don’t know how many there were for men, [00:28:00] but I, I, we went, they had great parties, great dances, great. The best DJs, there was so much festivity. And then we just all got slapped silly by this awful awful disease. And I think Laurie and Vince mentioned the stigma.
[00:28:17] There was huge stigma to having contracted HIV aids. So not only were you fighting this awful vicious disease, there was shame, shame, shame, and more shame associated with it. So for me, I was renting a little flat in the mission. Most of my building was gay men and it was, it was just, it was home, I mean this awful disease came to my home and hurt my neighbor.
[00:28:47] And hurt my friends. Right. And then it later on in, in the nineties, my my hairstylists that I love dearly straight Japanese girl from Hawaii, living the big [00:29:00] life on union street, styling hair by blood transfusion, she gets HIV and she passes away. I didn’t know, until her sister reached out and said, she’s on her last days.
[00:29:16] And I thought, what last days of what, what is she talking about? It’s like, but because of her shame, she did not let people know that she had contracted aids. And so I, it, it just affected so many facets of your community as, as a young, vibrant adult living in San Francisco bay area.
[00:29:40] Th th this is a time when you’re sowing your oats and you’re starting your career and all this, but there was this huge dark cloud and just a profound sense of loss. Vince had mentioned this before, but just profound sense of loss. We had I’m blanking on the name of this free news paper, but there was [00:30:00] this gay community free newspaper, and it was like 36 pages of obituaries.
[00:30:07] Right. Remember guys, we’d see it on the newsstands and we’d pick it up. We used to pick up this newspaper to figure out what great party or, our equivalent of a rave, what great thing was happening back. Where am I going to check out, on the weekends, but now it was just, just pages and pages of these beautiful people who have all passed.
[00:30:27] Right. I mean, and, and then when we all started quilting for the aids quilt, right. We, There were so many names. There were so many names and there was an all call to the community. Please come and help and quilt and, and let’s let, let’s have every name, have a place, right? Every name is important.
[00:30:49] And anyway, I’m kind of rambling, sorry, but it was, it was profoundly I won’t say scarring, it’s a strong impact [00:31:00] even as a lesbian in a community that in a, in a time of disease that largely affected gay men, but it affected all of us impacted all of us just by virtue of, it’s. It’s, it’s profound loss, right?
[00:31:17] So just profound loss. So I hope younger generations can. Not experienced that type of a situation, but I hope that they can imagine how that type of experience kind of changes you for life. And you become a much more compassionate, less judgy. You, you, it changes you because you, can’t just, you can’t just say that that affects somebody else.
[00:31:50] Not me. It affects all of us anyway. Sorry I rambled. So I will take it back to you UN [00:32:00] I guess this is Dorina speaking, I guess I would just add that. Yes. It was kind of just incredibly unbelievable or hard time, because we all knew someone or some lots of people, some, but we all knew people who, who had died had been affected, like.
[00:32:22] Contribute to the quilt. And we all, I think felt it very deeply, but what I, what I choose kind of, to remember is the response of our community, not only the, lesbians and gay men, that was an opportunity to come together and support each other with which, we had been kind of more on kind of separate paths, perhaps, but I think that that brought women and men together, but also the incredible organized that our community was able to do through groups, like act up. And I just [00:33:00] remember, all of those posters, it said silence equals death when they were the Reagan administration was refusing to even say the name aids and that our communities fought back against that.
[00:33:14] I mean, I think that that helped us kind of fight back from all of the deaths that we saw in all of the, the negativity, right. That we could choose to try to organize and force basically the administration and the FDA, do research on it and to find some kind of, treatment for it, which took of course years.
[00:33:38] But, but I think that, I like to think of that as a model for our community of responding to challenges that we’ve had to overcome. Right. That you don’t just kind of get. But I think we’ve used those kinds of strategies and tactics and continue to use it. Other communities use it right to actually use, [00:34:00] non-violent means to actually, all lay down in the streets and try to use that kind of community organizing to fight back.
[00:34:08] And I think that that showed that our community could fight back. And that’s, I think the lesson that I think we should take from that,
[00:34:25] this is Laurie and I just wanted to comment on how that era of HIV and aids really shaped my own career. I went to Into the biotech industry and spent over 10 years of my life. And I’m still doing it product managing for sexually transmitted infections. My first product with Novartis diagnostics was HIV HCV and HBB led screening molecular assays.
[00:34:54] I went on to get my doctorate in local health and epidemiology in [00:35:00] order to help develop some of these Diagnostic tools tests to, to help identify all the disease earlier or to screen the disease. I also looked after a HIV actually people after taking these drugs for a while they develop resistance.
[00:35:19] So I did looked after. Tests that actually sequenced the virus and looked for resistance markers. And now I’m, I’m also working on with my current company on some other STDs are chlamydia gonorrhea, et cetera. So it’s been a long journey and it certainly has given me a lot of purpose in my life after going through those very tough times in the eighties.
[00:35:47] I really wanted to devote my life to do something more more on the scientific side, but still something, something that would really matter.
[00:35:58] Yuan: This is young. Laurie, thank you [00:36:00] so much for sharing that and thanks to everyone just now shared such beautiful reflections about, about a really hard time.
[00:36:07] I just want to invite everyone. I know that not everyone listening while you’re us, but for all of us here just want to invite you to take a little breath together.
[00:36:15] [00:37:00] [00:38:00] [00:39:00]
[00:39:51] Yuan: Thank you all so much for helping us remember. We just have time for about two more questions and I want to make sure that we have a [00:40:00] little room to talk about joy too, because I know that in all of the conversations I had with each of you before today, I would hear so, so much about like how fun it was actually to put these newsletters together.
[00:40:13] The joy of getting together over potlucks and home cooked food with each other, and some of the sweet, sweet moments that were so important to that time. So, I am super curious and Dina, I’d love to invite you to share first. I think we can hear from one or two people what were some of the things about that time that brought you a sense of joy and connection or what to sell talked about earlier?
[00:40:34] That sense of we’re here, we’re queer and we’re actually going to celebrate that.
[00:40:42] Dino Waso: Yeah. Hi, this is Dino again. One of the things we did was we’d always set up these monthly social events and where it was forest bias far community and it really helped build that sense of connection. We just rent a little room in at Fort [00:41:00] Mason center have like maybe a hundred people.
[00:41:02] And even though people knew that those, the clubs afterwards, this is a way for us to connect first and then, enter tenant, then they could do the bar stuff, but it really made a huge difference in terms of connecting and getting together. I mean, because back in when, back in the early Early nineties, the late eighties, early nineties we’d be, we’d have a gap of meeting in the Castro and then we’d walk down the street and there’d be hardly any agents out there.
[00:41:32] And now it’s like, it feels like it’s half of the population of the Castro’s Asian, but back then it wasn’t. So it was really a great way to feel like we weren’t alone. We could have fun, we can have dance dances, we can have parties. And just to build the community, one connection at a time.
[00:41:50] So yeah, it was, it was a lot of fun. Actually. There was one this one time when we had to float a gap, had to float at the pride parade and [00:42:00] we are, Ms. Scalpel was Maria Imelda Marcos. So we created the stooge float, shaped like a shoe. And we had, we made giant sequence purple sequence to put on them and it felt like every gap a member came and we’d had, it’s like, it took forever to make, but it was so much fun.
[00:42:19] And just having everybody together feels, I mean, it kind of feels sad now that the community’s kind of dispersed and we, we didn’t have that kind of that joint commitment to a purpose together like we did back then, but, but it, it’s just great to kinda think back and it’s like a vision of what we could do together.
[00:42:39] Just like everybody had shared that fun, doing fun things too. Fun, productive things and, maybe silly, it really made a big difference for people. So, this has been budding in this has been really great. There was one moment in the community that I don’t know who was there, but it was the Chinese new year parade.[00:43:00]
[00:43:00] The first one that we all marched in. And I just remember people showing up and wearing masks. And I remember watching this on television because I wasn’t in town. And then I remember watching the mass come off and I don’t know if anybody was there, everybody marched in that, but it was so beautiful to see.
[00:43:23] ’cause when I, when people first showed up, I was like, they’re wearing NAF. What’s the point of being out there wearing masks, but then to watch people take them off, it was just so beautiful. And I think we got a picture in out magazine. I don’t know if we put one in laboratory guides alert or Phoenix rising, but he knew for me, that was what the joy was.
[00:43:45] And I’m so glad you have this because I thought our stories were so tragic. I had at the end program, I’m like, these stories are really tragic. I hope to meet some joy here, but for me it was the community and the stories and people [00:44:00] discovering that there was another gay, Asian, lesbian, or trans person they could relate to.
[00:44:07] And that’s what it taught me. The joy was the community that we had. And maybe it wasn’t always perfect, we always rose up and we, I think we always, and I actually think that that’s one of the reasons why I’m still alive today because I found that community and I’m not one of the people that passed and that’s where my story ends.
[00:44:28] But yeah. So I don’t know if anybody was here for that, but it was just such a beautiful, I don’t even, I forget what year it was and they had animal masks. And then just to watch people take those off and just come out in public with just so beautiful. Hi, this is Dino. Actually. I was at that At that parade.
[00:44:48] The first time we showed up at the Chinese new year parade, and there was really a lot of fear in the beginning in terms of how the crowd would [00:45:00] react. We even had people from Asian law caucus who would be monitoring it and make sure that like negative stuff wouldn’t happen. But but that had this huge balloon dragon, and we would kind of run around with it.
[00:45:14] And in the middle of it, there would be so much joy in terms of being out and proud and in the community and, running around with this dragon. So they may have. In terms of what Vince was talking about. I mean, just that kind of connection. We had us being all there together probably made it feel safer for people and and then once the parade was all over and we’d be just like, wow, that was awesome.
[00:45:43] I mean, there was a sense of relief, but sense of joy too, and fulfillment that, w w we’re out there being part of the bigger API community, not just, we’re not just our own group. We’re part of the we’re part of a larger whole too. So, yeah, it, it was it was a [00:46:00] really exciting time. This is Shannon.
[00:46:02] I thought he was going to say it didn’t happen that way at all. It’s just like, is wrong. Well, this is John again. Thank you so much for sharing that memory. And you’re right. It is so beautiful to hear about the moments we are joyful and supporting each other and in the easiest and the hard times we just have time.
[00:46:19] I wanna make sure to respect everyone’s time here. I think this conversation could go on forever. I think we all need to get together over some tea or something and just hang out and, and hash it out. But we just have time for one last question. I’d love to hear from a few people, everyone here learned about a pink or lavender.
[00:46:35] Phoenix is a new name before this conversation, and I know everyone here had a different and a personal reaction to it. So I would love to hear from two or three people, tell us about your reaction when you heard that our community had chosen the name, lavender, Phoenix. How did it land with.
[00:46:53] How did it feel to receive, and Leo, I want to start off with you as one of the people who chose that name. How did it feel to [00:47:00] you when you were a part of that decision-making process as part of a pincer lavender, Phoenix has staff team. Yeah. Thanks for asking a young this is Leo. Yeah, I think that when we were going through that process just like aesthetically, I was like, wow, y’all chose really powerful names for your newsletters.
[00:47:18] And combining it, I’m like, oh, it sounds great. But beneath that kind of like aesthetic dry, I think there’s an aspect that I’ve always loved about. The organizing work that I’ve done with lavender, Phoenix, which is being rooted in history. And when we were choosing the name, I think I knew very surface level what that meant.
[00:47:36] I was. I know that you all were both creating newsletters during this time period. And I was like, yeah, totally. Like we’re, we’re continuing this work, but I actually think in this conversation, I’m seeing all of these like really deep connections to things that like we are feeling and moving through right now.
[00:47:58] Like [00:48:00] I’m hearing you all talk about this fear or the sense of loss that happened during the HIV aids epidemic. Like, I can’t even imagine it I’m experiencing it that on that scale. And I really appreciate y’all sharing those stories. And at the same time I’m feeling this like connection to, I think the fear that a lot of, like myself as like a trans south Asian person, I feel like a lot of the people in my community, there’s always this fear for me of like, will we lose them right now during the pandemic?
[00:48:31] And just In general, just like moving through the world with this intersection of identity, I think there is a lot of, a lot of fear on that and a lot of loss that comes with that. And I think I’m hearing from you all something similar to actually what I felt, which is that creating this sense of purpose, creating the sense of compassion shaping how we like fight back against against shame against silence, which isolates us And even [00:49:00] like leaning on each other for strength Laurie, the, the story that you shared about, folks showing up to give blood, I like can think of no, like more poetic, a way to say, Hey, I’m showing up for you.
[00:49:12] I will literally give you my blood, and that’s how I feel about a lot of people in our community. So I, it just feels so right to me that we are taking on this name and I feel in a lot of ways that like I hope to honor that legacy. Yeah, I think it just feels really beautiful to hear these stories and to know what we’re trying to continue.
[00:49:33] Yeah. And I would love to hear from other folks as well, but for me, I think this is Lori again, it’s a, I think it’s a wonderful name and, and it does resonate even across the country and really even into Asia because of the connections I made with Phoenix rising and visiting Asian lesbians of the east coast.
[00:49:59] And also [00:50:00] later on connecting with through connections again the lesbian group in Japan, I lived there for years and then the lesbian group in Hong Kong Phoenix rising got to be pretty well known. And so there, there’s in this name, I think you’ll, you’ll see that there is going to be some deep connections not just, across time, but across geography.
[00:50:21] So I I’m very, very I think it’s, it’s just a wonderful auspicious name. Well with that, Laurie thank you. This is Yan and Laura, you just talked about how you think this is an auspicious name and in the spirit of that fortune in the spirit of Goodwill, I would love to invite us to close this conversation by sharing a wish.
[00:50:46] And I will say for anyone who’s listening, we didn’t prepare, this was not script. We don’t have any like, prepared answers for any of these questions, but I want to ask everyone here to sell to Rena. Do you know Lori Vince, Leo, [00:51:00] will you end this conversation by sharing a one sentence wish for our community going forward?
[00:51:07] I know that one sentence fill, not capture everything, but I know that it will mean so much to hear your wish for us. So I’m going to bring us back to our Our original order when we introduced ourselves. And I’m going to ask Vince to start us off with your one sentence switch, and then you can pass it to dissolve.
[00:51:33] Okay. This has been, my wish is very simple. I wish you all love this pure and simple, and I’m going to pass it on to just sell.
[00:51:46] Oh man, you stole mine. This is your cell. I wish I wish you all the strength to be proud of your authentic self. [00:52:00] That’s what I wish. And I will pass it on to oh, who was next? Scroll up. Oh, I’ll pass it on to Dino. Okay. This DNL. So, just based on all that we’ve been talking about, my wish is for us to bloom together as a committee and to be, to being the best we can be which is there and, and ready to read it to make itself now I’ll pass it to Lauren.
[00:52:35] Yeah, I wish that Lambert or Phoenix not only we’ll continue the work of building this beloved community within the LGBTQ plus Asian space, but, but also to build a beloved community with beyond that and, and have people really, appreciate the wonderful diversity intersectionality and, it’s, it’s just so [00:53:00] much beauty that is going to come out of it.
[00:53:02] So, wishing you all the best.
[00:53:10] Doreena: Oh, this is Dorina I guess I’m so. Yes. I wish that you you take, our history and share it with others and help them understand, how far we’ve come and how wonderful we are as a community. And that we are all here to help. And whenever you need, or just to share ours, to talk
[00:53:38] with you, we, I love the idea of, our community carrying on and growing and, and that’s why the, the idea that you’ve taken the names of two of our, two, two of our institutions and, and are using that to build, continue to build a sense of community. And, I’m so proud of you for doing.[00:54:00]
[00:54:04] Leo Hegde: Oh, thanks. Y’all for those wishes. This is Leo. I think this is similar to what Doreena spoke about, but I’m really wishing for those of us in the zoom room and those of us not in the zoom room that we can continue to share and witness each other’s stories. I know that I’ve found so much like meaning in this conversation itself and I think that’s, that’s what moves us forward.
[00:54:32] Yuan: And with that, it’s time for us to close this conversation. Thank you all so much. We’ve gathered here because it’s trans and queer Asians and Pacific Islanders across generations. We know as well as anyone that names hold power across our communities, names have brought us both struggle and healing.
[00:54:54] We’ve learned to live with new spellings across migration and war. Many of us have [00:55:00] mended our names and created new names to call ourselves. And many of us work every day to remember the names of the loved ones we have lost this conversation has been a chance to honor the history, the power and the vision of a name change that we choose.
[00:55:17] And as we move forward, we know that organizing as lavender, Phoenix, it means so much more than just the words we call ourselves. Lavender. Phoenix means an everyday commitment to remembering our history. It means organizing with generations in mind that every decision we make should reflect the relationships we want to see in our world.
[00:55:39] It means building a world where like Vince said, our joy is in the community that we have for us. Lavender. Phoenix is a name. It is a prayer, and it is a promise today you’ve tuned into apex express 94.1 KPFA 89.3 [00:56:00] KPF be in Berkeley and [email protected] Thank you so much to Dino fence, to sell Lori to Rena and Leo for joining me today and sharing so much with wisdom.
[00:56:13] If you want to grow and organize alongside us, you can join us. Follow us at @lavphoenix on Instagram and find us that lavenderphoenix.org and please check out our website, kpfa.org to find out more about this name change. Thank you to Paige for doing all the background tech apex express produced by Mikko Lee Jolena Keon Lee pre-teen Mangala Chikara and Paige chung tonight’s show was produced by me Yuan and thanks to the team at KPFA for all their support.
[00:56:43] Let’s continue to organize. Remember, and get free together. Have a great night.
[00:56:48] [00:57:00] [00:58:00] Leo Hegde’s Queer Brown Love