by Anna Dang, SEARAC Communications Intern
Pride Month is coming to a close, but at SEARAC, we are not done celebrating! We continue our commitment to honor LGBTQ+ Southeast Asian Americans, this month and every month. In this special Pride Month newsletter, we spotlight two community leaders: Tracy Nguyen and David Bouttavong. In these brand new interviews, Tracy and David share insights on what Pride Month means to them.
What does Pride Month mean to you? Living in the Bay Area my whole life, I am so privileged to be around queer and trans folks all the time. During Pride Month in particular, all the magical elements of the community — power, activism, creativity, spirituality, healing, radical joy, education — come out in full force. It’s a month to really embody what it’s like to live abundantly in our own skin and spirit, and it’s a reminder that we have permission to be this way all year round. It’s also a month that invites us to slow down, reflect on the past and honor our ancestors. During the more challenging moments of Pride Month, it is a stark reminder of how easily exploited we are by capitalism. While the labor of resistance can be tiring, our joy can be revolutionary.
Has Pride Month changed for you throughout the years? For me, the meaning of Pride has transformed so much over the years. In the beginning, it was such a heavy weight to not be my full self at home. I was out as queer in my work and social life — everywhere but at home with my family. It felt most painful that I just couldn’t be honest with my parents. Fast forward twelve years later, and I’m now living with my parents again, but I’m fully out to them. I feel blessed to have experienced transformative, intergenerational healing in this way.
Pride Month always reminds me to reflect on where I’ve been personally and honor the community that helped me get where I am. During this year especially, it reminds me that the queer and trans magic in my life — and throughout our deep history — has given me so much healing and growth. I am learning what it feels like to be full.
What do you want to tell other LGBTQ Southeast Asian American community members? Our queerness is our healing magic. As descendants of resilient, creative ancestors, I truly believe that we are a manifestation of their wildest dreams. Our queerness has the power to heal international war trauma — whether it’s your activism, art, voice, science, or dance. When I think of liberation in our lifetime, it starts with this community. I want us all, myself included, to lean into our magic and live out our fullest lives.
What does Pride Month mean to you? Pride means I can be as queer as I want to be and as Lao as I want to be in all the spaces that I am in; my 100% authentic self. To be able to be accepted fully as you are and not just tolerated. To have the comfort and option to choose your gender identity, orientation and pronouns when filling out documents. It means I am a proud child of Lao refugees, a proud cis man, a proud sibling, a proud Asian Amercan and a proud Fresnan. Pride is being able to come out to your Lao family and them loving you unconditionally.
Has Pride Month changed for you throughout the years? As a youth, it was about celebration and fun. As I grew into my own, it became about activism, advocacy and representation. Fighting for the right to marry the person we love. Advocating for health equity in the queer community. Fighting for the underrepresented QPOC, specifically making sure Asian folx and voices are represented in trans and queer spaces.
What do you want to tell other LGBTQ Southeast Asian American community members? Sometimes it may feel like we are on our own island. As we start connecting more with one another, we are building collective knowledge and power. As we uplift and celebrate one another we become increasingly visible. As we take a seat at the table our voices are being heard.
We must continue to show up and for one another and build the next generation of Southeast Asian leaders. We must continue to stand with our overpoliced Black and Brown communities and be in strong solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. We must keep fighting for those who are unfairly and unjustly incarcerated ICE. Celebrating who we are is important; policy and systems change is crucial all days of the year.
Lastly, we must include queer experiences as we tell our Southeast Asian stories and history.