Reflections: Meeting 1

Hi everyone, I hope you are well. This is Kyle, founder of Miami Q&A.

This is Miami Q&A Blog’s first post! I have always intended that I make public reflection an integral part of the organization, as I also deeply value transparency as well, so our members can see the development of the organization in action.

I wrote this post to reflect on the organization’s first meeting, in which we had a community conversation about the importance of queer community and how to build the organization out from its current state.

I will start with one thing that I’ve really been repeating to myself. One member who attended the meeting said, “If you’re really going to do this, consistency is key”. I haven’t forgotten that. Even over my vacation I was thinking about how Q&A was going to be more consistent in being there for Miami’s queer asian community, both on a personal level and organizational level. I don’t know that I have the answers, except to push the needle forward every day in some way, even if it were simply looking something up, or contacting one person by email.

Overview

We started the meeting with introductions, and went straight into the meat of the guided conversation, which was in Q&A format (before you think it, yes... I am proud of the wordplay). The questions that guided the conversation were:

  • What is Miami Q&A? → Mission & Goals → Comment on mission and goals

  • Who is “Asian”?

  • Why are we an exclusive group?

  • Why is it important that we’re together?

  • What are the ground rules of this community?

  • How do we keep our community safe?

  • What will we build together?
     

Let’s go question by question forward, and I’ll give my best summary of what the group answered on each question:

What is Miami Q&A?

We reviewed Miami Q&A’s mission statement: Miami Q&A is a safe space for Miami's queer and trans Asian community to connect, be understood, be empowered, and make change.

Then reviewed the specific goals:

  1. Connect queer and trans Asians in Miami

  2. Understand and validate our unique perspective as queer and trans Asians, and how it relates to non-Asian intersections of identity

  3. Empower each other by providing space for self expression and opportunities for building skills

  4. Make change by confronting problems that affect both our own community and the greater community in Miami

I then opened the floor to the group and asked if anything was missing. Aptly, the group picked up that the details were definitely missing. This was totally intentional; I do not want to build out the details until we have a solid sense of our values, and I also don’t want to do it by myself without deference to the community. This organization belongs to the Miami Q&A community and the details should be built collectively with our community.

Who is Asian?

I realized when I added this question that this might seem weird. “Why would you ask who is Asian? Don’t we all know?” is what I could hear the imaginary members in my head saying.

But I added it because it basically is asking who we think belongs to a queer and Asian community. I sped this part of the conversation along, as we came to a consensus that it’s anyone who identifies with the label ‘Asian’, but I added the slide intentionally to talk about who we forget usually belongs to the Asian community.

I also wanted to make it a point that from my own perspective, I alone do not define my Asian identity, it’s usually something in my environment that tells me that I personally am Asian. Other people, whether family or community or friends, indicate that I am Asian and take part in Asian cultural activities or hold Asian ideas.

See slide 15 in the presentation

What’s different about being Queer and Asian?

This part of the conversation is where we got to why our community is so important.

We actually got to reflect on what it means to be queer and Asian by learning from one attendee their perspective of what it meant to be queer and Black. What was special to them -- and I’m paraphrasing, so if you’re reading this and I’m totally wrong let me know! --  was that they had this complexity of identity that showed itself in different situations. With their gay friends, their flirty and fun side showed. In another group of friends, they’re nerdy. In family, their Southern Black side showed. In certain situations, they were able to pull from their experiences as a gay person and a Black person, just like any of their other perspectives, when it was useful to them. Having both those perspectives as queer and Black, in addition to their perspectives that come with their personality, was very special because they merged to form a very unique individual. The expression of those perspectives however, was silo’d, expressed when the situation called for it.

One thing I started to reflect on after they shared, was that it’s the same for queer Asian people. We have a very unique identity, coming from family members that have an Asian perspective. What I challenged the group to think about was: what if we didn’t have to silo the queer and racial aspects of our identity? What if we could be both in the same space? That’s what Q&A is about; the full integration of all aspects of self into one space so that we can be our whole, authentic selves, and valuing that wholeness of perspective in one place.

Another member talked about how their Asianness, and their communal thinking, does influence how they live their life as a queer person. One member who is Filipino expressed that if they tried to bring a vegan home, then what would their family even think? We all cracked up laughing, but it’s a true expression of how Filipino’s think in their family unit. Not to mention that it was not easy for this person to come out to their family, as the community was not accepting. I added that it’s often the case that our queerness is seen as a reflection upon the family, and that the family must have done something ‘wrong’ for their child to choose to be queer.

One Korean member shared that they felt that Asian spaces were often the most homophobic, and that queer spaces, like nightclubs and bars, could often be the most racist. Asian families can require that we hide our identity for fear of it being a reflection upon themselves. Queer spaces can reject our racial identities by any combination of things: finding us unattractive and excluding us, not acknowledging our racial identity as part of our full identity, alienating us by making our whole identity ONLY our racial identity, and the list goes on.

One thing I’m reflecting on now is that queerness often feels like it’s at odds with Asianness. If our communal aspect of not inconveniencing other people in society is really important, then sometimes the ‘loudness’ of queer identity might feel at odds with our Asian identity. Some of us just say fuck it, and be ourselves, but often we give deference to our families and community first and foremost. Asian Americans who were born here might not struggle with that as much, but Asian immigrants most definitely do.

Why is it important that we’re together?

In our conversation prior, we basically concluded that the issues brought up in the previous question are the reason why Miami Q&A exists. To come together as our full authentic selves and be ourselves in this community. And to make positive change in our own community moving forward.

What are the ground rules of our community?

We came up with some rules together, but it is by no means a complete list just yet

  • All opinions are valued, all perspectives are valid
  • Be mindful of your impact of others when you share

  • This is a safe space for you

  • Respect others’ privacy

    • No photography of others without their consent

    • No sharing others’ names or identifying information without their consent

  • What’s said here stays here. What’s learned here leaves here.

I like these as a base. We also discussed using a red tag or sticker for people who DO NOT want to be photographed.

How do we keep this community safe?

We had a conversation here about whether or not we should be more visible and post the location of our events online. I thought I had compromised the safety of our organization by possibly posting the event location online. It was a serious concern that I was bringing to the group.

Our conversation really changed my mind about our visibility and availability.

One member said that if we keep everything hush, in the interest of safety of our community, it may also send a mixed message that we are ashamed to be who we are. Visibility in American society is powerful, and being seen is part of our goals. We also know that our community in Miami is spread out, many (and I would venture to say, most) Asian queer people don’t know another Asian queer person, and making our group invite only makes it almost impossible for people to grow our community. Reflecting on my own situation, I only knew one other Asian gay man in South Florida before starting this group (now I know about 9-10 queer Asians!).  

Hiding the location until someone asks for it makes it less likely that someone who is just exploring their identity shows up to our space. And the website is there to let people know that we’re here. So let’s not be hush about it. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re Asian.

What will we build together?

We started to discuss a little bit about what our focus should be: should we be an organization that focuses on community gathering and social events or one that focus on advocacy and political movement?

Our group started to come to the conclusion that early on, it may be best to stick to social events, given that our community is also not one that is built from the get-go to rock the boat and be seen as ‘disruptive’. For us and our families who think about societies collectively, it may not be easy to ease into that mentality of protest that activism usually entails, of moving against the grain. Personally, it is my intention to make sure that this group does engage in organizing to change social issues -- by consensual choice of the members -- as that is a core goal and part of the mission of Miami Q&A, but it doesn’t have to happen with our first few members, and it doesn’t have to happen right now.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to fully discuss this question as we ran out of time, so it’s still open to discussion. I would love for comments on this post to serve as a space for ideas of what we’ll build out.

Conclusions

That’s all the reflections I collected on our first meeting! I would love to hear feedback from anyone who’s open to providing it, whether you attended the meeting or not, below. Take care, and thank you for reading. Let’s make public reflection and community conversation a norm here at Q&A.

With Love and Light,
Kyle Maharlika