API TransFusion, the first Asian and Pacific Islander transmasculine retreat, will take place August 4-6 at a private retreat site in Northern California.
The retreat will welcome all ethnicities and cultures that fall under the API umbrella, and all identities, bodies, and presentations along the female-to-male spectrum, including trans, gender nonconforming, gender expansive, non-binary, and other identities. Organizers Jun Chan, Junior Claros, Jai DeLotto, Min Matson, Chino Scott-Chung, and Willy Wilkinson hope the retreat gives community members an opportunity to feel less isolated, build community, discuss issues relevant to our lives, share resources, and elevate our self-acceptance and self-confidence.
“It’s very exciting. We’re coming together as a group and being a force of nature,” said Chino Scott-Chung, 56, a Chinese Mexican American retired San Francisco firefighter who writes about trans identity. “I feel very privileged and honored to be part of that conversation about who we are, how we identify, and why that’s important.”
Jun Chan, 29, a queer-identified, transmasculine Chinese American who designs platforms to improve healthcare services, spoke to the sense of isolation that many feel. “In the queer community I don’t see representation of API people in support groups. There’s a disconnect. You have to hide that part of yourself, keep it locked away.”
Racial stereotypes contribute to this sense of isolation. Junior Claros, a Filipino trans engineer, spoke to the pervasive idea that “we’re not considered attractive, sexual, or masculine.” Chan added, “There’s no representation of us in the media. We’re going from one set of stereotypes to another set of stereotypes. As Asian women, we’re assumed to be submissive, nice, weak, push-overs. As men, we’re not considered manly. We’re assumed to be submissive, quiet, nerdy, not as assertive. It’s not something I can talk about and have people really understand.”
“There’s no representation of us in the media. We’re going from one set of stereotypes to another set of stereotypes.
Organizers emphasize that the retreat will be an inclusive space for all identities on the transmasculine spectrum. Jai DeLotto, 40, a licensed clinical social worker who is Northern Italian and Sri Lankan, stated, “We want to create a space that’s safe for everybody to express their gender.” Scott-Chung agreed, adding, “I’m not on hormones and haven’t had surgery, but I have been living as a man for twenty-plus years.”
Asian and Pacific Islander transmasculine communities, like other marginalized groups, are dealing with multiple challenges in this destabilizing and perilous political climate. “The issues that API transmasculine people experience are similar to what trans people of color face broadly: high poverty rates, high unemployment, lack of access to healthcare, and mental health issues,” said Kris Hayashi, 42, a queer Japanese American transmasculine person and the executive director of Transgender Law Center (TLC), the largest nationwide organization dedicated to advancing the rights of trans and gender nonconforming people.
“There is a particular opportunity in this moment because this is a national gathering that will bring together trans API leaders from across the country,” said Hayashi. “Because of the increase in hate violence and deportation, and the decrease in services, now more than ever people need support to do the work we’ve always done, and create a space like this to build community with each other and know that we are not alone.”
This historic retreat will host a number of groundbreaking workshops, many of which have never been done for this audience. Hayashi and TLC staff member Elliott Fukui will conduct a workshop on leadership development and organizing resources. Potential workshops will address API transmasculinity, trans adoptee experience, mixed heritage experience, writing and storytelling, meditation and mindfulness, surgery specifics and access, sex and relationships, employment and careers, and family (including family of origin, families of choice, parenthood, and prospective parenthood).
This last issue is a frequent discussion point in this family-oriented community. Said DeLotto, “How were we raised female within our cultures, and how does that affect us? What are our role models of masculinity? I was expected to serve my father tea, not my brother, because I was seen as female. Transitioning for me is being able to shed that feeling that I need to cater to others.” Added Scott-Chung, “How do we deal with misogyny in our own cultures and the reverence that our cultures have for boys? How do we negotiate that history when we come out to our families?”
Claros spoke to the expectations of our families and communities. “Those of us who stay connected with our Asian and Pacific Islander families may have a stronger sense that we and our actions reflect on our families and the broader community.”
A safe place to shed your insecurities for a few days can do wonders for people.”
Min Matson, 40, a Korean adoptee, healthcare and life sciences management consultant, and chair of the TLC board, will present a workshop on the unique transmasculine adoptee experience. “I didn’t grow up in an Asian family, so I didn’t face some of the cultural challenges that some guys did. I’m excited to connect with people who are like me.” Organizers are aware of approximately twenty transmasculine adoptees around the country and are enthusiastic about hosting this groundbreaking workshop.
The retreat will take place August 4-6 at a trans-affirming, private retreat site in Northern California, a two and half hour drive from San Francisco and Oakland. Cost is $250 for two nights’ accommodations and six meals. Half-price scholarships are available, thanks to funding from the Red Envelope Giving Circle and the Trans Justice Funding Project. Workshop facilitators will receive half off registration. Organizers will help coordinate participants’ transportation from Bay Area airports and other locations.
In addition to workshops and community circles, participants can hike, swim, relax, and create spontaneous workshops. Matson spoke to the profound, life-changing experience of this kind of gathering. “I hope that the workshops serve as a valuable resource to help people tap into another story, talent, and interest. I hope people feel that they get to be free with their bodies, and have a safe place to swim. A safe place to shed your insecurities for a few days can do wonders for people.”
Registration is open until July 20. Scholarship applications and workshop proposals will be accepted until June 30. Donations towards the scholarship fund are greatly appreciated. Learn more about the retreat site and disability access at www.apitransfusion.org.
Willy Wilkinson is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning book Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency. Learn more at www.willywilkinson.com.