#QUEERAZAADI: LGBTQ South Asians, Muslims & APIs Commemorate Lives Lost
Guest Writer: Sasha W., NQAPIA Organizing Director.
- Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17 years old.
- Nabra Hassanen, 17 years old.
- Jaquarrius Holland, 18 years old.
- Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32 years old.
We honor and mourn our dead, and we fight like hell for our living.
These are just a few of the people that our communities have lost to hate crimes and state violence this year. 2017 has seen a rise in the murders of Black trans women, of Black people killed by police violence, of Muslims and those mistaken for Muslim killed in Islamophobic hate crimes. As queer and trans Muslims, South Asians, and APIs, we know that these forms of violence are connected. We cannot separate being harassed because of our gender identities from being harassed because of the color of our skin. Transphobia, islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and xenophobia all reinforce each other in our lives.
Last year, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance held a checkpoint action in DC on 9/11 as part of an ongoing campaign against the Department of Homeland Security. Our main goal was to pressure Jeh Johnson, the then DHS Secretary, to end legalized profiling. However, our secondary goal quickly became the most important: for those of us who are trans, queer and Muslim or often perceived to be Muslim, taking up public space on 9/11 was a radically empowering act. Many of the Muslim folks who were part of our action shared that they had never chosen to be outside on 9/11 before - usually, safety on 9/11 meant going outside only when absolutely necessary before returning to the safety of your own space. To create an action where we could occupy public space, lift up trans and queer Muslim voices, and create safety for ourselves was truly beautiful.
This is the year of Trump’s election and the Muslim Ban. This is a year that trans people have fought multiple attacks on our humanity. This is a year that anti-Muslim hate groups have multiplied in a way we haven’t experienced since September 11th, 2001. 9/11 is certainly not the only moment that marks the policing, profiling and surveillance of our communities. Yet agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), policies such as the PATRIOT Act, and registries such as the National Security Entry - Exit Registration System (NSEERS) grew from the Islamophobia that followed that day. These policies are Islamophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, anti-Black forms of state violence that have only multiplied in the last 16 years.
For this reason, we decided to mark the 16th anniversary of 9/11 with a national day of:
ACTION : to lift up our voices and create empowering space led by trans and queer Muslims
MOURNING : for all those who have been taken from us too soon
& CELEBRATION : of our resistance, resilience, and survival.
In 7 cities across the U.S., trans and queer Muslims, South Asians, APIs, Black folks, immigrants, and people of color organized actions to mourn and celebrate this day that holds such trauma for so many of us. In Los Angeles, Washington DC and Philadelphia, we held community funerals to lay flowers for all those who have been lost to hate violence, created the space for speakouts where trans and queer Muslims could share their stories, and closed with a non-gendered Muslim prayer. In Boston, we created checkpoints that replicate the experience of profiling that Asian, Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Black people are subjected to every day in public spaces, and forced white people to confront this everyday reality of our lives. In Chicago, Austin and New Orleans, we created healing spaces for our communities - spaces where we can gather, grieve and celebrate behind closed doors, while we build safety and power with each other.
Instead of finding safety in isolation and in the shadows, we are creating safety in public and in community. We are choosing to lift up the names of all of our people who have been lost to state-sanctioned violence and hate crimes—whether at the hands of law enforcement, immigration enforcement, vigilantes, or white supremacists. We are choosing to celebrate ourselves on 9/11: our lives, our stories, and our resistance as LGBTQ people of color, in struggle towards #QueerAzaadi / Liberation.
To read more, visit www.nqapia.org/queerazaadi
Guest Writer: Sasha W is the Organizing Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).