We build women’s collective power in the U.S.

January 9, 2023

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Lavender Phoenix

by Yuan Wang

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Yuan Wang, Director of Lavender Phoenix

Lavender Phoenix builds queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander power to amplify our voices and increase the visibility of our communities. Through organizing in the Bay Area, we inspire and train grassroots leaders, transform our values from scarcity to abundance, and partner with organizations to sustain a vibrant movement ecosystem. Lavender Phoenix is an Activist Care & Collaboration Fund grantee partner. 

What brought you to this work?

When I came out as transgender, I felt isolated and alone. I was afraid to leave my room, to go to work, to go to school, for fear of how people would respond when they saw me. It was hard for me to be my full self, even in the movement spaces I was a part of; I didn’t know if people would accept me. When I found LavNix, then known as APIENC, I knew I had to get involved. I joined as a Summer Organizer in our paid fellowship for young trans and queer API organizers, and have continued organizing with LavNix ever since.

How do you collaborate? Who are your partners?

Lavender Phoenix is committed to breaking the silos in our movements that threaten our unity and power. Our closest comrades include the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Hmong Innovating Politics, and Gender Justice LA. Through providing hands-on trainings to practice trans justice, developing queer leaders from our partner organizations, and building movement hubs for trans leaders to connect across the state, we hope to grow a thriving, intersectional movement for justice.

What are you learning, and what are you teaching?

At Lavender Phoenix, we are learning and teaching that working for justice requires building spaces where belonging and purpose are centered. So many Lavender Phoenix members join us because they’ve never had that space. Many of them face transphobia and homophobia in their own homes and the places that should be community for them. When we practice belonging as a tool to build power, we ensure that the folks on the margins of our movements move to the center, and deeply know that they are needed.

Tell us about a recent victory that you’re proud of.

In August 2022, trans and non-binary leaders of LavNix’s Healing Justice Committee founded a free peer counseling program to provide mental health support to folks in our community facing deep isolation. They trained 20 trans and non-binary APIs to provide peer counseling. After two years of planning and learning, they were able to respond to every single request for peer counseling in their initial launch. Now, they’re planning a path to make this a long-term, expanded offering. They are showing us the care and the determination it takes to meet each other’s needs when systems and institutions deny us.

What can philanthropy and allies do better?

Our community needs funders who are committed to investing in the grassroots leadership of trans, non-binary, and queer communities of color. Our communities are facing disproportionate violence at the hands of the police, the medical industrial complex, and the immigration system, yet receive a fraction of funding support. We need progressive funders to help our groups grow, and lead movements for racial, gender, and economic justice from the frontlines.

What gives you hope?

This summer, 25 rising trans and queer API leaders joined us in a six-week training series. Together, we explored our community’s oft-silenced histories, practiced asking for help, learned to create spaces that center belonging and purpose, and more. At the end, one of our participants Ishita said: “I leave this summer with joy, love, a feeling of being seen, belonging in queerdom, and very, very inspired.” Continuing to develop new generations of leaders brings me hope.