When You're Ready Booklet

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When You’re Ready

The “When You’re Ready” Project

What is

Queer Asian Youth? Queer Asian Youth (QAY ) is an initiative of the Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) Youth Program that has been providing social spaces, skill training, and support for Queer and Trans East and Southeast Asian youth since January 2000.

Table of Contents


1 Overview of the When You’re Ready Project 3

What does your ‘Queer’ racialized identity mean to you?


On Finding Community


On Building Resiliency


Moving Forward

11 Acknowledgements

“I need space.”



“No, I am not heartless No, I am not cold No, not like an amoeba

Yes, we’re real.”


(In response to their Asexual identity)

erview of

WHEN YOU’RE READY The When You’re Ready Project was an 8-week program for LGBTTIQQ2SA East and Southeast Asian youth. For the purpose of this booklet, we will be using the term ‘Queer and Trans’ to encompass ‘LGBTTIQQ2SA’. The program provided them with a safe space to engage and explore issues related to identity and “coming out;” it also supported the youth in developing resiliency skills. In the context of the program, resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resiliency skills were cultivated and enhanced through supporting the youth to develop strategies for engaging with various oppressions and increasing their capacity to support each other.

This booklet demonstrates the importance of having a safer, designated, and culturally appropriate space for Queer and Trans Asian youth to discuss issues related to identity. Likewise, it shows the need for creating and cultivating bonds with other members of the community. Throughout this booklet we will share quotes from the youth in regards to identity, community, and resiliency.


What does your

QUEER racialized identity mean to you?

The youth shared their stories of how they came into their own identity and spoke about the ongoing processes of “coming out.� The youth could relate, learn, and be more aware of other identities (especially marginalized identities within the queer community like Asexuality and Bisexuality) by sharing their stories.

...it made to ways i and w 3

“I’ve only ever thought of myself as



or both at the same time...

but not

me pay more attention in which I’m privileged w ays I’m oppressed.” 4

“I’m able to talk about my queerness and be more “out”...

...I am

more comfortable with myself

there is a community/group of peo can turn to for questions and resour 5

On Finding

COMMUNITY We invited a diverse group of Queer and Trans Asian adult role models into the space to interact and share with the youth. The adult role models all hold various experiences as Queer and Trans Asians within their respective communities. Many have experiences as community leaders, artists, and social justice advocators. They connected with the youth and provided insight on a variety of topics such as healthy relationships, mental health, harm reduction, and navigating the workplace as Queer and Trans Asians. We also invited parents of Queer and Trans Asian children to come and speak with us and encouraged the youth to bring their “chosen family.” The concept of chosen family in this program refers to the freedom and validation to build and form one’s own familial bonds outside of the “biological family.” This was important to acknowledge because sometimes the family one is born into may not always be one’s definition or experience of “family.”

ople I rces.” 6

We discussed the ways that we are oppressed and privileged as Queer and Trans Asian youth. We touched on topics such as colonization, shade-ism, and heteronormativity. As a group, we came up with strategies to tackle structures of oppression. One way we explored these strategies was by acting out oppressive scenarios and having the group think of ways we could approach these situations. The youth had the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about past scenarios they encountered through drama and acting. This alternative form of communicating and engaging with topics was particularly helpful for newcomer youth where English was their second language. This helped the youth gain insight, catharsis, and connection through telling their stories and enacting stories of others. We also took a more introspective approach in dealing with oppression through mindfulness techniques. We learned breathing and meditation exercises to better monitor our internal processes. Particularly, our internal capacity to engage with difficult and challenging situations. Through self-care and coping techniques, we learned recognize our limits when engaging with oppression and privilege.

On Building




“I am more myself and more honest with my humanity. I am more free in my own being... ...but I have to

fight even more

to be myself.”

“You have to take care of your emotional well-being... ...We are

not under obligation to educate people.”


“You’re enough.”

“I don’t feel so alone anymore.” “...at the end of the day

... I think I’ll be okay.”


On Moving

FORWARD In the final session, we revisited all the topics discussed throughout the project. The youth felt more autonomy in exploring and discussing their identity and more positive about their future as Queer and Trans Asian youth. They also developed coping strategies for challenging oppression. Lastly, the youth formed and developed strong support networks through collective strategizing, mutual support, and group discussions.

In closing, we were all able to safely share and validate our experiences with other Queer and Trans Asian youth. We connected and built bonds with one another and redefined our ideas about “family;” Finally, we shared and developed crucial resiliency skills in engaging with everyday experiences of privilege and oppression. When You Are Ready created a much-needed space for Queer and Trans Asian youth to connect, strengthen, and validate themselves.




nowledgements We want to thank all of the When You’re Ready youth participants for making this project such a success! The Queer Asian Youth Leadership team is inspired by all your stories and growth. Thank you for being vulnerable and taking this journey with us.

The ‘When You’re Ready’ Project Team: Facilitators: Emmet Phan, Melina Lin, Tim Salinas, Joshii Roxas, Hillary Fong, Lydia Li Youth Program Co-ordinator: Gabriel Bacani Booklet Credits Produced by Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) Photos taken by Timothy Salinas & William Lam Edited by Raymark Garcia Models (in order of appearance) Emily Onizuka, River Kenji Fujimoto, Coly Chau, Dinaly Joyce Tran, Sean Kua, Timothy Salinas With financial support from the Toronto Urban Health Fund . We would also like to thank our project partners, ACT and Central Toronto Youth Services.


For more information please contact Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) 260 Spadina Ave., Unit 410 Toronto, Ontario M5T 2E4 (416) 963-4300 youth@acas.org www.acas.org Follow us on social media: Facebook: www.facebook.com/acas.qay/ Instagram: @queerasianyouth Twitter: @queerasianyouth

© Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved

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