SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — San Diego Pride's QAPIMEDA stands for Queer Asian Pacific Islander Middle Eastern Desi Americans. The organization has been in San Diego since 2019 and it has been a source for people seeking mental health resources and more.
"I feel accepted, in a way that I haven’t before so yay," said Grayson Willow.
The journey hasn’t been easy.
"I'm gender fluid, asexually romantic, gray romantic, and I am a relationship anarchist, I’m bi-sexual," said Willow.
Willow has begun transitioning as well taking testosterone and getting surgery to transition.
Growing up half Indonesian, they say it was hard to find others in the AAPI community that understood what they were going through.
"I went to the University of California at Irvine which is predominantly Asian even at the LGBTQ+ Center there wasn’t much representation
After graduating last year, Willow found San Diego Pride's QAPIMEDA (Queer Asian Pacific Islander Middle Eastern Desi American) Coalition while attending an event called “The Sweet Escape” where many Asian Pacific Islanders LGBTQ+ people were.
"It was very eye-opening to see so many Queer Asian Middle Eastern Desi people. It took me a solid 20 minutes to stand there and kind of absorb that this was happening," said Willow.
A moment Willow will never forget.
However, events like these are not new.
John Erichson Licas is the outreach community chair for Pride's QAPIMEDA Coalition. He says it’s the goal to get people like Willow together who need a space to be themselves.
"We basically create programs create events to celebrate and to uplift the voices of those in the APIMEDA LGBT community so they know there’s a safe place for the APIMEDA community," said Licas.
He says there is still a lot of work to be done within the API community with acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ+ people.
"There’s a lot of that traditional viewpoint from our parents growing up, a pathway we had to follow, and if it doesn’t align with that, who do we turn to?" said Licas.
The goal he says is to shine a light on a community that is often overlooked.
"To have our voices heard, to be seen, sometimes there’s invisibility in our representation," said Licas.
If you are in need of any mental health resources, you can reach out directly to QAPIMEDA.
The group's next event will be "mix at six" on July 21st.