On the horizon for Louisville queers, is a new collaborative inclusion effort supporting the Queer Trans Asian-American Pacific Islander (QTAAPI) community.
The initiative is supported by Joel Buno, director for the Asia Institute – Crane House (AICH), and Mike Slaton, executive director for Louisville Pride Foundation (LPF). With May being AAPI history month and June being Pride month, Buno saw an opportunity to forge a strong connection between the queer and AAPI communities in the city.
Buno acquired funding for the initiative through Brown-Forman foundation, established in 2018 to further the company’s legacy philanthropic endeavors, and the Prism foundation, which seeks to empower the Asian & Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ community by raising critical resources to build an equitable society. And, with the help of Slaton and LPF, Buno and he contracted Sanjay Saverimuttu to help lead the group towards a path of success.
“I’ve been fortunate to have helped develop an LGBTQ Book Club through Louisville Pride Foundation and witness firsthand an untapped part of Louisville’s LGBTQ community come together and alive (we have over 300 people in a Facebook group, and about 12-15 people who meet regularly every month).” Saverimuttu said.
At the first meeting, about 6-8 people attended the screening and discussion of the film Fire Island.
Saverimuttu identified that, as it stands, roughly three percent of the city’s population comprises AAPI people, and that it is currently the fastest growing immigrant community in Louisville. He said that some of the biggest focuses would be on outreach to spread awareness about the initiative and the growing population of QTAAPI individuals.
For the screening of “Xiaodi”, the group had nearly doubled in size. “Xiaodi” is a documentary short centered on a Chinese trans girl’s life and escape from a “conversion therapy” camp that she was taken to on her 17th birthday. The film sparked many critical questions and responses from the group about these types of harmful practices targeting our communities. These crucial conversations continued to take place at the “Get Out the Vote” event, where they hosted State Representative Nima Kulkarni to help register people to vote as well as answer questions about civic engagement and electoral participation of BIPOC and queer people.
The groups mission statement says, “Louisville’s QTAAPI group is connecting communities and building a safe space for QTAAPI people of all backgrounds to exist freely. The group advocates, supports, and provides programming for Louisville’s QTAAPI community to grow and flourish.”
Though they have had mostly small events, the group is seeking to grow their initiative. One way they are hoping to do this is through surveying the city to find QTAAPI individuals and supporters who hope to advocate for their community. Saverimuttu is asking for everyone to take a moment to fill out the survey as a way for them to begin developing a better understanding of what the queer and AAPI communities look like and require in order to come together to support one another.
Beyond collecting data, the initiative seeks to manage a healthy balance of social, political, and educational events. The most recent event was this past weekend’s “Dinner and Karaoke Mixer” at the Crane House. The event was catered by Simply Thai, and had a great turnout of current and new members. The night was filled with dancing, singing, and conversations about how to attract an audience for the group moving forward.
“Similarly, this initiative through Crane House seeks to tap into another part of the LGBTQ community and deal with issues that specifically meet the needs of Queer/Trans AAPI folx here in Louisville,” he said.“We hope to develop a safe space for QTAAPI people to meet and support one another, and to grow Louisville’s appreciation for what our community brings to the city.”
The next event for the group is currently set to be a mixer at Big Bar in late January/early February. It is planned to be catered by Paris Banh Mi & Bakery Louisville. Keep an eye out for the upcoming event listing on the Facebook and Instagram pages for Crane House!