The first-ever Asian Pacific Islander transmasculine conference will happen in northern California in August.
A group of API transgender men will gather to discuss their experiences and issues important to them as well as build skills to strengthen confidence in a variety of workshops during the inaugural API TransFusion Retreat.
The August 4-6 retreat is being planned by six prominent San Francisco Bay Area API transgender men: Jun Chan, Junior Claros, Jai DeLotto, Min Matson, Chino Scott-Chung, and Willy Wilkinson.
“We have never done this before,” said Wilkinson, 54, who identifies as queer. “It is something that has been needed. We haven’t had a way to come together to get to know each other, talk about issues that are relevant for us, and build community and in the process really build our self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-acceptance.”
Matson, 39, praised Wilkinson as the “brains” and the “thought leadership behind” TransFusion.
“This is a group of guys who are passionate about bringing community together,” said Matson, who declined to say how he identifies and who is board chair of the Transgender Law Center.
TransFusion organizers received seed funding from the Red Envelope Giving Circle and the Trans Justice Funding Project, said Wilkinson, author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning book, “Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency.”
Desiree Thompson, a founding member of the Red Envelope Giving Circle, and Marin Watts, director of operations and communications at the Trans Justice Funding Project, both confirmed retreat organizers received $2,000 from each of their organizations, for a total of $4,000.
The organizers used the funding to secure the retreat site, said Wilkinson.
“We found a site in northern California that is trans affirming and also seems like it will be a wonderful secluded retreat spot for us,” he said, stressing that the group is still fundraising to produce the event.
The organizers hope to attract upward of 40 attendees from API trans and intersex masculine-identified communities, including those with disabilities, immigrants, low-income, and refugees.
“We are open to everyone who identifies as API and trans masculine in some way,” said Wilkinson.
Matson noted that organizers still need to find ways to support people who aren’t able to afford to attend the retreat.
“I think that it would be unfortunate to bring folks together and not be able to really support their different backgrounds or their different accessibility needs or whatever else,” said Matson, adding that the goal is to allow attendees to enjoy the event and “get everything they can from it.”
The organizers are currently seeking proposals for workshops, volunteers, and donations.
Wilkinson and Matson, who are both fathers, anticipated that the workshops will cover family issues, both of origin and created.
“I’m sure we will talk about families since that tends to happen a lot when we get together,” said Wilkinson.
He also anticipated discussions about cultural issues, racism, and navigating their lives as Asian trans men in their families and the world. He also anticipates workshops covering sex and relationships, health and well-being, peer support, and careers.
Matson hopes to connect with other Asian Pacific Islander trans men who are adoptees at the retreat and discuss cross-nationalism, exploring their country and culture of origin from where they are today.
“Given that everybody is under attack,” Wilkinson said, referring to the political climate in Washington, D.C., the retreat comes at a particularly important juncture in time.
Matson agreed, adding that one of the unique qualities of hosting a retreat was creating a comfortable space for API transmen to come together and be who they are.
“What we really liked about doing a retreat was, for example, we could have time for swimming and stuff like that where a lot of trans men might not feel comfortable,” said Matson, “while still having a lot of community building in spaces that feel really connected for folks.”
Wilkinson added, “People come away from these kinds of retreats feeling more self-acceptance,” and “have more self-confidence.”
Wilkinson hopes the retreat will build communities that are API transmasculine and ways that “we are more supportive to each other.”
“I hope that they can walk away feeling like they take something with them that is irreplaceable,” said Matson.
The retreat is already being well received and generating a lot of buzz, said the organizers.
“People were pretty excited about it,” said Wilkinson.
Registration is now open and runs through the end of June. Passes to the retreat cost up to $250; an additional $15 for bedding is optional. Some scholarships will be available. For more information, visit apitransfusion.org.