In honor of our 25th anniversary, GAPIMNY partnered with the A/P/A Institute and the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University to preserve and display materials spanning all 25 years of GAPIMNY’s history.
The exhibit is open from October 8th – December 11th, 2015 at the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. The exhibit is free to the public.
DowneTime, GAPIMNY’s young adult group, was started in 2007 by GAPIMNY members Terrence Gong and Daniel Ho. DowneTime created a safe, supportive space for gay, bisexual, queer, questioning and transgender Asian Pacific Islander (API) men in their teens and twenties. Since 2007, DowneTime has shifted in ways to meet the needs of the community. What hasn’t shifted is DowneTime’s commitment to creating community for young queer and trans API folks.
Tell us the story of how DowneTime was started.
Terrence: Downetime was created for two reasons:
- to answer a need for a safe space specific to being a queer Asian male/transgender young adult; and
- to build a leadership pipeline for GAPIMNY.
I remember I went to my first GAPIMNY meetings when I was home in New York on college school breaks. It was inspiring that a group existed specifically for being gay and Asian, but it was intimidating to usually be the youngest person in the room.
While the group was welcoming, it felt like everyone else was in a different stage in life. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to get involved, and I went to my first GAPIMNY steering committee meeting shortly after. During that meeting, I pitched the idea of starting a young adult sub-group of GAPIMNY. I was worried that some of the older SC members would resent having meetings exclusive to younger members (and the potential attendee cannibalization for the main GAPIMNY general meetings), but I made sure to point out that it would build incremental GAPIMNY membership by providing a new entry point for young adults. I met Daniel at that meeting too, and I remember him being excited by the idea, and together we received the go-ahead to move forward.
We gave ourselves a target to launch in September (when school was back in session), and over the summer I remember we met at Island Burger to refine the name, mission, structure, advertising, and meeting agenda. With no operating budget, our biggest early win was partnering with APICHA to receive a free nighttime meeting space at APICHA’s new building.
Creating the name was also fun – we wanted catchy short name, and after brainstorming a bunch of cheesy puns for a while, we liked DowneTime. We thought members would recognize “Downe” from Downelink (a popular gay asian social network at the time), and everyone needs downtime. We then launched in September, and in our first year built a DowneTime steering committee that was around 8 strong by the time I left.
What was it like to be gay/bi/queer/questioning/trans and API in NYC at the time you started DowneTime?
Terrence: Although only 8 years ago, being LGBTQ and API in NYC circa 2007 felt much different than today. Being gay AND asian felt more invisible; it was harder to see the intersection, whether in the media or in smaller communities, like on college campuses.
Daniel: We were following the events of the Details protest so there was still some residual energy within GAPIMNY. However, we still faced (and continue to face) many of the large hurdles of visibility and racism both outside and inside the LGBTQ community. While gays as a whole were beginning to win more public support, gay Asians were still struggling with visibility. Even more disheartening were local reports of Asians being turned away by bouncers from mainstream gay dance parties in NYC.
What type of impact did you see DowneTime making?
Daniel: Our hope was for DowneTime to be a safe and supportive discussion group (Still says so in the mission statement!). Specifically we aimed to support young adults who might be entering the workforce or relocating to a new city – those who may have just left a supportive community and who were now looking to discover or build their own community.
Terrence: What I loved most about DowneTime was the individual impact it had for attendees. While we had a mix of both social and discussion style meetings, DowneTime was always about having a safe, confidential space for attendees to talk about what’s happening in their lives. For some, it was a time to share deeply personal stories, and having a group attentively listen and show support. I am most proud of any time when the group was able to positively impact a member’s sense of identity and belonging to a community, and for also building a space where members felt comfortable to share their stories.
What type of impact did DowneTime have on you as the creators?
Daniel: It was as much a place for me to learn, share, and grow as it was for other members.
Terrence: Working on DowneTime helped me become much more comfortable with my own identity and sexuality. Being in a leadership role, I always felt like it was important for me to appear strong. Being supportive of others helped me build my own confidence, and helped me understand my own experiences in the context of common stories. I also made terrific friends through the group, and I felt like I was part of a real community in New York.
Favorite story about DowneTime?
Daniel: When we started DowneTtime we partnered with several other community groups in NYC – borrowing meeting spaces, holding fundraisers together, and sharing booths at events. At some of these events, I might see members from GAPIMNY, SALGA, Q-WAVE, APICHA, or Project Reach just to name a few. It was during those time when I really felt we were working as one community.
Terrence: While we definitely had heavy and serious meeting topics, we also had many really joyful moments. I have this memory right now of a DowneTime Olympics, where one of the events was to make costumes out of Newspaper. I remember just laughing so hard at some of the dresses and runway walks – it was a lot of fun, and great getaway to just be silly.
What’s your vision for GAPIMNY for the next 25 years?
Daniel: I’m really hoping for the future when GAPIMNY isn’t needed anymore. Is that too cheesy? I’ll say that’s my ultimate dream goal. For the 25 year mark, I want my friends and family to immediately think of GAPIMNY when they are thinking of a political, social, and support group and resource for queer APIs in NYC.
Terrence: I hope GAPIMNY continues to grow and evolve to the changing community needs that the future may bring us. the community needs of tomorrow may be vastly different than the needs of today, and I hope future leaders have the courage to continue to adapt GAPIMNY to the context they find themselves in.