home is where your chosen family is

xinan pandan

I feel like I have always been in search of a home. There was this yearn­ing with­in me for a place that I could be part of this long­ing for belong­ing. Grow­ing up in Ger­many, as a queer non-bina­ry per­son of col­or, meant to be always dif­fer­ent, oth­ered, cat­e­go­rized, fetishized and exoticized.

The first time I walked into a BIPoC safer space, I felt like I could real­ly breathe deeply for the first time in my life. A huge bur­den was lift­ed off of me, of con­stant­ly stay­ing alert, of not know­ing when to expect the next racist com­ment, of always keep­ing my guard up.

The first time I walked into a Queer BIPoC safer space I almost cried, because every­body was so beau­ti­ful and pow­er­ful with their gen­der­fuck atti­tude. I was moved to see how peo­ple car­ried them­selves with pride and a sense of self, of know­ing that we are who we are and that we are not alone. That day end­ed with me being cud­dled up with peo­ple I had just got­ten to know, but who already felt like fam­i­ly. This was a moment of rest, of let­ting go, of find­ing myself in others.

Com­mu­ni­ty is such a vague con­cept, and there are always prob­lems with defin­ing these terms. Ques­tions arise: Who belongs to a com­mu­ni­ty and who is exclud­ed? How do we han­dle con­flicts, dis­man­tle pow­er struc­tures, make spaces acces­si­ble and meet each other’s needs? Com­mu­ni­ty spaces are not per­fect and it takes a lot of work, ener­gy and trust to build a vision of how we want to live togeth­er. Yet, they also rep­re­sent the sphere where I come clos­est to the feel­ing of belong­ing to a place where I could build something.

There is also always the issue of find­ing a phys­i­cal space where we can orga­nize and hold events, as access to such ressources are very lim­it­ed for peo­ple who belong to these com­mu­ni­ties and face mul­ti­ple inter­sec­tions of dis­crim­i­na­tion. We make due with what we can get: Com­mu­ni­ty has become this roam­ing home as a place of togeth­er­ness, rather than a fixed, phys­i­cal place.

The pan­dem­ic has deep­ened the mar­gin­al­iza­tion of racial­ized peo­ple, espe­cial­ly when con­sid­er­ing the inter­sec­tions with gen­der, class and dis­abil­i­ty. Peo­ple who are the most vul­ner­a­ble strug­gle even more to stay safe and meet their basic needs. These are times where hate crimes and domes­tic vio­lence have risen, many of us have lost their jobs and are with­out access to ade­quate men­tal health care. Cap­i­tal­ism has very open­ly shown its ugli­est sides. We felt for­got­ten, and that our lives and well­be­ing are worth­less. When the gov­ern­ment should have been tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty and offer­ing sup­port, their lack of action made it even clear­er than before, that most insti­tu­tions and struc­tures in Ger­many are very much racist, ableist and trans­pho­bic and do not intend to change. Although some could turn to their fam­i­lies for sup­port, many Queer BIPoC did not have this option, as their fam­i­ly of ori­gin is not safe to be around.

How­ev­er, dur­ing this time of cri­sis we have also seen a great wave of sol­i­dar­i­ty with­in com­mu­ni­ties to keep each oth­er safe, find ways to sup­port one anoth­er in try­ing times, either emo­tion­al­ly, finan­cial­ly or just by offer­ing help to go gro­cery shop­ping for some­one else. It was a push­back against a mind­set of scarci­ty that we were taught since child­hood. With this artist res­i­den­cy I would like to pay homage to the bonds fos­tered with­in cho­sen fam­i­lies and a com­mu­ni­ty that stepped up in times of cri­sis and gives me hope, when hope feels like an impossibility.

tell me a story

Queer BIPoC com­mu­ni­ty spaces are spaces of sto­ry­telling. These sto­ries that we share with each oth­er are so unique and so relat­able at the same time. Here we learn to rec­og­nize our­selves in oth­ers for the first time. We rec­og­nize the pain that we share, but we also rec­og­nize the beau­ty we all car­ry, that is inher­ent to us.

There is so much pow­er in shar­ing your own nar­ra­tive, in tak­ing agency, in deter­min­ing how you tell your own sto­ry. Too often, we feel like we have no con­trol over it, that we don’t have a voice, or a space where we can speak and be heard and be seen and accept­ed for who we are. 

please tell me a story
there is so much i don’t know
there is so much i want to learn

please tell me a story
of life
of joy
of sorrow
and wonder

please tell me a story
of your dreams
of your visions
of what­ev­er it is you wish for

please tell me a story
about how you came to be
about your years of resilience
about your hours of brilliance
about your moments of clarity
about your sparks of beauty
about the strug­gles you’ve had to overcome
about the bur­dens you still have to car­ry on
about the ghosts that haunt you
about the past that doesn’t want to let go of you

please tell me
your wildest dreams
the bright­est future you can imagine

please tell me
how you want to live
how you want to shape this life
what choic­es you want to make
what actions you want to take

please tell me
what makes you feel your worth
what grounds you to this earth
what brings you peace

what does love mean to you?
what does fam­i­ly mean to you?
what does com­mu­ni­ty mean to you?

please tell me
so that i know i am not alone
so that i know what we share
so that i know how we can be here together

because life would be beau­ti­ful with you in it 

holding grief

The pan­dem­ic has brought the top­ic of our own mor­tal­i­ty, death and grief into our dai­ly lives. Many of us have lost loved ones dur­ing the last two years. Some, to the virus itself, oth­ers to pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tions, made even worse by the cir­cum­stances. Griev­ing some­one often feels very lone­ly and I felt very dis­con­nect­ed to the world and the peo­ple who are close to me.

I strug­gled to find words to describe loss­es that run that deep and for a long time it felt like I lost the abil­i­ty to speak and to express myself. But hav­ing a kind and lov­ing sup­port sys­tem around helped a lot, to accept and hold space for all that pain and to find my voice again.

i’ve lived in a void
where i am not able to speak
and no lan­guage exists.
i’ve been here too often
and some­times i imag­ined myself to stay here forever.
it is dark and lonely
the silence is deafening.
but this soli­tude feels like comfort.
here, there is noth­ing anymore
that i could lose.
because there is noth­ing to hold on to. 

in a rare glimpse of light,
i see my friends walk and talk
and live their lives
and i feel so distant
so far away.
i try to speak
i try to ask for help
but i’ve lost all the words, i’ve ever known.

there is this bar­ri­er in my mind.
a place where i can­not go
even when i want to go there so badly
to understand.
but death is too abstract to grasp
too far away to under­stand in this existence
of being just a human, in a world that i just do not understand.

i do not under­stand what death means.
not under­stand­ing death, means not under­stand­ing life,
not under­stand­ing reason
not under­stand­ing how you can be gone.

i am so afraid to live this life
of loss
of pain
of suffering
and to struggle
and to fight a fight that goes on and on and on.

i am so tired.

‘the hard­est thing in this world is to live in it’

but i don’t have to do this alone.
i don’t have to be alone.

there is
cho­sen family,
and solidarity.

we take care of each other.
we try our best every day.
it is trying,
what we must con­tin­ue to do.
against all odds.
we don’t always have a solution
but we have each other.
because we are doing this for each other
and for ourselves.

it might feel lone­ly sometimes,
it might be dif­fi­cult sometimes.
mis­takes are being made,
paths may part and nev­er inter­sect again.
it is an imper­fect world
and this is also some­thing i must learn to accept.

i’ve learned to let go in the arms of cho­sen family
who embraced me in lov­ing kindness
who held space
for my sadness
for my grieve
for my imperfections
for me
so that i can breathe again.

i sur­ren­der
to what­ev­er there is to come.
and with this
i am allow­ing myself to be like this,
to feel all this hurt.

and with this
i found a moment of peace
and i found self acceptance
and i found my abil­i­ty to speak again.
it was nev­er lost
it was always right here.
like the beat­ing of my heart
that car­ries all my love for those who have left.