Even before asking my first question, I could tell the University of Connecticut Queer Asians and Allies (QAA) club must be a welcoming community, if all its members are as kind as QAA President Esther Shao and Vice President Matthew Wan. When I first sat down to interview the two, Wan generously offered Shao and me a piece of mooncake, since it was Sept. 13, the Mid-Autumn Festival. The generous gesture demonstrated the spirit of community QAA hopes to provide for its members and, through their interactions, Shao and Wan demonstrated this spirit is already present.
Above all, Shao, a seventh-semester psychology and communication double major, strives to make QAA an inclusive place where members feel welcome and cared about.
“I want people to know there is an organization for those who feel like they can’t find a sense of belongingness,” Shao said. “I hope our club can provide resources and information to students to give them support. It’s all about the feeling of community.”
QAA meetings are socially-centered. Wan, a fifth-semester molecular and cell biology major, said. A typical meeting begins with an icebreaker, introductions, the sharing of personal pronouns and the asking of how everyone’s week was. From there, the meeting transitions into its main event, typically a movie, discussion or other fun activity.
Shao mentioned that this semester QAA is expanding its discussion topics. Subjects will range from gender, family, healthy relationships, safe sex and history to anything that members are interested in discussing.
QAA got its start three years ago when a group of students felt the Rainbow Center didn’t fully meet the needs of Asian American students who identified as queer. This group of three-to-four students attended a Rainbow Center event focused on Asian Americans in queer history, and the idea for QAA grew out of that. Most of these founders have graduated by now, but their club still seeks to provide LGBTQ+ Asian students and their allies a place to discuss the intersection of their various identities.
Wan stated this was one of the reasons he joined the organization when he saw it at the Involvement Fair his freshman year.
“Although I identified more strongly as Chinese-American than queer, I did feel that this was important to me, especially as a source of exploring my identity and being more active in the social justice community,” Wan said.
On the other hand, Shao’s experience of getting involved in QAA to highlight the sense of community the club provides. During her first two years of college, Shao said she sometimes felt out of place as an international student. When one of her friends who was a founder of the organization invited her to join the e-board of QAA, she realized how helpful and supportive the community was.
“Even though at the very beginning, I had no idea what it was about, but this friend invited me to join the e-board, so I started as an e-board member,” Shao said. “Gradually, I changed positions and I started to learn more, and it was like personal growth for myself.”
Shao and Wan encourage anyone who is interested to join QAA. Everyone is welcome, they said, and after meeting the two, I can attest that everyone will truly feel welcomed.
If you would like to join Queer Asians and Allies, the club meets every Wednesday night from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Student Union Room 303. Queer Asians and Allies can also be reached at email@example.com.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.