ORLANDO | University of Central Florida alum Rikki Ocampos founded the Orlando Queer and Trans Asian Association, or OQTAA (pronounced “octa”), in April. OQTAA looks to bring together LGBTQ individuals of Asian descent in the Central Florida area. The organization is set to launch July 8.
OQTAA will focus on empowering Asian-Americans who identify has queer and trans through culture and community. “There have always been spaces for queer people and for Asians in Orlando, but none have been designed specifically for the intersection of those identities” Ocampos says.
Ocampos founded the organization in her final semester UCF. A source of inspiration in starting the organization for the recent grad was her own college experience as a queer Asian Pacific Islander.
“I came to Orlando and UCF seeking a sense of community and pride in my Filipino and Chinese heritage,” she says. “To an extent, I did find it, but I still felt homophobia in the communities even among the student population. My experience in those communities would have been more enjoyable had there been a space for LGBTQ people.”
OQTAA’s vision is to provide the community a platform in which to share and celebrate their experiences and intersections, while simultaneously finding resources and affirmation relating to the queer and trans Asian identity. One of OQTAA’s first projects will be to host a series of coffee shop talks that encourage open dialogue and discussion for the community. “This space is so important because I have always felt forced to choose between being gay and being Asian. It always seemed like I was expected to choose one identity that was ‘more important’ to me, when it was never supposed to be a battle between the two,” Ocampos says. “I know that there are other individuals who have similar experiences, and I hope that we can prevent these situations in the future because they can be alienating and damaging to how we view ourselves. These identities aren’t mutually exclusive.”
While LGBTQ representation has been on the rise, it has tended to focus on gay, cisgender white males, says Ocampos. OQTAA is looking to change the narrative.
“Queer Asian identities are definitely being given visibility, especially in mainstream media,” she says. “We have figures like Eugene Lee Yang of BuzzFeed, Jeanna Han who was briefly in “Scream Queens,” and George Takei. But we certainly aren’t in the forefront of the queer community. The default is still white. I’m hoping OQTAA can change that perception, particularly in the Orlando area.”
Openly bisexual UCF Freshman Lance Balagtas recently joined the OQTAA team. He is currently on an independent study track comprised of women’s studies, political science and gender, race and sex studies with aspirations to be a racial consultant in the future.
“Queer Asians are often used as fetishes or things to be considered more exotic,” says Balagtas. “I love that someone in my community is doing something about it and I’m so excited to be a part of that effort.”
OQTAA works in conjunction with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) who seeks to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ AAPI groups, as well as develop leadership, promote visibility, educate the community, enhance grassroots organizing, expand collaborations and challenge homophobia and racism