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Queer Asian Pacific Islanders Gather in Washington, D.C.

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The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander grassroots organizations, held its second national conference in Washington, D.C. last weekend.

Over 300 representatives, mostly under 30 years old, gathered to network, educate themselves on key issues impacting both the LGBTQ and API communities, organize and build the capacity of NQAPIA, which had its first national convention in 2009.

The conference, whose theme was "Power, Presence, Progress," featured notables from both the API and LGBT communities. It was kicked off with a briefing Thursday from the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders attended by Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, followed by a reception addressed by openly gay Hawai'i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina Shizue McKenna. The opening plenary Friday was moderated by journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and the awards gala Saturday had actress Tamlyn Tomita hosting and U.S. Representative Mike Honda honored for his work on behalf of the queer and API communities.

Conference sessions were designed to build community and organizational capacity, develop leadership and foster alliances. Key issues such as immigration, bullying, marriage equality and family cohesion were also discussed.

Ben de Guzman, NQAPIA's co-director for programs said that now is the time for the activists to gather in the nation's capital. "We're doing more than just getting a seat at the table,'' he said. "It's our chance to really show our numbers, our presence.''

Conference attendees who often find themselves minorities within a minority certainly left empowered. "Many mahalos!" a participant from Hawai'i wrote on NQAPIA's Facebook page. "So excited to be back at work, at my desk, and still recharged from the NQAPIA Conference -- I feel the presence, power, and progress that is our revolution."