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Featured AAPI Leader May 2022 Part II

Kevin Lee (he/him) is the Chair and a Founding Member of the San Diego Queer Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and Desi American (QAPIMEDA) Coalition. He works with the talented QAPIMEDA Leadership Team to build out programming and a sense of belonging for the LGBTQ API community in San Diego. Outside of his volunteer role, Kevin is also the current Environmental Impact & Compliance Specialist at Dr. Bronner’s, a top-selling organic and fair trade body care and food company in North America. At Dr. Bronner’s, Kevin tracks the company’s environmental footprint, oversees environmental compliance, and co-chairs the Dr. Bronner’s cross-departmental Green Team. He also helps create sustainability programming, such as establishing the company’s first-ever Earth Week. Before Dr. Bronner’s and QAPIMEDA, Kevin lived in San Francisco, where he was the Green Business Associate with the city’s Department of the Environment. He has also conducted environmental research at the Brookhaven National Lab, Argonne National Lab, and the Field Museum of Natural History. Kevin holds an A.B. in Biology from Vassar College and a Master in Environmental Management from Yale University.

How does your cultural identity influence your decision-making or approach to success? (Response expressed are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Taiwanese American Professionals - San Diego (TAP-SD) or our affiliates.)

My identity as a gay Taiwanese/Chinese American means that I navigate the world with an intersectional lens. In San Diego, I am privileged to be able to engage in community work as Chair of the Queer APIMEDA (Asian Pacific Islander Middle Eastern Desi American) Coalition. In recent years, we have seen the increased importance of advocacy and creating spaces for LGBTQ and Asian folks. Of course, we have seen a drastic uptick in anti-Asian hate in the United States in the last two years. Yet we also know that this type of xenophobia has affected our Asian American community for many generations. For example, my grandfather could not purchase a home in a certain neighborhood in San Francisco because of his race. Additionally, Queer and Trans individuals continue to face heavy discrimination, especially when we lack full protections in some parts of the country. In some states, an employer can fire an LGBTQ individual, or an LGBTQ individual may be denied housing, simply because of who they are. We must acknowledge that these types of injustices happen in this country - and for me, they serve as the primary motivation for doing community work in pursuit of greater justice.

That said, I also often remind myself of the rich legacies and contributions of Asian Americans and LGBTQ folks here in the United States. In spite of the injustices done toward those with these marginalized identities, we can also point to the resilience and brilliance found in these communities. There are many who I know who do community work who find ways to celebrate and connect people. They inspire me, and in doing so, I also choose to center joy and hope in the work that I do.

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