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LGBTQIA+ Filipinx Find Collective Healing in Identity and a Sense of Belonging

Photo: @lustingforlight
Sacramento Filipinx LGBTQIA+ members at The Brickhouse Gallery & Art Complex in Sacramento, CA on January 28, 2023. Photo: Ashley Villanueva

Since 2017, Sacramento Filipinx LGBTQIA+ (Sac-Fil) has uplifted the voices and identities of the LGBTQ population in the Sacramento region and beyond.

“I wanted to co-create a space for the LGBTQ Filipinx diaspora in Sacramento because I knew there were a lot of people similar to me,” said Sac-Fil co-founder Nikki Abeleda. “Coming out for me was really challenging, and not knowing what queerness meant at such a young age was difficult. During my high school years, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I learned there wasn’t a lot of visibility.”

Daniel Domaguin, who co-founded the organization alongside Abeleda, said the inspiration came from the need and desire for a space unavailable at the time.

“It was just organic. We didn’t want to become at the time a 501(c)(3) or anything, just a space for Filipinx folks, queer and trans folks in the area,” Domaguin said.

Different from the Bay Area or other large coastal California communities, Sacramento had limited resources and spaces for community members to access, according to Domaguin.

“The Sacramento area is definitely more sprawling. There’s a lot of distance between communities, so it’s a lot harder to network, especially if you’re of a particular identity or marginalized community,” said Mimma Campanella, who joined Sac-Fil in 2021.

In response, Sac-Fil has hosted community events throughout the county that celebrate queer Filipinx and build community with other LGBTQ communities.

“Sac-Fil believes in solidarity building with other groups and movements alongside Black, Indigenous, and communities of color,” Abeleda said.

2022 was a successful year for Sac-Fil. In October, they partnered with Kamayan Coalition, an LGBTQ+ Filipinx/o/a group, to organize Filipinx LGBTQIA+: Inspire, Resist & Empower (FIRE), a national cultural conference in the Elk Grove and Sacramento area that welcomed over 100 attendees.

“We had workshops, panel discussions, performances, vendors of queer and trans-Filipinx creatives, and community resources for attendees,” Abeleda said. “That is something that I’m really proud of.”

Photo: @lustingforlight
Photo: Ashley Villanueva

From the beginning, Campanella felt welcomed at Sac-Fil and inspired by Abeleda’s passion for community.

“Nikki is a powerhouse, such a radiant being of love and community,” Campanella said. “She inspires me to work on my stuff because she’s doing what she’s passionate about. She’s one of my biggest heroes in pursuing this work of social justice and community justice.”

Support and membership of Sac-Fil extend beyond California and reaches as far as the East Coast.

“Anyone and everyone can be involved at whatever level they desire,” Domaguin said. “I want people to know there is support and the young LGBTQ can create the next generation of safe communities.”

For Sac-Fil member Daisha Alexander, having a collective like Sac-Fil is critical to building community and collective healing.

“Healing doesn’t necessarily come from blood relatives or family. Often, it comes from community members. Sac-Fil allows people to heal and know that there are people out there who you can identify with,” Alexander said.

Abeleda is looking forward to what 2023 will bring for Sac-Fil as it continues to expand throughout the region. The organization’s next venture will be the Creating Change Conference in San Francisco in February. Held in collaboration with the Kamayan Coalition, Creating Change trains and mobilizes thousands of activists across the nation to bring an end to the discrimination and barriers LGBTQ people face in every aspect of their lives.

During the conference, Sac-Fil and Kamayan Coalition will host a Filipinx LGBTQIA+ Caucus and a social on February 18 at Origin Boutique Nightclub. Abeleda will also co-facilitate a workshop, “Crafting the Web of Our Stories: Queer Asian Cultural Artifacts,” at the LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islander Institute.

To build and start a collective like Sac-Fil, Abeleda encourages people to get involved.

“It starts with your story. Sac-Fil started because of the challenges I went through. Along the way, I met so many amazing leaders in the community that truly inspired me to continue building and organizing. I learned from them,” Abeleda said. “I want to do the same for queer youth — it’s important to give back and empower others.”

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