"Hi, my name is Darid Prom!"
This was the only phrase I knew how to say when I first immigrated to America. When I was just 10, my family and I left everything behind in Cambodia and moved to start a new life in the United States. Upon arriving, it didn't take long for me to notice that I was different. Existing intersectionality as a queer Southeast Asian immigrant often left me with no choice but to stood out among my peers. Living authentically unfortunately meant that I would be the target of bullying.
Four years ago, walking through the hallways of my high school, I would get constantly teased for being queer. However, at the time, I didn't entirely know what it meant to be "queer."
But since I was constantly getting harassed about it, I figured it must be something bad. That's when the fear of being queer became rooted into my mind. In my homogenous traditional Asian upbringing, queerness was always such a taboo topic within my family. Not having any background knowlege about the LGBTQ community led me to become shameful of myself and my identity. Being teased, feared, and viewed differently by others caused a growth in self-hatred. This, combined with the lack of support I've received from educators, created an atmosphere in school where I was afraid to be authentically myself and express my true identity.
It's important to recognize that I entered high school with the privilege of having been assigned a binary sex at birth, having passed as a binary gender in school, and holding some privilege under a white supremacist, colonial order operating through a logic of colorism and anti-Blackness. My Asian-American background holds a substance of privilege that has saved my body from the many forms of violence imposed on trans and nonbinary people of color and/or of Indigenous ancestry who live at the intersection of queerphobia, erasure, and white supremacy and ongoing (settler) colonial dispossession. These colonial powers operated through a multifaceted, complex web continue to be embedded into the structure of the present, tasked to perpetually hinder queerness from ever reemerging in the future. This is why it is important that we adopt an intersectional framework as we continue to organize for change.
We need to examine how existing at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities of race, gender, and queerness can position individuals in the matrix of the oppressive layers of discrimination that deleteriously impact the way people exist in society. Until we include this framework, we won't have a full template from which to build reforms and create an inclusive society that is devoid of the discrimination and violence of the colonial present.
LGBTQ issues are built into the tradition of our society, and as long as we turn a blind eye to the pain of those suffering under its oppression, we will never escape those origins.
This year's Spirit Day will be a critical moment reflecting our positionality in society as we shine a light on the resilience and power of the diversity of the LGBTQ community. To help take a stand against bullying and show support for LGBTQ youth in schools across the nation, join the Spirit Day movement by visiting GLAAD.org/spiritday, where you can take the Spirit Day pledge and learn more about how you and your community can support LGBTQ youth.
To any LGBTQ youth who are reading this, know that you are valid and are loved by a beautiful community. I hope to shed light on my own intersectional story that is often erased in classrooms, GSAs, and the overall mainstream media. Stories are our greatest learning tool, and through my story, I hope to inspire purposeful conversations around representation, intersectionality, and vulnerability during this year's Spirit Day.
Darid Prom is a queer immigrant from Cambodia who has testified before Congress, helped organize events such as Philadelphia Youth Pride and the Trans Wellness Conference, and advised GLSEN on national campaigns. This year he was named to GLAAD's 20 Under 20 list, honoring young LGBTQ+ people who are accelerating acceptance.