PLANTING RAINBOWS

GUEST WRITER – PETE ZHENG

New York City’s queer community is both strong and intersectional. In fact, it is strong because it is intersectional. And in 10 months, NYC will be choosing a new mayor. One that must prioritize the well-being of all New Yorkers while balancing covid-related urgencies, but even more importantly, one that will prioritize the needs of the queer community who have been disproportionaly marginalized in impact and forgotten in governmental solutions. 

Growing up, I never truly understood what it meant to be gay. At the time, my understanding of sexuality was in the most basic premises — one where I felt a sexual and emotional desire for another that was our own sex — and as time continued and I grew up, it became more of a grappling with where we fit into the origins of a society that circulated around heterosexual ideals. I became acutely aware that being a part of this community was more than just an identity. It meant realizing that we would have to fight for our civil rights, to unify the heterogenous silos within a homogenous labeled group, and most importantly – to carry on the work of our predecessors who valiantly fought for us to be where we are today. Amanda Gorman’s sentiment in The Hills We Climb so eloquently described the work that remains to be done, even in 2021. 

Around 9 months ago, I received a LinkedIn message from a man named Art Chang. He asked me if I was interested in politics, and I unbeknowingly responded “yes, I studied policy in graduate school and my current job is in business integrity policy.” He quickly followed up with a Zoom meeting request to gauge my thoughts on something. Still unaware of who this man was (other than a synopsis from his LinkedIn), an invitation to chat would quickly turn into the planting of seeds for his NYC Mayoral campaign. Shortly after, we would grow the campaign from 2 individuals to a team of 50+ growing staff and volunteers. 

Raised in Jim Crow Atlanta by Korean immigrants, Art Chang knows the detrimental and debilitating effects of marginalization on mental and emotional wellness. He experienced racism in his school and community and domestic violence at home, and eventually became the second man at Yale to graduate with a degree in Women’s Studies—he knows the harmful nature of the gender binary and approaches complex issues from an intersectional lens. 

And in order to right these wrongs, we need a mayor that will prioritize our community and fight for us. Art doesn’t claim to have all the answers—and that’s a good thing. He will listen to the experiences of those primarily affected by policies on LGBTQIA+ issues, and defer to the experts to advocate for and implement changes that will truly help our city’s queer communities. 

The hills that our ancestors have climbed paved the path for a new generation of activists who must continue the ever-growing nature of equity and human rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. I hope you join us and feel inspired to fight for a NYC that is safer and more equitable for all.

Pete Zheng is currently serving as Director of Policy for Art Chang for NYC Mayor. He can be reached at p.zheng@columbia.edu.

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