We were sitting around the table discussing logistics for Artists Bridge the Gap IV, when the first piece of backlash appeared on the Facebook event page. “Are you crazy?” the irate commenter asked us. He could not understand why Red Room would choose to support a small segment of the population, that segment being LGBTQ+ refugees, over another, larger group*. He accused us of ignoring the more dire needs of children, women, and men in order to be politically correct.
We always knew our choice would be controversial. We understood that the success of our event depended not just on our ability to coordinate with each other well, and choose refreshing activities, but on our ability to educate and enable people to empathize with situations far removed from their own experiences.
Still, that first comment stung, so I was grateful to look around the table and see the resolve of the coordinators harden rather than disappear. “That’s okay,” one of them said. “We’re doing the right thing. I’m not worried because we’re doing the right thing.”
Sometimes the “right thing” is not the most popular or expedient thing. Having determined that, we reinvigorated our efforts. This event, we decided, would emphasize our shared humanity through seeking out those who are overlooked and ignored and providing them a platform to speak and with resources to thrive.
*videos, plays, support of LGBT community, comics. That so few people knew or understood the importance of our cause made it more salient.
Fortunately, we found support within the artistic community, the LGBT community and through a number of sponsors (whom were often part of one community or another). Haha Tai and the International Queer Film Festival in Taipei offered a significant sponsorship and a great deal of encouragement. Another sponsor, the Winkler Partners, proved enthusiastic supporters of the cause. Bai Win Antiques, an established supporter of the arts and of Red Room, stood steadfastly by the team. The Escape Artist, another seasoned partner of Red Room, proffered canvases and easels as they have during live art events in the past.
A cadre of artists, musicians, and dancers contributed their time, talent and passion to help Red Room realize this event and, more importantly, to buttress Red Room’s efforts to demonstrate art’s ability to connect people and bring about impactful change in our world. Magnolia La Manga, Mangelica, Bouncy Babs, Fei Fain performed at Artists Bridge the Gap IV and promoted the event and the cause widely. They invited us to events and venues, organized supplemental fundraisers at Cafe Dalida (which very graciously sponsored us as well), and invigorated us with their passion and commitment. Billy Chang proffered his voice and his dancing, bringing people together with his ebullience and grace.
Kara Linkonis inking of an educational comic I co-wrote with her, Breaking Barriers, added substance, character, and a striking poignancy that could not have been achieved without her commitment to her craft. A story was produced that hopefully addressed the vivid experiences of LGBTQ+ refugees with the respect they deserve as human beings. Members of All’s Well Theatre wrote and performed moving accounts of refugee’s experiences. High schoolers in America dedicated themselves to raising money in their hometown through designing post cards, posters and a T-shirt.
There are so many more people who deserve thanks for bringing Artists Bridge the Gap IV into fruition that I cannot possibly name. Truly, the support which overflowed from communities in Taiwan and elsewhere buoyed us through thousands of minute details and second guessing, and hundreds of passionate debates, and tens of setbacks. Perhaps, however, what motivated me even more was the semi-weekly meetings with the organizers and benficiaries In Leipzig, Germany. The Project Artists Bridge the Gap IV benefitted, Queer Refugees Network, Leipzig, is run largely through the dedication of volunteers and workers at Rosalinde Leipzig e.V. When I skyped with them, they relayed. During meetings they would open maps and search for ‘Taiwan’ and express disbelief in the decision for a community an ocean away to help them establish a new life. I was thrilled to hear about one beneficiaries plan to become a fashion designer, or another’s to learn German or a third’s to finally have discovered a setting where they could openly be themselves. This is what the funds we raised would be used for. They would pay for tangible goods like food, shelter, books, of course, but with these come a host of intangible benefits. These funds would enable QueeRNL to continue creating a network, a safe space and an opportunity to succeed.
Knowing that all of this hard work might have resulted in the realization of someone’s dream, might have created opportunities for those who have been denied them, has carried me through every doubt, every negative comment and every painstaking re-explanation. I can honestly say that working with Red Room, QueeRNL and the amazing people in Taiwan has truly been a transformative experience. One might even say, to echo my teammate, that it was the right thing to do.
*If you have questions about why Red Room chose to support this cause, you should visit the FAQ page we wrote to help explain!
by Leah List