TOP 30: KAIA HAMBARO

Kaia Hambaro
express yourself
Major Dance
Age 20
Year 2nd
Hometown Monterey, CA
Find Kaia On
Facebook

Kaia Hambaro got involved early in her college career as she immediately began interning at the UCI Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Resource Center (LGBTRC) and soon after became the Workshops Coordinator. She has worked to improve the campus environment through increasing awareness, making it more of an “inclusive, welcoming, and safe for all LGBT and queer students at UCI and their allies” Carlos Lopez mentions. Through such aspects like the Speakers Bureau Program, she has challenged issues and promoted dialogue of personal stories of LGBT members who have been marginalized. As a strong advocate for LGBT education, she hopes to fuse the two passions of art and activism to build a stronger community.

ED: What is your motivation?
KH: As a queer transgender activist, my motivation is about survival. In a society that refuses to acknowledge people’s right to choose gender identities and expressions than what was assigned to them at birth, transgressing gender norms incite punishments such as: rejection from families and communities, economic hardships, and violence. My main motivation lately is to create a a community in which I can feel safe to freely express and explore my gender identity and create that same space for others. What I do is always personal. I have been extremely privileged to have a family that will always be there for me and to find communities that understand me and this has allowed me to have a loud voice to speak up for those who can’t. I feel that since I have been so lucky in my life to be able to authentically be who I am, that I have a responsibility to give back.

ED: What have you accomplished?
KH: My most satisfying accomplishment at UCI has been starting and co-facilitating “T-Time” which is a support/social group for people who are transgender, gender-varient, gender non-conforming, and questioning gender identity. I have also interned at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center as the Workshop Coordinator the past two years where I have led the Speakers Bureau Program and Safe Zone workshops which promote greater visibility and understanding of the queer community. Right now I am currently sitting on the planning committee for UCI’s first Gender Neutral Housing,”Open House,” in Middle Earth which will allow access for transgender and gender-variant students to live on campus in a safer community. I am also involved with the Transgender Task Force which is a new committee which address various departments at UCI to better serve transgender and gender variant members of the community. The last two years I have served on the planning of the Queer Culture Festival and this year I was the Artistic Director of “OMG (Oh My Gender) A Drag Show!”

ED: What is your passion?
KH: My queer friends inspire me with their kindness, openness, and bravery to be who they are in the face of all the possible consequences out there and I feel the need to contribute. As a dancer, I see the potential of art to have an enormous influence to critique society and build communities. I believe that art is not a luxury, but an important tool for social justice. I try to use my art as a transformative tool to address what I consider needs to be addressed and to say what is not said in our culture. Only with an intricate understanding of how sexism, racism, ableism, and other destructive forces in our society, can art be used as a powerful weapon for better world-making.

ED: What have you done for the Asian/Pacific Islander American community?
KH:With a transgender and biracial body, my physical presence is a protest against discrete categories of gender and race. The activism of today is about building coalitions without erasing the differences between people. I hope that my involvement in the queer community will help Asian/Pacific Islander American community embrace non-normative genders and sexualities, and likewise reflect a multiculturalism in the queer community.

ED: What do you hope to accomplish?
KH: At UCI I hope to foster and strengthen the Transgender community, which is only just beginning to find a voice. Building communities which are explicitly anti-sexist and anti-racist I think is the most important form of activism that we can have. I hope that in my career, that I will be able to use activism and art, in tandem, to create a more open and queer society.
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