In celebration of Pride Month and to celebrate our Asian queer, trans, non-binary and genderqueer friends and allies – we spoke with various advocates in the Asian Mental Health Collective community to spread light on the important work they do.
Meet Dr. Noel Ramirez, Founder and Director of Mango Tree Counseling & Consulting. They are an AAPI mental health resource center in the Philadelphia Metro Area and provide psychotherapy, group education, and consulting to AAPI communities. All of Mango Tree’s therapists identify as AAPI and have varying lived experiences that inform their frame and clinical practice. They also host Mental Wellness Seminars on the 2nd Thursdays of the month, 8pm EST where we go over topics and frameworks on mental health.
Read more about Dr. Ramirez’s background, what readings and resources he recommends, and what he would tell young LGBTQ+ Asian folks today.
Tell us about your practice and what it’s like to work with LGBTQ+ Asian folks!
I have been very fortunate to have been in close proximity to queer AAPI identity my whole life. My uncle lived with us for many years and was gay. He died from AIDS-related complications when I was young. But in those formative years, I remember witnessing both the pain and resilience of filipinx communities trying their best to understand and love through stigma and cultural difference. His life and death had a profound effect on me and my family’s ability to love and care unconditionally.
I grew up in Jersey City, NJ. It was very queer and very asian-American. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to find community in my adolescence and to have that be a part of my development as a person, professional, and clinician. From eating at the Philippine Bread House, being a part of a Filipino-youth programming/organizing in high school to a dancer at a queer Asian night club, to organizing with other Queer AAPI folx in Philly and now running an AAPI mental health group practice, community has always been very important to my work and life.
It is a great privilege to be in a place of service for my community. For me, the intersection of AAPI and Queer identity lives in the search and pursuit of a sense of home, and this is both felt in mild and intense ways. Therapy is a place, where I hope that folx can find a sense of home within their bodies, minds, and hearts. Being a witness to that process is one of the greatest honors in my life.
Are there interesting queer theories or practice that help you personally or in your work?
There are many – the work of Shawn Ginwright in creating healing-centered engagement has been at the forefront of my work. Ginwright challenges trauma-informed models to work in a collective, to focus on resilience vs suppression of trauma symptoms, to acknowledge and embrace the political nature of healing (vs treatment), and also emphasizes the importance of intersubjectivity.
I think working within my community also requires a great sense and appreciation for intersubjective and relational models – acknowledging the mutual impact of working with a clinician that may share a socio-cultural identity with the client. And as well, an awareness of critical consciousness and post-colonialism. Many of us experience a sense of intergenerational trauma from global and collective trauma. We are also descendent of folx who have been able to survive and find agency through those traumas – the acknowledgment and awareness of that meta-narrative are critical to the work.
Are there any readings, resources, activists or organizations that you want to shout out?
I’m a steering committee member to Philadelphia Asian and Queer (PAQ: phillyasianqueer.com) and have been active with NQAPIA and Asian Mental Health Collective.
Readings and Resources:
- This Filipino American Life (TFAL) podcast,
- Ocean Vuong “On Earth We were briefly Gorgeous,
- EJR David “Brown Skin white minds”
- Sonia Rene Taylor “your body is not an apology” and
- if you’re into psychoanalytic thoughts, check out David Eng.
What’s something you want young queer, trans, NB/GNC Asian youth reading to know?
Therapy is not the only pathway to healing, though it’s very important! I want to encourage folx to find community and collectives that seek to love, honor, and respect who you are as a person. Community saved my life as a young person and there is something incredibly powerful to feel both seen and honored by a peer and an elder.
You are a descendent of communities that are looking to find you, to honor you, to love you, and to know you. You are descendent of voyagers, who are driven by so many beautiful things and have endured great pains and have uncanny resilience. You are enough.