By Ngoc Loan Tran
The first time my mom saw me speak about social justice was on the 7 o’clock news. I was speaking about the effects of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on young LGBT people looking for reflections of themselves in society. It was an important moment for my mother and I because it showed us the similarities and differences in how we were each transforming the world. Over the years, as I’ve developed my identity as an organizer, I’ve learned more about my mother’s history, and although it’s made me appreciate the vast differences in the context of our “activism,” it ultimately has made me feel like we’re a part of the same revolution—as movement moms and daughters.
My mother grew up in Tra Vinh, Việt Nam. In the 7th grade, she quit school to work with her mother in the fields. When she was 16 years old, she moved to Sài Gòn, Việt Nam to make a living as a seamstress. She hasn’t stopped since. She was struggling with the effects of foreign military occupation and war before I was born: politicized through need to survive.
When I do organizing work with immigrant, queer and trans communities, I think about this part of my mother’s identity and it reminds me that “the struggle” is political even in just trying to survive. Often, we feel that those of us who are “political activists” have no common ground with those who aren’t. Really, we are a community together, even if some of us have no time to be “political activists” and focus more energy on “getting by” than “taking down the man.”