Illustration and text against a pale blue background. In orange, blue and black text at top center reads: “AWN CELEBRATES APIDA HERITAGE MONTH Asian American • Pacific Islander • Desi American MAY 2024” Across the lower half are digital illustrations of seven people of diverse ages, gender, height, and hair color/ hair styles. They are all wearing at least one bright color clothing item -including blue, yellow and orange ) Behind the center of the image is a drawing of the outline of a teal lotus flower. In the upper left hand corner is the awn logo: a large pink “a” with a pale greenish blue winged spoonie dragonfly. Beneath the a is our url: awnnetwork dot org.

May AWN Newsletter

It’s May, and this month, the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network recognizes Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. For APIDA people, this is a month to celebrate the incredible diversity of APIDA communities in the US and Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi diasporas around the world. AWN is blessed to have two amazing autistic APIDA advocates leading our work, our Project Coordinator Nancy Yang and our Senior Advisor Lydia X. Z. Brown. Lydia is also the founding executive director of the Autistic People of Color Fund, which AWN fiscally sponsors. In addition,  AWN frequently collaborates with APIDA disability advocates including Mia Mingus (who helped author our Restorative & Transformative Justice Principles), Crystal Lee, and Mimi Khúc.   

Yet as a Latina racial justice advocate and scholar, I also wanted to talk to those who are not APIDA in our community this month about allyship. I am writing this from Thailand, where I am meeting with and learning from local disabled and transgender advocates as part of my commitment to uplifting the experiences of Southeast Asian diasporic voices through my activism and research for my PhD, such as Desi Thai nonbinary disability activist Shane Bhatla. I chose this path because I wanted to work across lines of difference, building connections with other communities in our shared struggles for racial justice, gender justice, and disability justice; and yes, there are many connections between the history of Southeast Asian and Latine immigrant struggles in the US. And whatever your identity, I’d challenge you to do the same. 

In 2021, the US witnessed an outpouring of public discussions about APIDA experiences and how to be an ally to APIDA people after the Atlanta spa shootings, and last August saw media coverage of the experiences of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders after the Maui fire, but we shouldn’t need tragedy to strike for these kinds of discussions to take place. 

Furthermore, the very data we rely upon as advocates can sometimes overlook the specific experiences of different APIDA communities to their detriment. An oft-cited statistic about women’s pay gaps is that Asian American Women on average make 80 cents for every dollar a white, non-Latino man makes. But did you know that if you look deeper at the numbers on the APIDA wage gap, Bangladeshi American women make on average 49 cents per dollar, Vietnamese American women make 59 cents per dollar, and Native Hawaiian women make 62 cents per dollar compared to white, non-Latino men?

Regardless of your identity, I hope you take this month to learn about different APIDA communities; two places to start are Alice Wong’s Asian Pacific Americans with Disabilities: Our Stories, Our Lives, or Nancy Yang’s Essays on Hmong and Disability.

New Blog and More Updates:

AWN has a few more updates this month! First, we have a new blog by Kayla Rodriguez about the connections between neurodivergence and eating disorders. As Kayla explores in the blog, even though there’s research showing a strong correlation between autism and eating disorders, there is not enough visibility and education about the unique experiences of multiply-marginalized autistic people with eating disorders, including queer women of color such as herself. 

Illustration and text against a white and green background. On the left hand side of the square is a digital illustration of a femme presenting person with shoulder length brown wavy hair who is seated at a table. She is wearing a green sweater with a reddish infinity sign on the front of it. She’s leaning on her elbow holding her closed fist to her chin, and looking off to the side, appearing dejected and withdrawn. To the right of her is an orange plate that is full of food. Black text at top right reads: “It is often a lonely experience. But I also know I’m not the only one with these experiences.” - Autism, Eating Disorders, and Gender by Kayla Rodriguez, In the lower right hand corner is the awn logo: a large pink “a” with a pale blue winged spoonie dragonfly on it. Below the “a” is our website:

Kayla’s blog also delves a bit into pop culture with an exploration of the film Barbie and the implications of how women’s bodies were portrayed in the film. I learned a lot from it, so I hope you’ll check it out!

Illustration and text against a beige background At top in pink and black text reads: “SUPPORT AWN FOR GIVE OUT DAY MAY 2024” The word “out” is circled in a rainbow colored heart. Across the lower half of the square are digital illustrations of 3 arms raised into a fist. They are all wearing bright bracelets in rainbow and trans pride flag colors. Text above the 3 hands reads: “DISABILITY JUSTICE REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE GENDER JUSTICE” In the lower right hand corner is the awn logo: a large pink “a” with a pale blue winged spoonie dragonfly. Below the a is our website:

Finally, all this month AWN is fundraising to support our work on behalf of the LGBTQIAP+ community for our Give Out Day campaign, and as a queer nonbinary person I can confidently say I know AWN is deeply committed to the queer/trans community.  

I hope you’ll consider giving a gift today of $10, $25, or $50 to support AWN’s Give Out Day campaign.

I’m proud to be part of this amazing community, and I’ll see you next month for Pride Month!


Kayley Whalen
Communications & Digital Strategy Consultant
Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network

Kayley Whalen