By Brendan Connelly, Online News Editor
// May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. In order to celebrate this month, Acalanes High School invited Shaan Dasani, a transgender South-Asian American actor and performer, to speak to the community.
Leadership hosted a virtual discussion with Dasani on May 12 that was open to students, parents, and teachers. Dasani gave a brief talk and then opened the floor to questions.
Leadership found Dasani through a parent recommendation in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEI). After meeting with him, Leadership invited him to share his story during AAPI Heritage Month. A little over 30 people attended the discussion.
“We wanted to bring a speaker in for AAPI Heritage month and a parent of the DEI committee introduced us to Shaan. We held an introductory meeting and really appreciated his story. He also provides a different perspective than some of the other events we have held,” Leadership, Ethnic Studies, and Special Assignment teacher Katherine Walton said.
Dasani began by telling his own story about discovering his gender-identity in his youth. He spoke about his struggles discovering what his feelings were and how he responded to them.
“Shaan’s story has stayed with me. His ability to be true to himself, to be a part of various communities and pursue his dreams is powerful,” Walton said.
After speaking for approximately 15 minutes, Dasani answered questions, moderated by Leadership student and junior Shrida Pandey. Audience members submitted questions in the Zoom chat and prior to the meeting. This allowed for a discussion about various topics such as intersectionality and supporting each other.
“Another part of the event that really resonated with me was when people were asking questions about how to best support those around them that are going through experiences similar to Shaan’s. It was important hearing about how people want to learn how to be there for those around them,” junior Emily Starn said.
During the question section of the event, Dasani offered his advice about how to best support children questioning and learning about their own gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Talk to other parents if you can. The one thing that really helped me was going to groups. There were different trans community groups that I would go to before anything just to learn. I was even able to talk to some things that were intimidating or scary for me. Know that nothing is happening except you are learning,” Dasani said at the event.
Overall, the event positively impacted many attendees who valued Dasani’s advice.
“I think the main important point was about being you and not hiding or changing yourself for anyone. He really stressed the importance of honesty and being honest to yourself about who you are,” Starn said.