The activist, speaker, and writer shares her journey of mindfulness and intentional self-care.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Hailing from the “brown part of Orange County” and now at home in Brooklyn, Xoài Pham has found a way of turning inward to push movements forward. Through storytelling, community organizing, workshops, and digital advocacy, Pham uses her channels for change. She amplifies the underserved narratives of all people of color, and dissects topics like imperialism, interpersonal violence, and dating. Her light shines brightly as a voice for marginalized communities, and she generously shares her gifts through a lens of activism.
Her impact on the trans community has rippled far beyond the community itself, touching lives worldwide, every day. The work continues and we were honored to have a glimpse into her world to see it.
What is your favorite part about yourself?
At my best, I am a vessel for transformation. I am the listener, the lover, the protector, the reflection of beauty that I want you to see in yourself.
What is your favorite daily ritual?
I love spending mornings in silence, looking out my window at the trees swaying. I’m reminded that even when I’m alone, I am surrounded by the lives of trees, birds, and dragonflies.
What is your personal mantra of the moment?
I return to Bruce Lee’s famous phrase “be water.” I know that like the ocean, there are times in life that pull and push you. It’s easiest when you let yourself move with the tide. Embrace the present and trust your instincts.
What music, book, or podcast are you vibing to?
I am listening to Arca’s new album, KiCk i. It is incredible to witness the brilliance of a fellow trans woman. Her artwork continues to prove that trans women are more than subjects of tragic narratives. We are culture shifters and creators.
How does your mental health journey intersect with your identity?
I originally sought out a therapist because I had started at Transgender Law Center, where I currently work as Digital Media Coordinator. I think I was noticing that there was a lot of vicarious trauma. I was working in a capacity where I was continuing to help to monitor news and put out narratives and messages and craft statements around murders of trans people, especially Black trans women. And there are also all the less visible ways that trans people are harmed that don’t make the news. That was really exhausting, and it became this repeated practice of crafting eulogies for trans people. It was a preventative measure for me to see a therapist so that I could be sustainable in that work. Because I know that work is really important. And it was also really hard to find a trans person of color who was also a therapist and available. I’m grateful to have been able to find the right therapist for me.
You’ve discussed overuse of the word empathy—can you say more about that?
Yeah, for sure. I think it always will. It’s funny because I wrote an article once for Rookie Magazine, which is now, defunct, but the title of it was Empathy Isn’t Everything. And I still stand by that statement to a degree because I think a lot of times people weaponize empathy to shut [others] down, or sort of glamorize it without connecting. So I feel like empathy is important, but it isn’t required for people to respect one another. I think that you shouldn’t have to understand someone in order to offer them basic decency and dignity and respect.
The empathy that I’m most invested in is an empathy that allows you to see yourself in the other person. That’s not to say that empathy should be colorblind or shouldn’t see differences in humans. I think that it should actually see those differences as broadening the beauty of the human experience. So one of the ways that I talk about this is in the divide between cisgender women and transgender women — like there’s been this struggle [for] cisgender women to see themselves in trans women and to see that womanhood mirrored, despite the differences. And for me, I think that the experiences of trans women actually expand the definition of womanhood to greater beauty and even a greater perspective. As a result, I think that it makes all of us better people. So I think the empathy that I’m talking about would allow all kinds of women to see themselves in each other in order to transform our world and transform the way that we treat one another. That’s the kind of empathy that I’m interested in.