Welcome to “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” GO Magazine’s interview series that profiles a different queer babe each day, by asking them seven unique (and sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.
I first met Olivia Ahn through the world wide web of the queer internet. We were both dealing with misogyny in the workplace and needed help processing together. From there, a budding friendship took off and I’m so grateful to have Olivia’s energy in my life. Not only are they incredibly caring as a friend, they are also crazy talented and intelligent. They’re currently a student of the Public Health masters program at Columbia, while they still do comprehensive doula work and workshops on the love ethic in the community.
Olivia is a force to be reckoned with. She continually is learning and educating—all to create true social justice change in the world. Every time I learn something new about Olivia, I’m even more impressed and excited to see what’s in store for her future! In this Seven Minutes in Heaven, I invite you to get to know Olivia better!
GO Magazine: Who are you and what do you do?
Olivia Ahn: I am a third generation Chinese American New Yorker, manifesting a life of tenderness, compassion, and empathy, as I strive for radical self-healing between people. I seek this through my life practice as a doula, caregiver, emotional laborer, oral historian, designer, organizer, speaker, counselor, facilitator, lover, partner, daughter/son.
GO: What is the driving force behind your career/activism?
OA: Manifesting the liberation of my mother.
Manifesting the liberation of my past and future.
Manifesting the liberation of those who have come before me, those we have lost & those we have yet to meet.
GO: Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged or depleted?
OA: Feeling like we are constantly “pouring from an empty cup”, on the cusp of “emotional burnout”, or “running on fumes”, I think is a common occurrence amongst communities who’s culture and social fabric are rooted in organizing, activism, and education, primarily because it is necessary for our own vitality/survival. There is so much passion and energy being fueled into our community work, but amongst the entropy of it all very rarely do we feel the tangible return of change, renewal, transformation, or even destruction.
I think the inspiration is always there. I am so humbled by everyone I know in the community doing this work. However, trying to find yourself when your emotions, energy, and vibration is low, is daunting as much as it is isolating. When this happens, I try to find counsel from within myself. I remind myself what the reasons were when I decided to build the courage to do this work with direction and intention. I think a lot about honor, humility, and love. I think about the past, the present and the future. I acknowledge and honor the trauma, pain and abuse but try not to meditate upon it too much. Lastly, I’ve gradually learned (with great resistance) to value the necessity of slowing down, to pause, or to rest— even if it is just for a minute. A lot can happen just in closing your eyes or taking a deep breath. A lot can happen in a few hours of sleep. I know this is counter-intuitive, but even rest can be a subtle form of “productivity”. So perhaps the opposite of depletion is to ask oneself: where do you find nourishment?
Nourishment can take on many forms (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, etc…) depending on what you need most in that time of feeling depleted. The most difficult thing to also acknowledge that I currently still struggle with, is when you feel depleted, when do you ask for help, and will you ask for help? I would challenge everyone to try a balance of this (sourcing outward) while also maintaining a practice that is self-sustaining (sourcing inward).
GO: Describe yourself in three words.
OA: Analytical. Passionate. Tender.
GO: How do you hope to create more dialogue around holistic healing practices in the LGBTQ community?
OA: I am currently working to do more collaborations with others (please contact me if you are into collaborating!) who are interested in creating healing practices at interpersonal levels within our communities.
Although there are many different mediums in which healing has institutionally been considered to be most “clinically effective” I think we need to spend more time within ourselves to understand and accept that everyone processes differently, learns differently, and ultimately heals differently, primarily because the stories and sources of our pain and suffering are also vastly different. I am passionate about focusing on an interpersonal level of healing since that is the scale of relation between people that can often be the most tangible on a 1-1 level where intimacy and vulnerability may foster. I hope that this level of healing gives a lot of space for people to connect in their whole selves with each other. If I can help facilitate these forms of connections—either in my group work, doula practice, and community organizing—I believe that this will create the dialogue needed.
GO: Who are your queer role models?
OA: I have such high respect and honor for elders that have paved the way to do the work we are doing today. I also have an abundant amount of gratitude and love for all of my LGBTQ+ peers here in New York that have made this life (in how they truly choose to live it fully, positively, and radically) as proof of what our elders have done before us.
I will say that I return to Audre Lorde’s texts time after time (particularly her collections of poetry) most of all:
“Revolution is not a one time event.”
And each generation shall have its own revolution.
I think we are proof of that. And I am hopeful.
GO: Where can people find you?
OA: I am very humbly a Certified Full Spectrum Doula of Ancient Song Doula Services, a Certified Lactation Counselor of the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice, and currently a Master of Public Health Candidate at Columbia University. However, a lot of my work and efforts are scattered around different platforms on the internet. You can informally find me, and my musings about doulas, reproductive + sexual health, and queerness on my Facebook page as well as on my Instagram @ahntologies.
I also have contributions to collectives like The City and The Heart (on Bandcamp and Spotify), a non-profit organization founded by Meghann Wright (featured on a previous 7 minutes!) that creates music media and events donated by independent artists to raise money for SafeHorizon.
I am also currently accepting bookings on a new workshop series ‘Towards A New Love Ethic’. That focuses on the importance of emotionality in our relationships, sexuality, and sexual health. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.