It Runs in the Family: Vancouver Premiere

We recently spoke with Vancouver based filmmaker Joella Cabalu about her film It Runs in the Family – a film about her own family’s story about being Filipino immigrants in Canada, and their relationships to the queer people in their lives.
It Runs in the Family is premiering at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival:
Tuesday, August 16 at 9 pm, International Village
Tickets available starting July 14:

1) “It Runs in the Family” – why the title, and what inspired you to go on this journey with your brother?

Coming up with an intriguing title that captures the story and spirit of the film and catches people’s attentions is such a challenge! I had a placeholder title during the development and production of the film, but the current title came during an editing session. I had previously talked to a friend about the film and she suggested IRITF. It was in the back of my mind and I relayed it to my editor Alexandra Marriott. When I met with Alex the following day for an edit session, she had cut the title into the opening sequence and we (myself, producer Cari Green, Alex) all had the same “aha” moment! It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but also intrigues audiences into thinking what “it” could be!

The idea for the film sparked in my mind when I watched the documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So”. Jay had recently come out to me and this film portrayed five American Christian families and how they each dealt with the coming out of their child. But I noticed that out of the five families only one was a family of colour, so it made me wonder what would that story look like for my own family – a Filipino immigrant family.

2) I love the premise of the film – a personal story of an immigrant family and their journey with the queer members of their own family.  What  surprised you about making a film about this topic, and what do you hope the film shares?

The film is cut in a way such that the audience is discovering things about our relatives just as Jay and I were learning about them. So one thing that I didn’t expect going into filming was how constructs like “coming out” are perceived very differently in North America than in the Philippines. It challenged our ideas around the politics of “coming out” and I hope that sparks dialogue amongst the audiences as well.

3) The film has had an incredibly successful film festival run, and is now premiering home in Vancouver! What have been audience responses? What reactions have stood out in the festival run?

We had our US premiere at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and that was the first time that the cast and crew watched the film together with an audience. And the response was absolutely incredible! We were actually awarded the Audience Choice Award! A common reaction to the film is that it’s refreshing to see a positive representation of an Asian / Filipino family as accepting and loving of their LGBTQ family members. One audience member remarked that it’s inspiring to know that these families exist! 

The Politics of Sexy: Race, Trans, Love

We spoke with Kai Cheng Thom – Artist, Activist, Therapist, Performer – about her journey being queer, trans, Asian, her relationship with feminism, amongst many other things! Here is a sneak preview of the clip:

”[…] When we can talk about being loved, and when we can talk about loving our bodies, and loving other people’s bodies outside of how much they are valued sexually – then we can talk about equality.”


A few months ago, we spoke with Kira about her journey coming out, and she generously shared with us her life and her dreams.  As a Trans* woman who came out and transitioned in adulthood, Kira explores some of the things she went through, and what it meant to come out later in life.

Travelling Safety and Etiquette for POC’s: The Fat Black Girl & Gay Chinese Boy Edition

The ability to access spaces – and the ability to then exist in those spaces in an entirely natural and joyful way, to fully participate in those spaces – has often been a privilege I have had to do battle for.

 David and Nomonde recently travelled to Bali, and reflected together on some experiences travelling as racialized bodies

David: Nomonde is one of my dearest friends in the world – since we met in 2010 w11899797_10153467782959462_3467395100888588362_nhile we were both studying at the University of Cape Town, we have become very close friends.  Mondes is now living in Pretoria, and I’m back home in Vancouver, but every year or so, we make an effort to meet somewhere “half way” in the world to hang out, and travel together.

We recently visited Bali, Indonesia together, and something that we’ve had to talk about seriously – though we do (nervously) joke about – is that when we pick places to travel, we literally have to consider the likelihood of one of us getting lynched or gay bashed.

The reality is, that when me and Nomonde are together – whether it be in New York, Johannesburg, or Bali – we stand out, and often makes many situations unsafe.  The negative attention that we receive ranges from awkward, judgmental stares, to literal public mockery (pointing and laughing).

I’ve also recognized that in many cases, especially when I’m with Nomonde, I have the ability to pass more than she does.  My body, my skin, my accent, breeds a reaction sometimes, and while we have shared difficult traveling situations, I also recognize the differences in the challenges that both of us face.

When we are together, for example, people usually speak directly to me only – not to her.  Servers will always hand me the bill, and not to Nomonde.

Luckily for us, we always manage to navigate these situations with humour…especially when people ask us if we are on our honeymoon! 🙂


Nomonde: The ability to access spaces – and the ability to then exist in those spaces in an entirely natural and joyful way, to fully participate in those spaces – has often been a privilege I have had to do battle for. Because of racial history, my class, education, the kind of work I do – many of the spaces I move in are very white spaces and I have often had to navigate those spaces with extreme caution. My fat black body is perceived as threatening by many white people. When I laugh, or talk, I’m told I’m fighting. When I express myself passionately with gestures, wide eyes and sincerity I am perceived to be angry. Perpetually angry. Eternally threatening. A big, fat, black freak in delicate white, light spaces.

Travelling with 11903843_1006688486037601_7857794658221783731_nDavid, who I adore, and not just because he always makes me feel so safe, has only confirmed and re-emphasised how difficult it can be for non-white bodies to access spaces of leisure. From sitting in a restaurant in New York and being ignored for a solid 45 minutes until David sat down and a waiter arrived at our side seconds later, to wandering a night market in Bali (which shall henceforth be known as the Night-market of Horror) and being laughed, harassed and jeered at while just desperately clinging to some form of dignity, to the reminder that yes I am a person and I do not deserve to be treated this way. To having those spaces turn threatening and dangerous, which I have never experienced with David, not yet anyway. At home in South Africa while at concerts, restaurants and clubs with other black women I have often been physically threatened and attacked by white men ‘defending’ their girlfriends from the existence of fat black womanhood in spaces they perceive as just their own. I have been spat at, stoned, shoved and punched right in my own back yard because I am a black body ‘trespassing’ where I do not belong and so when it comes to venturing to new shores, particularly knowing and acknowledging that David and I are both highly visible as individuals and even more so as a pair, I do intense research about black and poc experiences of the places we are visiting.

We had a very interesting, and amusing, conversation in Bali after our surreal and ugly experience at the Night-market of Horror, about how white travellers often boast about ‘getting to know the locals’ and ‘avoiding the touristy areas.’ While for black and other poc moving in those ‘authentic’ spaces can very often spell extreme humiliation, if not actual physical danger, and those are simply not conversations that I hear when black women particularly speak of travelling and exploration.

I desperately want to end this on a positive note because travelling has been overwhelmingly positive for me. I am beyond privileged to have the money to see the world, to have had the education and access I have had when the majority of women who look like me and come from where I come from struggle daily for the bare minimum of life and I acknowledge that fact with immense gratitude and humility. I suppose I just want us all to remember that there are many ways to kill a person. Always remember the power and the joy that can come from genuinely seeing each other.


Salute to the Sun: Illuminating Pain

Nomonde SelfieYoga was a killer this morning.

I was a trembling, sweating wreck – you know that feeling when you’re pushed to the limit and everything is straining but you’re also all weirdly open and raw like you get with yoga.

And there was this moment with the sun on my back, just getting to that point of too hot and sweat dripping off of my nose and onto the mat and I realised, to my horror, that the knot of pain in my chest wasn’t physical – it was cos I was ashamed of having to breathe heavily, of having to sweat and pant. I was ashamed of the exertion of my body and how very obviously difficult the poses and the moves were for my fat body. And that was just like some kind of cold shock to my insides cos I am body confident and I love my fat round self.

There are hard days and hurting days when people are shit to me and the world just feels like granite, but like 90% of the time when it comes to my physical being and how I move through the world – I’m awesome. So realising that – and waking to the fact that I avoid working out with others because I am not ok with sweating and trembling and appearing unable in non-private spaces – that wasn’t fun.

The ugly, ouchie shit that still crawls out of my psyche sometimes is always a revelation. What I did, when I’d worked through that, was I deliberately unclenched. I gave up that knot of pain and shame. I unraveled it and by the end of that session I ached but only in my muscles – not in my soul.

Small victories y’all – even in battles I had no idea I was fighting.

Nomonde Mxhalisa

Solidarity Building with Laverne Cox: A Meta Response to Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy

How do we form solidarity with fellow feminist perspectives that share similar oppression in this heap of stress? Do we completely locate oppression and critique it, or are there subtle differences? Is there perhaps a different lens of feminism that can be taken where contradictions, but ultimately, compassion and solidarity take place? Is there even a place where femininity is reclaimed and shown as self-empowering? Do we find understanding and compassion for the anger that some feminists share?


Just because I am part of a collective of bodies doesn’t mean I get to speak for, reason, argue – on behalf of that collective. Complexities make interesting narratives that shape our world. We are enriched by the stories of others whose differences teach us to be more open. I will always have limitations to what I know because I trust in the fundamental truth that I only know what I know, and don’t know what I don’t know. Until then, I learn to listen – and listen to learn.

-Jen Sung

I can’t help but recall a moment I saw on The Tyra Banks show. She did a show on how racial perceptions effected attraction.  There was one moment when she asked all the men on stage to stand beside the woman they fantasized about sexually. There were women of multiple races onstage. No one stood beside the black woman.  She then asked who would you want to marry and take home to your family. Only another black man chose the black woman.  Though I’ve experienced a lot of men who fantasize about me sexually there was something about this moment that felt real to me that I somehow identified with. I was kind of shocked that no one chose the black woman on one level but on another I wasn’t. Even as men have sexually objectified me they have simultaneously devalued me. We know these two things can co-exist.

-Laverne Cox


The Beautiful thing I find about building solidarity is that I can become one without becoming the other. That is to say, I can embody the experiences that Laverne Cox faces, but I will never be Laverne Cox. I will never know what it feels like to face oppression for being trans*, for being black in midst of contemporary racism rooted in slavery, lynching, and dehumanization, and I will never know what it feels like to experience misogyny. For these reasons, I acknowledge the privilege I have in commenting about the issues of oppression Cox faces in Meghan Murphy’s article without having to face the repercussions transgender black women face.

Yet how, do we facilitate dialogue and change about patriarchy and the objectification of women that Murphy talks about in her article? (

How do we form solidarity with fellow feminist perspectives that share similar oppression in this heap of stress? Do we completely locate oppression and critique it, or are there subtle differences? Is there perhaps a different lens of feminism that can be taken where contradictions, but ultimately, compassion and solidarity take place? Is there even a place where femininity is reclaimed and shown as self-empowering? Do we find understanding and compassion for the anger that some feminists share?

Reiterating Jen Sung’s eloquent writing, we can only observe and listen in some instances. Because when I see Laverne Cox posing naked, I see her in a liberated space, I see not just a woman, I hear a black woman who has fought her way to have autonomy of her body in a time and place that has literally killed trans women of colour. She embodies femininity, and that is what she is rejoicing, not patriarchal structures or the male gaze.

Paradoxically, I must remember that I cannot speak for others; I can only represent myself, and my inadvertent opinion regarding Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot.

Because being a biracial gay man and my difficulties experienced through homophobia build bridges to the same fundamental gender-based discrimination women and trans* people face, of course, in nuanced ways, and that is why I listen in solidarity.

I want to continue to disprove myself, and continue to raise questions. Questions, with good intention I believe are essential. For as we transition in our evolving social settings, I think there is potential for misunderstanding regarding feminism. I can indeed call out social injustices, but when I read Meghan Murphy’s article, “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body ‘Empowers’ No One”, I felt this erasure of the experiences of trans women of colour. Who is to say that it empowers “no one”?

I question because of intersectionality, I question, because when a transgender woman of colour can pose naked in front of a camera and “subvert” oppression, I believe Cox is doing so.

As I respond to Jen’s article, in response to David’s articulation of Meghan Murphy’s initial critique of Laverne Cox’s nude photo-shoot, voices are shown, and voices are heard. I see a place where discussion is happening, and although disagreement can take place, I think it is beautiful how narratives can transcend our beliefs. When ultimately, we start dialogue to keep the fire fuelling the ever-evolving need for feminism, tolerance, respect, and love that Jen Sung, David Ng, and Meghan Murphy each approach in nuanced ways.

-Andy Holmes

Reconstructing Gay Biracialism

I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect.


Being biracial and gay is an interesting mix. By being mixed-race, I challenge categorical thinking and normativity that is too often encountered in our lives:

“What’s your race?” I’m asked.

“I’m half Chinese, English and a bit Scottish,” I reply.

When my biracial identity is neither accepted culturally as White nor Asian, when I am indeed literally Asian and White by blood, I feel this sense of non-belonging:

“Oh, you don’t speak Chinese?” I’m asked.

“No, but I wish I could,” I reply.

And perhaps this sense of non-belonging is perpetuated by my failure to pick up Chinese as a kid, or maybe because non-belonging feels synonymous with being gay, sometimes. When our identity becomes our sense of security, when race is so often embodied as our sense of community, when being gay severs our relationships with others and ourselves:

“So, do you have a girlfriend?” I’m asked.

“Umhh…no…” I reply.

I remember being told that being gay was a choice that would put me on “the bottom of society,” where I would find no success.

I can only think of how culture transforms our identities beyond race. I’ve noticed this insidious trend to normalize “gay culture” into something fathomable by the mainstream: the idealized body of an attractive, middle-upper class, cisgender white man who resonates images of power, authority, and acceptance (see this article). These images and identities that command respect contrast with the insecurity that “gay culture” has had to latch itself to. And in turn, much of what I feel I’ve had to embody as a gay individual has leaned towards this normalized, white, classed, “attractive” stereotyped fantasy.

I will never forget a quote by Fred Wah, a Canadian poet, who wrote about being mixed-race and his fear that his White privilege would make him become “not the target, but the gun.” I’m writing this piece so that as a mixed-race subject, I can tackle the pervasive racism and normalization within the queer community.

Of course, I think it helps that my last name, Holmes, can create this immediate sense of whiteness on paper, but how would that be different if my last name was Wong, my mother’s patriarchal name? Would people have an immediate change in expectation? Would something as trivial as a name convey different ideas about personality and culture? I think to an extent, I have autonomy over culture, but I don’t over race. How people perceive “Hawaiian, Filipino, “White”, “Asian”, “mixed”, Spanish, or however far or close people have been in guessing my “what are you?” will always portray immediate ideas from race that govern how people perceive me.

Yet, how, as individuals can we facilitate dialogue and movement surrounding this phenomenon? How do we start talking about race, gender, class, and the continuum of privilege and disprivilege when we are expected as a social justice movement to be focused solely on a singular issue? Is it tolerance, patience, respect, and understanding that are needed to understand each other from a privileged and marginalized vantage?

I think the answer lies within our lived experiences. I think back in history when interracial marriage was banned, when fears of miscegenation in post-colonial North America became a social threat. When homosexuality was greeted by the death penalty.

If anything, I feel being mixed-race is an opportunity to interrogate how identities can be reconstructed, and envisioned into social change that mirrors the queer rights movement. When being mixed-race and gay challenges how I navigate my own sense of privilege within the queer community that has lacked acceptance, I can only think of where race and queerness intersect. I think of how we can construct this façade to normalize “gay culture” within ourselves, and how we can connect historical racism to contemporary challenges faced within and beyond the gay community. Being mixed-race is a product of social change away from racism, and in turn, I see challenges within the queer community as an opportunity to connect in solidarity.

– Andy Holmes

Love Intersections: The Philosophy, The Love!

Check out our new trailer!

Jen, one of the co-founders of Love Intersections talks about the philosophy behind Love Intersections – the project itself, an intersection of art, activism, and love.

Love Intersections: Art as an Expression of Our Activism from David Ng on Vimeo.

Why I’m an Activist


In the pain, difficulty, and trauma of living a life governed by the daily awareness of oppression for being queer, for being a person of colour on the outskirts of normativity comes this beautiful opportunity to taste the bittersweet potential of liberation.

In this poisonous state of oppression, I’m trying to find out what keeps me navigating my interest in queer rights activism despite the immense continuous negativity that fills within me for advocating such a contentious cause.

It’s our annual family holiday dinner and I’m trying to explain what I’m studying in university; I say, “I’m taking a variety of courses, but I’m focusing on social justice”. Usually the conversation ends there. Really, I mean to tell them I’m interested in queer theory, feminism, racial discrimination and the collective spheres of social inequality. But really, who wants to talk about taboo topics without entering a heated argument? I don’t blame them though; these are complex issues and, after all, my mostly privileged family grants an innocent desensitization to what discrimination feels like.

Unlike some friends who pursue degrees in business, medicine, engineering – “respectable careers”, I feel miniscule. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard from people, let alone myself, claim, “What can you even do with studying social justice?” It’s a difficult question that I still have yet to find. But I will say this; there is no better feeling than finding someone who just understands what you’re going through, someone who can feel and comfort you in a world deprived of accepting our identities.

I want to be someone who sees you in the darkness of oppression. There is something indescribable about the paradoxical pleasure of feeling pain for being marginalized. Those eyes that light up when you accept and acknowledge their pain, breathe with them, cry with them, hug them through the ravenous obstacles of life for being queer, for being victims of racial discrimination, for being victims of rape or whatever one may experience that leaves them on the lonely, desolate edges of society.

I want to finish the conversation by saying in the midst of negativity that activism deals with, there is positivity and hope. There is positivity in reassuring someone to break free from the constraints of their internalized fear. There is triumph to be found in places unimaginable. The limitations become endless, and in turn, the way we govern ourselves, treat each other, also becomes a more welcoming space.

My blood is rooted in my veins, reaching to form tributaries to find a confluence of  equally important social causes that can be loved, acknowledged and manifested to form the bodies we live and govern ourselves in.

Andy Holmes