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.”

Why We Need Intersectionality: a Meta Response

If patriarchy teaches men that we need to take up space to “win”, then feminism gives us the opportunity to learn that if we have a voice, sometimes there is power in silence, and in allowing other people to speak

Laverne Cox

In response to the Feminist Current article by Meghan Murphy “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body ’empowers’ No One“.

“[…]  If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.” – “Laverne Cox’s objectified body ’empowers’ no one” – by Meghan Murphy

By David Ng

My first encounter with feminism was life changing.

When I was 14 I discovered feminism.  It was kind of an accident…I was looking to discover sexuality, but instead I found feminism.

When I was in grade 9, I joined a youth sexual health advocacy organization, where we learned about sexuality through a feminist, anti-oppression lens.  It was like I was given a new pair of eyes to see the world in.  I already had the knowledge – but now I had the words to articulate my experiences: being a racialized body – a yellow body, a gendered body, and as someone who is queer.  All of these things that I was experiencing, I could finally put a name to it.

Sixteen years later, as I read Murphy’s article on trans women’s bodies, I reflect on my own journey as a feminist activist, and how I relate to other people in my community, who intersect with my struggle.

One of the biggest learnings I have had as a feminist, is the power of owning my own struggles.  The value of looking at the way my activism starts with my own journey.  The only way that I can ever have solidarity with any one, or any other community that is not my own, is through truly engaging with my own struggles, my journey, and my truths.

Yes I may see a problematic situation over there, and over here, but I need to begin my work with my own struggle – rather than speaking about other peoples struggles – yes, they intersect with mine, but they are not my own.

I have to thank the black feminists in the second wave who brought us the notion of “intersectionality” – a concept that this entire blog and video project is predicated upon.  Black feminists (like Kimberlé Crenshaw) called out white feminists during the second wave, who were speaking for “women”, while ignoring the struggles that black women were facing.  Intersectionality implores us to contend with the multitude of ways that other facets of our journey, such as race, gender, sexuality, what sex we are assigned, affect our access to rights and privileges. Intersectionality allows me to grapple with my own positionality, in relation to my community members, so that I can begin to forge solidarity with other communities – so that we can begin to do work together.

So when I read the way Meghan Murphy writes about trans women’s bodies, I am reminded that we can have a voice without silencing and negating the voice and agency of other people and their struggles.  As a cis queer man who is a feminist, this is something that I have to remember and check in on, on a regular basis.

If patriarchy teaches men that we need to take up space to “win”, then feminism gives us the opportunity to learn that if we have a voice, sometimes there is power in silence, and in allowing other people to speak (Gayatri Spivak).

This is why I love feminism so much.  For me, it’s not about pointing fingers and making my points loud and heard – it’s not about screaming “this is oppression! this is not right!”.  Often, it’s about listening and waiting for the opportunities where we can build community and solidarity… instead of building barriers.

In love and solidarity,

David Ng

Jen & David on a bench

In response to David Ng’s response to the Feminist Current article by Meghan Murphy.

“This is why I love feminism so much.  For me, it’s not about pointing fingers and making my points loud and heard – it’s not about screaming ‘this is oppression! this is not right!’.  Often, it’s about listening and waiting for the opportunities where we can build community and solidarity… instead of building barriers.” – David Ng

By Jen Sung

Sometimes we do need to scream, “this is oppression! this is not right!” Right now Black America is screaming – in agony, in solidarity, in agony, in silence, in agony.

David so eloquently referenced the origins of “intersectionality”, from the depths of black feminist mobilizing. How can we talk about the experiences of others when we don’t occupy the same lived and very real embodiment of racialized and trans* lives?

Right now my body is reacting to the hypertension in America right now. I am not thinking about Meghan Murphy as she narrates the voices of others outside of her own. My body does not know what it is like living in Black America.

But my body knows what it is like to have others paint layers upon layers upon layers of racialized and sexualized expectations, assumptions and stereotypes onto its canvas. That canvas turns into a living carcass. I live and breathe inside the carvings of race, gender, sexuality, and time.

So I learn silence while my body screams – screams to break out of the suffocating coats of paint. It is debilitating.

I do not deny that patriarchy is systemic, and that it perpetuates violence against women. Nor do I deny that rape culture exists.

I also do not deny that I have privilege as a cis-woman who is aligned with her assigned gender. So I listen to those whose experiences are outside of my own. Rape culture affects us all.

I do not deny that I conform to societal standards of what is considered to be feminine, but gender doesn’t make up the entirety of my motivation to conform, and subvert — my race and sexual orientation do, too.

I embody race and queerness just as hard as I do with gender, some days it’s more, some days it’s less. They all live in the same body. My body. And my body is part of a collective of bodies that are living, breathing, dying, suffering, working, playing, listening, dancing, living.

But 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.

If supporting those who pose naked in an “objectifying” way is letting patriarchy “win”, then I must be a bad feminist. But I know I’m not. I wrote “Ask me again why I need feminism” because feminism taught me how to listen, and extend my hand out in spite of, and especially because of — difference. That is the beautiful thing about paradox.

Will Meghan Murphy listen too?

In tenderness,
Jen Sungshine

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

Looking at Intersections in the Creation of our Logo

Love Intersections
In releasing our new logo, we also thought it would be a good idea to share the story behind the logo – because there is great story behind it!

When we came up with the idea to do a blog about race, one of the things that was really important to us, was language and writing.  The brush stroke style typography is an ode to our Chinese and Taiwanese ancestry – and the journey that we have gone through in our own lives in engaging with our racial identities.

For me, when I was growing up in South Vancouver, I remember trying to be “more white”…because there was pressure from the community around me to not “behave like an immigrant”.  It wasn’t until later on when I was in university where I had this desire to know my background, and eventually I really embraced my Chinese heritage – including, learning to do calligraphy.

One night a few months ago, over a bottle of wine, Jen and I were looking at some of the calligraphy I had been working on, and realized that the Chinese character for “heart” (心), has elements of the letter “L”, which would add a beautiful and relevant symbol to the logo – an intersection of language and culture, rooted in our hearts.

So there you have it: a logo that is an intersection of an intersection, of intersections! 🙂

In love and solidarity,

David Ng

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.

The VSB Gender Policy Debates: Discourses on Race and Solidarity



Jen and I have been talking about doing some writing together in the aftermath of how from the VSB gender policy “discussions” has emerged all of this intense racism and transphobia. I didn’t attend any of the discussions, but I have been dealing with the impact that it has caused the queer communities and the Chinese communities I am a part of, and really struggling with where to go from here.  We decided to share our stories in relation to the conversations about race and gender that have emerged from the dialogues, and how they have impacted us personally.

David:  I want to start my story by saying that I have such respect for all these amazing allies (including Jen!) that have been doing all this incredible organizing, in supporting the changes to the gender policies at the Vancouver School Board (VSB).  It has been incredibly stressful for myself, as someone who straddles across queer and Chinese identities to see the way that from the debates has emerged these uncomfortable racial constructions, from even within the queer community.  Somehow within this process – and with the help of the media – we have responded to the organizing of conservative Chinese Christians against the VSB policy changes by knitting together yellow skin + Evangelical Christian + homophobia. That somehow, evangelical Christian conservatism is tied to being “Ethnic Chinese”.  I’ve had numerous queer allies say to me in the past week, “Why are Chinese Christians like this?” “What is wrong with Chinese people that they are so ignorant?” “Is this in your culture?” (Yes, someone actually said that to my face)

Homophobia and transphobia do not come from having yellow skin, it doesn’t come from being “ethnic” Chinese – Chinese people are not “more” conservative. These constructions are not only problematic, but they are rooted in the way that we (colonially) construct race, and through a removal of accountability to history and colonization.

While I recognize the complicity of being an immigrant and as a settler on indigenous territories, here in Canada, there are fundamental ways in which white supremacy operates with the colonial system which functions to marginalize people of colour (POC).  This also becomes relevant when we consider the ways in which Christianity – having been historically evangelized throughout the world via colonization by white Europeans – is now being (ironically) constructed as part of “Other” “ethnic” cultures and traditions.  Christianity arrived in China (and also in Canada) via white missionaries, who came to “save” these backward and primitive Chinese people from their pagan and Buddhist traditions.  Similarly, while white Europeans colonized Africa (and the rest of the world) and brought Judeo-Christian versions of patriarchy (and homophobia) to Uganda – yet somehow, the homophobic laws in Uganda (as in the rest of Africa) have essentially become constructed about being black and African. So even when we adopt the “white colonial religion” (which is the ideal/the standard) – it is never good enough, and in fact, when POC attempt to reach this standard, they are reprimanded.  When Vancouver Chinese Christians come and protest the LGBTQ programs here in Vancouver, it becomes constructed around the fact that they are “Ethnic Chinese”…it becomes about their yellow skin. And so, even when people of colour assimilate into religious institutions imposed by colonization and white supremacy (like they are meant to) – they are still inferior.  And through the colonial structures in which we continue to struggle under, I am reminded that people of colour are never meant to be equal. This is how white privilege operates.

I remember reading numerous articles, including the Douglas Todd’s blog post, and Ian Young’s article on the “Chinese communities in Vancouver” protesting LGBT programs, and seeing how my Chinese friends (some queer, many not), were feeling so ashamed of their communities, and questioning what to do about this (seemingly) “growing” conservatism in the Chinese Christian community – as the media implies. But I think we really need to ask ourselves this – why is it that when white Christians are homophobic and transphobic, they are “homophobic and transphobic Christians”, but all of a sudden, when Chinese Christians are homophobic and transphobic, they are “Ethnic Chinese” Christians who are homophobic and transphobic?

It is these constructions of race that have emerged in the aftermath of the VSB policy that I believe we have to address and keep accountable.

The second part of this conversation regarding accountability is the way that the conversations are being dichotomized, and oppositions are being constructed without a look into the ways in which solidarity can (and should be built) across these “territories”.

I am a Christian. There. I said it.

I grew up in a Chinese conservative evangelical Christian church. Yes, I went to one of “those” “ethnic Chinese” churches that you’ve been hearing about in the media lately. A church in the same denomination as Stephen Harper, a church that signed a petition to ban gay marriage a decade ago, a church that tried to tell me that abstinence was holy, and that sexual health education was a farce, and that condoms didn’t work because they are actually perforated (and thus you can still contract AIDS).  I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy growing up as a queer person in such an environment.  I don’t know how I would have turned out – or if I would have even survived – if it weren’t for the strong feminists and queer allies that supported me through my youth.  Though I never actually technically “left” my church until I moved to South Africa for grad school, I’ve often wondered why I continue to engage with my evangelical Christian community that I grew up in, and why I didn’t just pick up and leave, like so many queer people that I know.

As I reflect today on my (traumatic) experience with organized, patriarchal “religion”, and how it has again reared it’s ugliness on the VSB gender policy debates, I’ve realized that there is something so blatantly overlooked in this debate – and that is, love.  Despite my not so favorable experience with church, and while my visceral reaction to the transphobia that comes from this (misinformed version of) evangelical Christianity is to reject and “call out” the oppressive discourses, I realize that a large part of my work on myself, and in my feminist work is grounded in my desire to love human beings and always, love more.

My love, and empathy for human beings is what drives my activism, and I have to constantly remind myself of this. Despite how angry the transphobic language that comes from people who are opposed to the gender policy makes me – these people love their children, they care so deeply about their families, that they are willing to take hours out of their time to print placards, and attend meetings to fight for their children. It’s interesting that similarly on the “other” side, my queer comrades that have been doing this work fighting for this policy, and have been doing the intense emotional work of sharing their own stories, are also doing this out of love for their families, and for their children. Let’s no forget this.

The actions of my church – despite being homophobic and patriarchal – came out of love for me. Though I disagree with the way they’ve manipulated scripture to promote patriarchy and homophobia, I have to remember my church genuinely cares for and loves their congregation, and they are willing to put an incredible amount time and energy to devote to their communities. This is why I have to remind myself that I do, in fact, have such tremendous love, respect, and solidarity with my own Chinese Christian community, as all of them do their own organizing and activisms out of love.

In love and solidarity,

David Ng

Love Intersections

We are so excited to launch this blog this afternoon 🙂

Jen and David just had an interview with Jane Bouey @W2 Media Co-op around the Vancouver School Board gender policy revisions alongside Dora Ng and Wallace Wong.  We talked about race, gender, colonization, and how through the language of love we can build solidarity.

Stay tuned – we will launch in T minus 6 hours! (15:00 Pacific Standard Time)Image