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:
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!
Brexit. I’ve been finding it challenging to comprehend all the explicit hate, racism, and xenophobia. People voting Leave believing they were voting for immigrants to leave and then gleefully celebrating their “victory” has my stomach in knots.
Part of me wants to be in denial that this ideology could be present here, but the truth is that it has been voiced to me many times. It’s rarely explicit stated, but the implicit message is always clear.
What usually happens is that I’m talking with an older white person and they find out I grew up in Richmond. They’ll say something like:
“Oh… Richmond has really changed, hasn’t it?”
What they mean is “there’s too many Asian people now,” and they expect me to agree.
The assumption they make is that I’m on their side in the us-versus-them they’ve constructed. It’s one of the many ways in which they are incorrect.
There’s no question to me which side I’m on. I’m on the side with “those Asians” because they are my friends, my neighbours, my classmates, and my family. And I want to say I love you.
My family left Richmond in 2001, so to my neighbours both from then and those who’ve arrived since: I love you and I really love what you’ve done with the place. By your hands, Richmond has gone from a nondescript, homogenous suburb to a vibrant, multicultural, urban community. Richmond really has changed, and it’s entirely for the better.
To my classmates: I love you and I gained so much from all that you taught me. Like that there’s a difference between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China (and Japan, and South Korea, and all the other places in Asia…). That CBC, FOB, and Banana all mean Canadian. How you really don’t need that much shared language to play together. And how more cultures means more opportunities for celebrations.
To my friends: I love you and have so much gratitude for everything we shared. Trading cookies for Pocky, playing Star Wars and Pokémon, watching Disney and Studio Ghibli. We were pirates, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, Sailor Scouts, Batman and Ultraman, and so much more. Anime taught us the extraordinary power of friendship and we brought it into reality.
Two people I am honoured to call my siblings are mixed Japanese and European. You are my family and I love you so much. My world is greater in both breadth and quality for having you in it.
When I say I love all the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Richmond, I really mean it. Not just the sweet and sour and the yakisoba that my grandparent’s palate can understand, but the duck feet and the durian that allow my palate to grow beyond what theirs could even imagine.
The same is true for stories and histories. I love the stories of dragons, lanterns, and fireworks. For the histories of emigration, internment, and inequity my love is just as strong, though awash with sadness too.
Xenophobia tells us to fear difference but as a queer person I know my difference is my gift. I know that in an ecosystem the diversity is what makes it resilient. I know that celebrating and embracing difference makes us all so much more than we could ever be on our own.
We now live in an era of profound global interconnection. Technology, economies, migration, and climate disruption have woven our stories and fates more tightly than has ever been seen. Any movement forward must be grounded in an ethos of connection, acceptance, and a global sense of us. We are not “all one,” but instead an extraordinary multitude of difference, and that is how we will survive and thrive.
So thank you Richmond, for nurturing me and my peers into global citizens.
It may be hard to admit for some, but I believe that had “Mohammed Sharaz” been “Matthew Smith,” it would have not peaked the VPD’s interest and the media would have sensationalized it as they did. Many people have said that this incident should be blamed on the media and not the authorities as the authorities were simply making sure “people were safe,” but they are missing the point in how the authorities felt the safety of shoppers was at risk in the first place. This racialization of suspicion is not something that is new- nor is this an isolated incident- and as a brown Sikh man with a beard and a turban, I know that all too well.
This past Friday- January 15, 2016- an article posted by a popular Vancouver-based social media outlet went viral in local and national spheres on the internet. The piece featured images that had been leaked from the Vancouver Police Department of three men that had been deemed “suspicious.” The title of the article (which has since been changed) sparked a reaction that is all too familiar in today’s post-9-11 society: “Vancouver Police searching for 3 Middle Eastern men videotaping Pacific Centre Mall.”
People immediately began jumping to conclusions about the probability of another terrorist attack in North America, and several other news articles shared the news and added to the frenzied fear-mongering. However, as we all know, the three men in question ended up being innocent after all, and an article released later on Friday night explained the not-so-sinister motives of the group.
The frenzy has since died down, and the rash Facebook posts made by people have been deleted, but this event has opened up a “Pandora’s box” of issues that Vancouver, and Canada at large, has often denied or has avoided addressing. Racism is a problem that is thought to have been long gone, but that is unfortunately a myth. When racist events occur, the public reacts as if this is something out of the ordinary, and as Manisha Krishnan outlines in an article from Vice, the way these events are addressed never acknowledge the systemic racism that has always been in place.
However, people of colour across North America know too well that these occurrences are simply and physical manifestation of the underhanded discrimination that occurs daily. While Friday’s incident was not violent like the pepper spraying of Syrian refugees on the evening of January 8th was, the incident brought attention to something that is a daily occurrence, is very vicious, and enables attacks like the one we saw on Syrian refugees- microaggressions.
The Racialization of Suspicion
In a manual from the University of California’s Office of the President (UCOP), microaggressions are defined as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
Whether we like to admit it or not, these snubs are very much a part of the Vancouver landscape, one only needs to ask around to see how these racist undertones thrive as we continue to ignore them. It’s these microaggressions that set the stage for what Mohammed Sharaz and his two companions went through on Friday. It’s these microaggressions that painted a group of visually-impaired men, who were snapping pictures of landmarks in order to make it easier to find their way around Pacific Centre, as “suspicious.” It may be hard to admit for some, but I believe that had “Mohammed Sharaz” been “Matthew Smith,” it would have not peaked the VPD’s interest and the media would have sensationalized it as they did. Many people have said that this incident should be blamed on the media and not the authorities as the authorities were simply making sure “people were safe,” but they are missing the point in how the authorities felt the safety of shoppers was at risk in the first place. This racialization of suspicion is not something that is new- nor is this an isolated incident- and as a brown Sikh man with a beard and a turban, I know that all too well.
I became observant in my faith a few years ago, and I began keeping my beard, let my hair grow out, started wearing a turban, and became an Amritdhari- “baptised,” or “initiated”- Sikh. While this transformation changed the way I viewed my life and the way I viewed the world, it also changed the way that the world viewed me. The first thing I noticed was how I was getting “randomly” selected for checking more while crossing the border to meet family, or while flying. While on the Skytrain, I have seen this racialization of suspicion manifest, as people shift uneasily when I walk onto the train, or when the seat beside me is often left unoccupied, despite the fact that the everyone in the train is packed in like sardines and people are left standing and struggling to keep their balance. An acquaintance I knew from my clean-shaven days in high school once asked my cousin why I have “gone Al-Qaeda,” and once an elderly woman on the bus told me that it wasn’t good to keep my people, as “my people” had beheaded James Foley in Raqqah.
The stories go on and on. In Ontario, two day after the horrific attacks that took place in Paris, a couple erected a sign asking Muslims if they were “sorry for the slaughter of innocent people by [those] whom represent your religious beliefs.” In December, Valerie Kaur, a renowned activist in the Sikh community, was asked to present her breast pump to be searched “to prove she was not a terrorist” by passengers and staff on a flight home to Los Angeles. While Brazilian-American comedians Nick Giassi and Jobson Chaves were filming a video in Florida, a woman drove by and began yelling racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic obscenities at them. Lastly, this past September, Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim high schooler from Irving, Texas, was arrested for suspicion that the homemade clock he brought to school was a bomb, and a month ago Armaan Singh Sarai, a Sikh high schooler from Arlington, Texas, was arrested and forced to remain in a juvenile detention for three days after a bully made a false accusation that Armaan had a bomb in his backpack.
It is quite interesting to see how there is a pattern of brown, black, Muslim, and perceived-to-be-Muslim people have been continually marginalized in the name of security and safety. Therefore, it can be seen how dangerous these microaggressions truly are, as they aren’t mere opinions, but rather they provide the platform for racial profiling- despite the fact that authorities constantly deny that it takes place. However, while authorities keep doing what they do, it is the everyday public that has the most impact on how microaggressions affect people of colour. Thus, it is imperative that the information the public receives is not sensationalized or used to trigger the witch-hunt syndrome we all saw Friday night.
Seeing the bigger picture…
While it is questionable why the VPD found the three men suspicious- and we should be critical of the methods the police have used to identify a possible threat- the social media outlet that leaked the information is also to blame. The chief editor of said-outlet refused to acknowledge what they did as fear-mongering and claimed that they simply believed that the public should know what was going on. That would be absolutely believable, but their choice of language and the way in which they used by-lines which blatantly grabbed people’s attention, while feeding into existing microaggressions that paint brown men as suspicious, only fueled the fire of fear-mongering that we see plaguing North America.
What happened on Friday has gone by, and I am sure we all know what we can learn from this now- how dangerous microaggressions are, particularly the racialization of suspicion. However, there are things that you can do today to ensure that this does not occur again:
Hold media sources accountable for delivering unbiased information without sensationalization, or the use of microaggressions.
Be critical of methods used by politicians and authorities to determine or deal with a threat, be it Harper’s Bill C-51, or the use of racial profiling in the police.
If you shared the original articles online, make sure you take them down, and tag every person who liked or commented your post and let them know what had actually happened.
Don’t be a bystander! Way too often we hear people making off-handed comments and we let it slide, but don’t do that! Address the issue if you feel safe, or offer your help to someone who just faced that awful treatment.
Learn to unlearn racist behaviours. We all say or do things that can be oppressive, and many times we have no idea we are doing anything! Be mindful, and try to catch yourself when you clutch your purse when a black or brown man walks by, or ask yourself why you shift uncomfortably when you see a man with a turban or a woman in hijab.
It was awful what happened to our new neighbours from Syria, and it is sad to see how three men who were visiting Unceded Coast Salish Territories were given such a rude welcome, but it is important to not see these as two isolated events and two address the underlying issue. “This is not Canada” does not do justice to the microaggressions that have been festering in our communities for years. We must be introspective and realize how the institutionalized racism in our combined thoughts and actions, and the lack of acknowledgment thereof, has enabled these events to happen. People of colour often feel muzzled from voicing their concerns, as people use the existence of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to refute lived experiences that many of us face. However, that must stop. The only way we can truly move on and solve this problem is if we allow people to be heard, and acknowledge the problem exists in the first place.
In these first few weeks of January, my faith community worldwide observes Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Gurpurab — the anniversary of the incarnation of the tenth Sikh Guru — and during these days we reflect on Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s teachings. In one of his writings, Guru Ji addresses us and says, “Maanas Ki Jaat Sabhai Ekai Pehchaanbo,” which translated to “Recognize the human race as one.” I believe that this line immortalized in Guru Ji’s works can teach us a great deal of how we can move on, and I pray that we contemplate, live, and breathe these words so that we may see a more equitable society.
The Visibility Campaign hopes to increase the visibility of queer people of colour, including people
from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This year’s campaign has different movie poster themes, and some of them are currently being displayed in bus shelter ads across Vancouver!
Love Intersections is excited to be partnering with Our City of Colours on their 2015 Visibility Campaign!
The Visibility Campaign hopes to increase the visibility of queer people of colour, including people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This year’s campaign has different movie poster themes, and some of them are currently being displayed in bus shelter ads across Vancouver!
Love Intersections has also teamed up with Our City of Colours to share stories through video of people walking different experiences in the queer community. We will be rolling out these video’s in the next few months, so be sure to stay tuned!
The posters are currently also being displayed at Heartwood Community Cafe at 317 East Broadway, Vancouver BC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories.
Introducing our newest collaborator and team member – Duane 🙂
Duane R Stewart-Grant is Haisla from Kitamaat Village and Nuu-Chah-nuthl from Port Alberni. His Haisla name is c’ee’hixid and he is from the Raven clan.
In 2006, when he was living in Kitamaat he worked for Kitamaat Village Radio (KVR 96.1FM), where in 2008 he became the radio station manager until 2010. While working at KVR he started learning and growing closer to his culture.
In 2006/2007 he participated in the Star in Your Own Stories with Chee Mamuk, Hello Cool World and 11 other youth from the Haisla Nation. In three days they produced and stared in their own little story called Stand True. Stand True talks about how rumors can spread around like HIV/AIDS. Through Stand True, Duane was able to travel all over BC and he even traveled outside BC for the first time!
Duane came out to his family on May 4, 2010, but knew he was two-spirited at an early age. Through his travels he did with Stand True he met many other Two-Spirited people who were out, strong and proud to be two-spirited, he looked up to them for guidance during his journey.
When he moved to Burnaby in 2013 he started dancing with the Git Hayetsk Dancers and started apprenticing with Mike & Mique’l Dangeli. He now is learning to carve, paint, create regalia, dance, and is drawing First Nation art. Duane hopes to one day bring his knowledge back home and start teaching the next generation what he has learned!
Vancouver is a very interesting place to be Asian.
There are so many pockets of the city where speaking Cantonese or Mandarin is the norm; there are Chinese supermarkets on every corner, the quality of dim sum is renown – compared to many other places in the Western world. It can be much easier to navigate being a minority in this city if you are of Asian descent. This is something that I really have taken for granted, being a Canadian born Chinese person (aka “CBC”), living in Vancouver.
In 2010, I moved to South Africa to pursue graduate studies with the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In my two years that I lived in Cape Town, one of the things that I really struggled with, was how I was navigating race in my new home. At the beginning, I really had a hard time adjusting. There are very few Asians in the city, and even fewer that looked like me. Everywhere I went, people were constantly making comments about my race. I was asked on a regular basis if I was related to Bruce Lee, if I eat anything other than rice, and if I could do “kung fu”. It was very frustrating.
That being said, I quickly started to understand how much social mobility I had as well, despite some of these racist experiences directed at me. My Canadian citizenship – and accent – granted me a ton of access to different social circles. And even though I incurred a massive student loan to study in South Africa, my financial situation (including have a bank account in dollars as opposed to rands) – compared to most (black) people in Cape Town – granted me a access to a lifestyle that was above and beyond most people around me.
Also, despite my own experience being racialized in South Africa, I had to come to terms with my own white privilege that I embodied, simply from being of a lighter skin tone then most people. It was so easy to just hide under the “POC” (People of Colour) banner, that I also “belonged to” alongside black and brown people. In fact, due to affirmative action policies at the university, I actually had to select the racial category that I fit under apartheid…Chinese people were technically under the “black” category. But something about hiding behind the POC banner didn’t sit well with me – in fact, I came to realize that without engaging with the privilege that my lighter skin granted me, assuming solidarity with other, darker skinned, POC’s was disingenuous, and in fact silenced the experience of white supremacy by my darker skinned allies.
Moving back to Vancouver in 2012, I have tried to bring that lens of engaging with my own racial privilege, as a POC, with me. I really have to remember that while yes, I may experience the back hand of white supremacy on a daily basis – but in many ways I also benefit from it, and am privileged by it – because I have “lighter” skin.
If I truly want to talk about racism, I have to begin with the reality of my own relationship with white supremacy, before I can even begin to dismantle it.
I’m a second and half generation, queer, Canadian Born Chinese (“CBC”). I grew up in a working class, quaint, Cantonese speaking immigrant neighbourhood on the edges of South Vancouver.
Coming out was challenging for me, mostly because there were not a lot of opportunities for me to connect with queer folks and allies that were “like me”. GSA’s (Gay Straight Alliances) were a relatively new concept in the early 2000’s…and to join one was to immediately out yourself. Something that I was not prepared to do at the age of 12-13, growing up in a relatively conservative evangelical Christian community.
Then I discovered the internet. I remember staying up waiting till my parents were asleep to sneak to the common computer, to go onto gay websites. Discovering porn (OMG), and also looking for support – of which there were (and are) very few in Vancouver. The ones that were available were very far away – as in downtown – and excruciatingly expensive. The $1.75 one way bus fare downtown was a lot, considering my $10 a month allowance. I did manage to find some support from a few youth groups in town, but I never really joined them for long. The youth workers were empathetic and caring, but I never really connected with them, because as much as they were trying to be supportive, it’s hard to be supportive if they were not from my community, and didn’t share my experiences as a queer person of colour (POC).
In the last few weeks, the Burnaby municipal elections hit the news stands, with an article about how information was being distributed in the Mandarin community about how schools were forcibly injecting “gay serums” into children, to “turn them gay/trans”. (Ignoring the fact that the English translated word for “serum” and “hormone blocker” in Chinese can often mean the same thing.)
The very public ridicule – laced with a touch of racism – really struck a chord with me. The targeting of the immigrant population for their ridiculous, backward, misogyny and homophobia – something that is not exclusive to Chinese immigrants.
It really made me reflect on my own experience as a queer person of colour, navigating the world, and the lack of resources available, and the resistance from society to embrace “us” immigrants. I wonder about how other immigrants, and families of immigrants are doing today – trying to navigate these issues, while dealing with anti-immigrant state violence? How are the queer folks managing, in a community that not only marginalizes them as queer people, but also pushes away and rejects communities of immigrants?
The fact that immigrant communities are deliberately being marginalized, speaks volumes to the experiences that queer POC have within our communities. If people of colour were actually embraced, there would be no opportunity for deliberate misinformation about “gay serums”, and the works, to be spread. Instead, we’ve pushed a group of coloured people into the margins, and ridicule them because they are less versed on “progressive” language than we westerners are.
I wonder if instead of ridiculing immigrant communities, if we could, as queer people, consider the ways that we could build community, rather than build barriers. Perhaps meeting people where they are (in both the physical and metaphoric sense) – instead of expecting “them” to understand “us”, think like “us”, and talk like “us”. Perhaps instead of ridiculing the immigrant community that “came up” with the gay serum rumour, we could see how this is a failure of our own communities – including the queer community in Vancouver – to embrace people who don’t have access to the same resources, and even the same rights as we do.
Theatre for Living is partnering with the Vancouver Public Library to present a theatrical dialogue about family values, gender, and the controversy surrounding the recently passed Vancouver School Board gender policy updates.
The theatrical dialogue will be facilitated by David Diamond on September 13, 2014, in the Alice MacKay room at the Vancouver Public Library (350 West Georgia Street), on unceded Coast Salish Territories.
We hope this is an opportunity for diverse opinions to come together in a way that builds community – instead of building barriers.
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.