sumyungwang

 

I started performing drag over five years ago. I guess you could say it was my little in into the St. Louis LGBT Community. I was young and naïve and at the time a self-identified lesbian. I named myself “Sum Yung Wang” because my unaware, twenty-something self thought it would be funny to poke fun at my own race.

 

Here I am now, still performing drag in this city, under the same name. The only difference is that I am a self-identified transman, with a hell of a lot more awareness of the world around me and a load of male privilege that I am still trying to figure out what to do with. However, in terms of my race, my Asian Americaness, I’m still trying to sort through all of that. What does it even mean to be Asian American? How am I read in this society? Why am I treated differently from my white, male friends?

 

It’s a lot. And I’m still learning.

 

Growing up in multiple suburbs in the United States, I was the subject of a lot of jokes, and usually my race was at the center of them all. My young and unaware self thought I was just supposed to laugh them off, because if I didn’t, then I probably wouldn’t fit in, or even worse, not have any friends at the end of the day. Survival tactics. I had an idea of what racism meant in the US, but didn’t have a full grasp of it. If my “friends” said it was a joke, then it must be a joke, right?

 

This unawareness continued up until a couple of years ago, when I found myself surrounded by trans identified Asian and Pacific Islander folks. This was a first for me, considering I grew up surrounded by mainly white people. When I told one of my new friends that I had some friends back home that would make Asian jokes towards me, he gave me a weird look and said, “That’s not ok.”

 

And that’s when it really hit me. I am read as an Asian man in a society where white men hold all the privilege. My jet-black hair, my almond shaped eyes, and my tan skin are just some of the reasons why jokes have been made. And that’s not counting the slew of stereotypes that come with being an Asian man living in this society.

 

My Asian American identity is just one of my many identities that I hold, however, it’s the first thing people see when they look at me. It’s the first thing people are quick to joke about still. And guess what? It’s not funny. And it never was.

 

For the longest time I let these things slide. I do not need to be reminded every day of my life that I “look so Asian” because of what? My haircut? My eyes? And when I try to explain that these things aren’t funny, I am constantly told that I am being too sensitive or that it’s just a joke. I’m over it.

 

As a queer identified, transgender, Asian American man, I am finding it hard to find a space to be able to talk about my multiple identities. The only time I am able to really find community with other queer and trans people of color are at conferences held in cities around the United States. I refuse to move to another city, just to find community.

 

I want an intentional safe space where I can be unapologetic about who I am. I am sick and tired of having to defend myself to people and I want to be surrounded by folks who have these shared experiences. I want a place where folks can heal individually and together. But most of all, I want community.

 

I know I am not the only queer person of color who lives in this city. And I definitely know that I am not the only one that needs a space to talk about my (our) experiences.

 

I have been asking myself for over a year, can this happen in St. Louis? And the answer is, yes, it can.

 

If you are someone who self identifies as a person of color and as queer or trans or anywhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum, then join me, Eli Chi, racial justice chair, as the Metro Trans Umbrella Group supports our mission of racial justice and inclusion through building community and support. The first meet up will be held Friday, September 26th at 7pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church (3664 Arsenal St, St Louis, MO 63116). Let’s share our experiences and empower our selves together!

 

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