"I am a Korean-Canadian. I can say that confidently now, but I used to live in a constant state of culture shock and struggled with identity ever since I moved to Canada at the age of seven. While I was always regarded as a foreigner for my looks when overseas, people suddenly expected me to behave the same way and know the same things as they did. I struggled to keep updated with the latest trends and to understand what many of my friends found “relatable.” The problem is that I felt the same way even back at “home” in Canada.
My childhood was an intertwined galaxy of two cultures and the effect it had on me growing up was like a never-ending universe. It was hard explaining certain emotions and experiences because those could only be explained or shown in certain languages or cultural contexts, so I only found myself creating several personas for each place I moved to. I felt lost for not knowing where my home was after that.
After a great deal of struggle, I came to realize that 'home' has different meanings for everyone and that it is not a specific place, but where my heart and my favourite people are. Knowing that, the desire to feel associated or labelled as one nationality didn’t matter anymore. I don’t need to look the same, act the same, or feel the same way as other people. In fact, I want to be as different as I can be and not hold onto just one label. I learned to love myself for who I really am and to value myself even more as I have so much uniqueness."
"Growing up, I never saw anybody like me on the screens I watched. I hardly saw Asian characters, I hardly saw LGBTQ characters, and god forbid that they be both gay and Asian. The most I was able to see of Asians were just stereotypes that I never related to. I was never the comedic effect, and I wasn't extremely smart or good at piano. Even when characters were Asian, 99.9% of the time, they were never of the same ethnicity as me. Being Filipino is important to my identity and it’s been saddening to only see Filipino characters just being mentioned as the nurse or the caretaker.
I somewhat play into the stereotype because I genuinely want to be a nurse, but it makes me wonder if my decision has been influenced by what I saw on screen as a kid. If I saw more Asians on screen, and in real life, doing all these cool things and working in all these cool professions, maybe it would've changed my idea of what I'd want to do with my life right now. If I saw more 'me' on screen, I'd know those things are possible for people like me. Film is meant to be a reflection of life's stories and by only showing a specific type of people on screen, it makes the rest of us feel like we're not doing this whole living thing properly."
"My coming out to my parents was one big mistake. There was no beautiful happy ending, no surprise acceptance in the beginning, none of that stuff that you see in the movies or in television. It was purely an accident that turned into a fragile mess, but it was one that helped me grow for the better.
A family friend had seen me out with my boyfriend, who is trans, and had told my parents when they came to visit them later that night. You see, my parents didn’t even know that I was dating, so that was a whole matter in itself. What made the situation more complicated was that they didn’t know my boyfriend was trans. They knew him as one of my friends, a girl from school.
That’s when everything came tumbling down. When my parents confronted me, there was a coldness in their expressions that I hadn’t seen before, a hostility that immediately made me feel like an outsider in my own home. Tears began to bud in my dad’s eyes as he asked me if I was a lesbian and, as if they were playing a game of mimicry, my eyes began to do the same. Why did it matter what my sexuality was? It was as if the girl that stood before them had suddenly become a completely person than the one that they had raised all these years all because of one question.
What troubles me the most with the culture of coming out is society’s idea that, all of a sudden, the person has changed, that they are different than they were before after they say what they needed to say. For most of us, this couldn't be further from the truth. Gay people won't suddenly fall in love with their friends of the same sex, bi people won't randomly start sleeping around because they're attracted to more than one gender, and the list goes on. We are not new, we are not strangers, we are not sinners. We are still the same people you knew before and after coming out. The only difference is that we've learned to come to terms with ourselves in understanding and acceptance, and – mistake or not - our only wish is for you to do the same for us.
Things are better with my family now, and though we still have some issues that have yet to be resolved, I won’t say that we haven’t progressed from the beginning. I’m not at all trying to represent the queer community as a whole, but I speak from the heart when I say that all we hope from the world is to be treated with respect. We are not asking you to love all of us, all that we wish is for you to be welcoming, to be kind, and to allow yourself to keep an open mind. It's easy to close yourself off to things you don't understand, but to allow yourself the patience and the openness to do so, is one of the greatest gifts that you could ever give."
"Being mixed is strange. People generally don’t know where you fit in and it took some time for me to figure out where I fit in. I was never Filipino enough since I didn’t speak the language and didn’t look the part. Also, being raised in a predominantly Asian environment, I was never Black enough either. Since I lacked fitting into the stereotypes of both races, people would say that I’m ‘whitewashed,’ which I believe is ridiculous to call anyone.
To the rest of the world I am black, but since I don’t fit your stereotypes of a black man, I only get to be black when it’s convenient for you? I’m not going to act the way you expect a black man to act because you watched ‘Black Panther’ or ‘Atlanta.’ I’m not going to fit the script that you’ve imagined a Black or an Asian person should be like, because I’m not your Hollywood movie or your favourite new vine dance. I am just ‘me’ and I am proud to be who I am and not who ‘society’ expects me to be. This is something that I had to learn over time -- to stop trying to fit in and just start being myself.
Yes, I am mixed, and I am proud to be Filipino and Black. It’s a part of my puzzle and it’s a privilege to have been raised with such contrasting cultures in a country such as Canada and I refuse to allow for anyone to tell me that I’m not Black or Asian enough; because, no dumbass, I am not ‘whitewashed’ I am 100% Black and I am 100% Filipino."
"I was born with Mild Spastic Cerebral Palsy that affects my legs, which means I walk funny. Growing up in Canada, I never really got bullied and I lived a fairly normal life. However, whilst growing up here, I did learn that there’s a lot of misconceptions people have regarding disabled people. I challenge society’s perception of disabled people because at first glance, I do not look disabled. When I meet people, they don’t realize I have a disability until having a few conversations with me. Due to this misconception, I have had people get mad at me for parking at a handicap spot.
I want people to know that there are different kinds of disabilities, and I just so happen to have the one that puts me in between ‘abled’ and ‘disabled.’ With that, I also want people to know that people with disabilities have the same interests as ‘abled’ people. I love singing my heart out, exploring, and eating ice cream and pizza like a normal nineteen-year-old girl. I think society has a huge influence on the way people view disabled people. The connotation that a disabled person is a ‘wheelchair bound’ individual should be dismantled, and people should know that there are a lot of disabilities, with some invisible to the eye."
"I didn’t realize how different my life was, as an immigrant in Canada, until my friends started buying and enjoying the new fads of the era. Stuff like the PlayStation, proper meals, or even a house were among things I envied and complained about throughout my childhood. I asked why I wasn’t as fortunate to have some of these things because I felt so deserving of it and much more. It wasn’t until I started maturing and growing older that I found out why and the sad reality behind not just my situation but any refugee or immigrant that starts residence in a new land.
My motivation towards going to university and getting a degree stems from a side of redemption in my family because none of them have gone, or so I thought. As a matter of fact, my mother has a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from one of the best universities in Peru, so why is it that for the majority of my life in Canada, we were living through welfare? Because immigration shafts you, that’s why. My mom had lost all her credentials from her university upon immigrating here and it would take another 4 years of study at extra cost to validate it. You could imagine that for a regular, stand-alone immigrant this would already be a rigorous task, but my mom also had two children to raise concurrently which made matters ten times worse.
Going back to upgrade was off the table and restarting career prospects completely was a very tough task as well. Since my mother only knew bits and pieces of English at the time, it was hard to land an interview and much less a job with the one language she knew. Going to community college to learn English only flustered her more, since it was very literature based. While this was all happening, I was still struggling to find my footing in school. Language wasn’t really an issue since I picked it up pretty quickly. However, being a person of a different ethnicity posed a problem early in life as I tried to make new friends who were Canadian, generally white people. This, in turn, led me to meet and befriend people who were different in that sense -- visible minorities -- and form a smaller group of friends than the others.
Sixteen years after I immigrated to Canada with my family, I don’t complain about my earlier life and I’m actually glad the experience happened. I know a lot of families who immigrated here or elsewhere and lost everything they had for the safety and prospect of their children because their countries were corrupt. If you’re among one of the many immigrants living a sub-par life in comparison to others, just remember that your family gave you one of the greatest gifts of all time in sacrifice of their own -- the potential of a better future."
"When I graduated from my Early Childhood Education program in the summer of 2016, I decided to go on a two-month long trip to the Philippines in the fall. I hadn’t been back since I was 5-years-old and I was so excited to meet all of my extended family and to visit my parents’ home country.
The commute from the airport to my mom’s city was about two hours long and within those hours of looking out of the car window, I was bombarded with huge billboards of actors and actresses advertising skin whitening and lightening products for the face and body, as well as products that would promise long, beautiful, black hair. Mind you, before I left for this trip, I had just gotten my hair bleached and dyed to achieve an ombre look, plus I had tattoos that my extended family had no clue about.
It was crazy hot and humid in the Philippines and naturally, I wore clothes that were appropriate for this weather; this also meant wearing clothes that clearly showed my tattoos on my inner arm and behind my knees. Throughout my two months there, I would get comments and questions such as, ‘Why would you put that on your body? Your mom let you do that?’ And upon knowing that I was an Early Childhood Educator back in Vancouver, I would get even more comments like, ‘You could never work here as a teacher with all that on your body. You look like a newspaper with all that ink on your body.’ As a bonus, I also got criticism about my hair being too dry and not looking healthy because of the colouring. It was safe to say that I clearly did not fit the Asian and Filipino beauty standards.
Towards the end of my trip, I was honestly drained with the judgement and I was torn. I loved the culture and being in this country, but at the same time, I did not agree with certain values and beliefs, such as this one related to physical beauty for women. Once I got back to Vancouver, I dwelled on these remarks and even felt ashamed of my tattoos. How could I go back there every year with these body modifications and have to face this sort of negativity all over again? I was having all this negative self-talk over something so vain and once I became aware of this, I literally just said, ‘Fuck it. I’m not going to let other people’s judgements and thoughts dictate how I feel about myself.'"
"Being biracial affects the way I identify myself in society in a positive way. I love telling people that I am Finnish and Filipino because I take pride in who I am. I do not see myself as being inferior or superior to other people of different nationalities. I see myself as unique and proud of it.
Other than uniqueness, I believe that identity is important because appreciating my own identity gives me self-awareness of my inner self, like my thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and values; as well as my outer self -- my appearance and physical behavior. Having this self-awareness is crucial because it gives me confidence in how I can make better decisions that will help maintain and improve those two parts of myself in a healthy and meaningful way.
To me, identity is important because it is what makes you unique in what you believe, what you value, and how you think, feel, act, and look like. Many people may have similarities in one or more of these dimensions I listed, but no one will be 100% like you or me. You are one of kind."
I studied sciences for the first two years of post-secondary. Like many, I thought that it was the only way to go and my parents played a huge role in conditioning me to think that way. When deciding what to study after high school, a creative career wasn't in the books for me. My parents were against it; my dad is an engineer and my mom is a teacher so their worldview is quite practical. That was a very difficult time for me, mental health wise, because I felt trapped with zero control over my choices.
After two years of biology, chemistry, statistics, and taking classes I was remotely inspired by, I mustered up a whole ton of courage, did my research, and went for what I wanted to pursue: design. As much as I love and respect my Mom and Dad, I owed it to myself to be brave. I reminded myself that I have to live for myself and not for anyone else. With that, my parents and I went through a rough patch of constant fighting and arguments when I was in the process of pursuing design. They were skeptical of the opportunities out there and I don't blame them... it's a tough industry.
Ultimately, it was a balance between understanding how my parents only want the absolute best for me, but also proving to them that I am capable of hustling hard in the field that I want to be in. They've accepted how things are now and are supportive of me doing design. They see how I take my work seriously and continuously strive for more.
"As a gay male, I’ve had a very fortunate time coming out. No matter how hard it was for me to push myself, I ultimately found acceptance and love from everyone I told. However, a couple of years passed since then and I felt like I was still concealing a part of myself I truly wanted to embrace. It was a concept I never quite understood. I would stay up night after night wondering why I felt this way, and why I still somewhat hated this part of me. I looked at my family and my friends -- basically, all the people that said they accepted me; trying to recall every interaction, every secret spoken, remembering memories that I believe I tried suppressing.
Being the naïve man I was, it took me a while to realize the words that hurt me, and the impact they had on me. I remembered what one of my friends told me. She was speaking about one of my closest friends, one of the first people I told about my sexuality. She said, ‘She thinks you’re going to Hell.’ Quickly following up with words to defend her such as, ‘That’s just who she is and I’m sure she still loves you.’ Things I already knew. My friend and I ended up talking about her for the rest of the day, saying how preposterous her thinking was and how unfair it was for me. However, we both knew that she was very religious and ultimately had the right to speak, so I decided to brush it off like it was nothing, even though I knew deep down I was hurting.
After a while, I began to forget it and tried to suppress it because I believed that she really did accept me. Yet looking back, I realize that this person that meant the world to me couldn’t have done so because she couldn’t even love every single part of what makes me, me. In weird way, this single reminiscent memory brought back a weird familiar pain that began to make everything click. I had friends that used the word ‘faggot’ to joke around and insult other people in front of me. I had and still have family members that joke around about transgender people. I even have moments when I’m told not to tell people about my sexuality because, ‘They don’t need to know,’ as if I shouldn’t be proud about who I’ve learned to love being. Opening my eyes to the reality of all these experiences are the reasons why I decided to conceal tiny bits and pieces of myself.
Recently, however, I started working at this new job where I was surrounded by a wide variety of different people that I have never had in my life before. They were authentic, genuine, and more than anything, true to themselves. It was as if I was in a dream; a weird haven where I was always told how amazing I was for every little piece of me. Their confidence and their persistent support by going to drag shows, celebrating pride, and genuinely talking about aspects of the LGBTQ+ community that I never felt comfortable talking about before has evolved my own views on both acceptance and support, and how those two words can differ greatly. Nowadays, I like to believe that I’ve reached the point where I can say I love all of me and feel comfortable enough telling everyone about my own journey. I should probably also add that many people from my past are still in my life and are still here genuinely trying to learn how to do more than just accept me, helping my own growth exponentially. Today I know where I stand and know that it takes time for people to adjust and learn, and it excites me to know that I’m finally surrounded by people that support everything I do."
"The majority of my adolescent and young adult years were spent growing up in a non-nuclear family. A nuclear family, known as the basic social unit, is characterized by two married parents of opposite genders and their children living in the same residence. A non-nuclear family is anything that defies that definition. In my case, I live in a single parent family. My parents are separated and I am the eldest of three girls living with a single father.
One of the greatest challenges that I experience is the difficulties in balancing my role as the eldest to two younger sisters. Perhaps it is my inherent personality, but I often feel a need to teach and act as a female role model to my younger sisters. Sometimes it feels like I have to learn how to ‘be a mom’ and parent teenagers at the age of 21. While it often brings immense joy and pride at times of success, it can also bring shame and pressure at times of doubt. Although I know they will never hold me accountable to this role and that they will love me unconditionally as an older sister, this is often the most important challenge I am still trying to navigate.
One of the common misconceptions of growing up as a child of a single parent family is that there is no way we can live happy, successful, and fulfilled lives. People tend to apologize for my parents’ separation or they are shocked when they learn that we are three girls living with a single father. It’s like people believe that our character, our success, and our likability are automatically flawed because of our living situation. However, just like any other significant life event, my happiness and my success are not defined by my parents’ marital status or our current family situation.
Although I will never deny the unique challenges and obstacles that come with growing up in a single parent family, they have also given me strength, happiness, and resilience. With that being said, instead of making assumptions about our happiness, it’s important to acknowledge our emotions and understand our perspectives. Instead of expressing pity for our living situation, it’s important to listen to our stories. Instead of saying things like 'she’s so successful...for a child of divorce,' it’s important to unconditionally recognize our achievements."