Love Letter from a Gweilo to Richmond

Originally published on Love Intersections

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.

I love you,


Let’s choose hope over fear in 2016

Originally published on DailyXtra

I’m feeling a lot of hope as I look forward to 2016. Some amazing changes have happened over the past year and their momentum is promising.

Obviously the most exciting change of the last year is that we have a new prime minister and he knows that Smokey Sussex is his drag name (or his porn name – I fully support both).

In all seriousness, this change in federal government has the potential to be massive. In December, my new member of parliament, Jody Wilson-Raybould, announced the first phase of a long-awaited national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women. For this announcement to come at all is important, but for it to be delivered by an Indigenous woman who is the new Minister of Justice shows a fundamental shift towards a government that actually represents and supports all Canadians.

This new ethos is reflected in the many scenes of Syrian refugees being welcomed to Canada with open arms. From children saying “see you in school!” to Trudeau saying “welcome home,” along with the outpouring of donations, these heartwarming displays are enough to make even an anti-colonial Cascadian like myself feel pangs of what I assume is patriotism.

So I’m feeling hopeful, and very much enjoying the feeling.

But then a headline about Trump snakes its way across my screen.

I’m not going to give him credit for everything bad in the world because I don’t think he deserves that kind of recognition. But at this point in history he could definitely be seen as the avatar of hate. A corporeal manifestation of so much of what challenges my hope.

It would be easy to dismiss Trump as a reflection of US racism, but the Islamophobia that he promotes is very much alive in Canada as well.

In stark contrast to how we have been welcoming refugees, we have also been attacking mosques and Muslim women walking on the street in niqabs.

That a woman’s right to wear a niqab was even in question — let alone a controversial and polarizing part of our last election — shows that we have more work to do around racism here too.

On both sides of the border, I see a pattern of highlighting differences between people, tangling them up in fears and scarcity, and then using this to disconnect us from one another.

Unfortunately, I see this type of disconnection happening within our queer communities as well.

Most blatant this year was a petition circulated by a group of gay and bisexual men and women to several prominent queer organizations to “Drop the T” from LGBT. The petition tried to sever sexual orientation from gender identity and claim the trans community is hostile to the needs of the LGB community. The petition then took these supposedly irreconcilable differences and tangled them up in a laundry list of cliched transphobic scare tactics that deserve no respect of repetition here. All leading to the notion that the LGBT community would somehow be improved by deliberately practicing the same type of exclusion within our community that we experience from the broader community.

Vancouver was plunged into controversy and disconnection of its own this year, when a nightclub owner hired investigators to document private queer space at a rival party, deliberately gave the documentation to media, considered using political influence to encourage stricter enforcement of bylaws on such events, and had the gall to say the motivating factor was safety. A marginalized community with limited social spaces should be supporting alternative, sex-positive events, not systematically trying to knock them down.

The worst part is that we can’t even blame Trump. These last two examples came from members of our own community promoting disconnection.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to be found in the hope.

In all those hopeful examples of positive change, we can see people embracing their differences and finding connections across them. That is what builds healthy and resilient communities.

Despite the less-than-shining examples above, embracing differences and forging connection is one of the gifts the queer community has to offer. We know what exclusion feels like. We should, and often do, promote inclusion and dignity for all.

In 2016, let’s take all that we’ve learned about loving difference in ourselves and others to help Canadians build community across difference. Let’s choose connection and hope.