sometimes, not always – on being japanese canadian and queer
The last weekend of July welcomed the 40th annual Powell Street Festival, a summer celebration of Japanese Canadian arts and culture at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It was also Pride weekend in Vancouver, which is a globally recognized celebration today (though it once began as riots) for the rights of people who are LGBTQ+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer1/Questioning, and/or others who identify under this umbrella term.
My parents and I were both going to be at Powell Street Festival on Sunday, the same day as the Vancouver Pride parade. Given this co-occurrence, I thought I’d tell my parents about my hopes to travel to California for a LGBTQ+ gathering in the fall:
So… I’m hoping to go to Okaeri, an LGBTQ Nikkei gathering in Los Angeles.
Only for Nikkei people?
The event fundraising website says allies too, but I’m not sure if they mean “straight” allies or “white” allies.
(Gives me a funny look) …so are you an “ally”?
(Gives him a funny look) Sighs.
L.A. is a dangerous city, you know.
We exchange a few more contentious comments and the conversation ends with my dad not being very interested in hearing about this event or my travel plans, and then leaving to wash his dishes and go downstairs to watch TV.
Sometimes, I can’t help but laugh in frustration at my dad.
Sometimes it seems that no matter how much I try and share with him, the “B” in LGBTQ is still invisible and the “Q” is still confusing.
I thought he was finally starting to understand and accept these complicated parts of my identity. How many times have I tried to bring this subject up with him over the past couple of years?
Sometimes, I pause and remember that these things take time.
I wonder if he’ll think about this later on — when I’m not around. I wonder if he’ll donate to the fundraiser to support the Okaeri gathering.
Sometimes, he surprises me, too.
One time, my sister overheard him watching a YouTube video defining “pansexual2.”
Another time, we were at a play when he noticed how the host welcomed only “ladies and gentlemen” at the beginning of the show. “And other people too,” he whispered to me, sitting beside him in the theatre.
Sometimes, I remember he spent almost half of his life raising a little cis3-heteronormative4 girl, only to have her leave home and come back years later as a ‘different’, more politically-engaged and queer-er adult-child.
Sometimes, I remember how many years and hard conversations it took for us to talk about our family experiences and identities as Japanese Canadians — to acknowledge the racism, violence, and hardship we experienced.
Sometimes, I remember the childhood stories I heard from him, like him not being able to go to birthday parties because he couldn’t afford bus fare — how he grew up with so much less than me.
Sometimes, I remember how persistently he’s worked in his lifetime to provide me with a more comfortable future — one where I wasn’t supposed to have it so hard.
Sometimes, I remember the many reasons why he might not relate to or understand his millennial daughter’s struggle for identity and acceptance.
Sometimes, I am affirmed by my parents in who I am – Asian Canadian, queer, daughter – but right now, maybe I can only ask for one thing at a time.
1 Queer was once used as a derogatory word or slur against gay men. In the 1980s, members of the LGBTQ+ community began re-claming this word as their own. Today, it is commonly used as an inclusive, umbrella term to describe all people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.
2 Pansexual = someone who is not limited in attraction to others with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity – i.e. attracted to all genders. This term is sometimes used instead of “bisexual” to recognize that there are more than only two binary ways of expressing one’s gender.
3 Cis = describes a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex, i.e. opposite of transgender.
3 Heteronormative = assumes heterosexuality as the “normal” or “preferred” sexual orientation
– kugi collective is a japanese canadian writing collective with members from across canada. our work is a reflection of race and identity. kugicollective.tumblr.com