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Why Making Tawad Is the Only Reason I Want to Learn My Mother Tongue

Bargaining, I am convinced, is a superpower. Growing up in southern California, I would be entranced by my mother’s seemingly magic abilities to work down a seller to half price, even if we were just garaging on a Saturday morning. My baby hapa heart was thrilled. Even though by the time I was born she’d lived as long in the States as she had in the Philippines, her proficiency in the dark arts of tawad had been as pristinely maintained as Jane Fonda’s cheekbones.

It wasn’t until this year when I dropped everything to pilgrimage to the homeland that I really understood that bargaining is essential to the heart and soul of Pilipinx life: the palengke and tiangge (open markets). At the tiangge, the pearl stalls gleam with South Sea luster, glass cabinets, and blinding florescent light bulbs. I squeal in delight at the attainable luxuries that I may call native to my motherland. This, I am convinced, is where Filipina women forge their magic—trading aggressive banter for enormous baroque pearls that would give Sophie Buhai a run for her money. This, I decide, is my happy place: the place where priceless beauty and steely wills are celebrated amongst savvy businesswomen.

And yet try as I might, I have resigned myself to the fact that I might never gain the same satisfaction as my relatives from making tawad with the pearl vendors—from ruthlessly slashing at prices and volleying shock and awe at your suki in pursuit of that coveted best price. The buy-in to this exchange is fluency in Tagalog (bonus points if you speak Cebuano). I am woefully guilty of speaking neither.

I have learned much simply by observing what my Tita considers a perfectly valid spectator sport. The trick (well actually there are several) is to take ownership of the thing before you even ask for first price. You must envision yourself in them so passionately that your suki cannot imagine them going to anyone else. Once sufficiently attached to it, you go for half price, and you hold the like the diva you are until she exclaims, “Hay nako, I cannot even pay the divers with the prices you ask for!” And then you know she likes you. In return, she scribbles hasty figures on paper and keeps her voice low, so you know she’s betraying the informally agreed-upon price of her fellow vendors. You leave spending twice as much as what you planned on but still convinced that your champagne South Sea opera strands are worth far more than the price at which you bought them.

The final price might be the ultimate prize, but the familiarity with which that dance is performed is what makes the transaction ang sarap—so yummy. Since I don’t speak, I ask my Auntie to negotiate on my behalf. I chip in where I can, embarrassed of my role as the smiling, oblivious hapa. I can feel them talking about me. I flush, furious that I cannot clap back and advocate for myself. My Tita translates: “It’s your nose that gives you away.” (And here I thought it was my accent.)

The experience is nothing short of humbling. At home, I might be known for my loud-ass voice and feisty impression of the Olivia Pope Stomp-Walk™, but here the women I want so badly to joust with reduce me to a stutter. I am not worthy of their banter so long as my verbal signaling still screams WEALTHY WHITE(ISH) WESTERNER. I walk away, pearls in hand but heart in knots.

It’s enough to single-handedly motivate me to learn the language—a motivation that has never been so present and so urgent—and my chest begins to burn with a furious need to connect with these women. It’s weird—why would something so simple and off-key as haggling light a fire under my ass to learn Tagalog, and not something more intimate like say, connecting with my own mother? I realize quickly it’s because my way into my mom’s brownness is through clothes—her pearls, her bespoke vintage made by the Titas back home, her penchant for designer outlet sales. I realize my connection to my heritage is largely material, defined by the balikbayan boxes I bring home full of textiles, home goods, and jewelry.

And so I decide to intentionally make the spaces I inhabit and the clothes that I wear my brown space. If I don’t feel it inside me, I am damn well going to find it outside of me, (read: hoarding opera strands like nobody’s business). It’s funny, in the moment I don’t think I quite understand that learning a language is a life-long commitment, but I do realize it’s a way in to my family history that I didn’t have before. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

Figuring out how to live my best hyphenated life has always been the struggle. I am still uncomfortable with how little I have to show for being the hyphenated Pilipina, and most days I feel as authentic as a night market Prada. It occurs to me as I pass by counterfeit Kylie lip kits and Ralph Lauren knock offs that the tiangge is my happy place because it is the closest I will ever get to an authentic Pilipinx experience. Vendors crow “Ma’amsir,” at you as you pass by, middle-aged women tout their Louis Vuittons of both dubious and authentic origin, and whole families replenish their wardrobes with bargain-priced deadstock. It’s not the mango-slinging streets of the local palengke, but the spirit of it gets damn close.

And as I sit in the traffic, brooding in my pearls as we crawl through Manila’s twisted streets, I realize my experience at the tiangge is strikingly demonstrative of hapa duality. It’s like wanting to make tawad but having the words stuck in your throat. You understand how to speak but without the courage of having done so. It’s the space between having played the expression in your head a hundred times and being able to execute it flawlessly. The squeak you make instead—the moment you crack from the pressure like you’re suki’s somehow morphed into a blinding apparition of Beyoncé—that is living your hyphen.

 

Written by: Lindsey Twigg

About the Author: Lindsey Twigg is a behavioral technician, theatre professional, and lyrical poet based in Santa Barbara, CA.  She writes vigorously about hapa identity, the female body, and the importance of wearing pearls.  She’s a friend of the pod, a hoarder of (coffee table) books, and a connoisseur of very large pants.  You can find her ramblings about fashion on her blog, The Filipino Grigio.

Unanswered Prayers

“God, You are sovereign and you know all things. Your love knows no bounds and is lavish. I am grateful for your love and grace in my life. I want to do your will and I want to know Your heart. When words fail me, hear my heart in prayer. Will you give me the gift of praying in tongues? If it’s your will… Amen.”

I felt a strange comfort when I first heard people praying in tongues around me. I was eight or maybe seven years old. My mom brought me to a revival at a local Korean church because some famous preacher from Korea came. It was rumored that the Holy Spirit was with him and he was slaying people in the Spirit. I didn’t understand too much because the Korean words being preached were unfamiliar. As I looked around that cavernous sanctuary, I saw all these people lying on the floor. The preacher was praying for people and then at the moment he would touch their forehead, they fell backwards into the arms of two people who were the designated catchers. They would gently lay the person down on the floor. I don’t know why, but I remember it being unusually warm in there and noisy. So many people saying what seemed like a Buddhist chant that my great-grandmother used to repeat. I looked around again and saw that my friend was getting prayed for and I saw him fall backward. I can’t remember if it was me or if it was my mom that initiated it, but all of the sudden, the preacher was in front of me. I don’t remember what he said or the questions he asked, but I felt the firm push of his hand on my forehead. I expected my eyes to close and my body to fall backward, but I didn’t. I faltered back and then gingerly walked back to my seat with the cacophony of prayers and shouts surrounding me. 

Why hadn’t I been slain in the spirit? What was wrong with me? Did God’s spirit not want to be in me? Did I not believe enough? I walked away with the impression that I didn’t want it enough, or that I lacked enough faith. More than feeling rejected, I felt confused. Maybe I didn’t understand what the preacher was saying so it didn’t happen for me. To this day, I still wonder why it happened for so many, but not for me? 

Many years later at a high school retreat, my very Presbyterian Korean church had several instances of praying in tongues, people being slain in the spirit and even some holy laughter. Again, I felt like an outsider. Why was my faith not enough for me to experience these apparent gifts of the Holy Spirit? I prayed every day to experience the Holy Spirit’s gifts also and I asked for God to increase my faith. I prayed that God would help me to get rid of any hidden sins in my heart. When it came time to graduate high school, I was whisked off to another retreat where two people with supposed gifts of prophecy prayed for me. One pastor gave me a verse – Numbers 6:24-26: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for because it seemed like a generic passage to me. The other person prayed furiously in tongues, but no one was there to interpret or tell me anything. That was the first time I prayed asking for God to give me the gift of tongues. These pastors and people looked like people who were anointed and highly spiritual. They were the ones chosen by God and I desperately wanted to be chosen. 

Growing up with Buddhist grandparents that converted to Christianity later in life and somewhat Christian immigrant parents who really went to church for community and to be with other Koreans, I didn’t fully grasp the concept of religion and God. Going to church was the thing to do on a Sunday like going to Korean school was the thing to do Saturday mornings. You just did it. But I constantly felt conflicted. 

When I got to college, it was the first time I had the choice to go to church on my own. It was scary to suddenly have a lot of freedom and I wanted to go with what I was used to. Campus ministry felt too wild and uncertain, but the English ministry of a Korean Presbyterian church felt familiar and safe and there was really only one big one that had a huge college ministry. I immediately got swallowed up in this church and did everything I could to seem like the perfect Christian. But there was one big thing that I felt was holding me back – I still couldn’t pray in tongues. It was a prayer that I prayed for so long and now, as a college student, I felt silly that I still had not received this gift. Again, I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me? Am I even saved? Is it because I was not slain in the Spirit? Did I miss God’s Spirit? Am I not Christian enough?” After a year of asking these same questions, I finally found the courage in me to ask one of the college ministry pastors about it. He simply said to me, “You should ask God to give it to you and He will give it to you.” Was it really that simple? Because I’ve been asking since I was a kid and still nothing. So I pressed the pastor, “What if you ask and you don’t receive this gift?” He looked at me and said, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will.” Up until a few years ago, I earnestly prayed for the gift of speaking in tongues. After some reflection this past year, I’ve come to the realization that this is an unanswered prayer. 

In my wrestling with this unanswered prayer, I’ve grown a tremendous amount in my personal faith. Those questions I was asking myself? I found answers to them – unexpected answers. And the questions didn’t stop because the answers led to more questions. I sit in the tension of my many questions and it has not only drawn me closer to God, but it also revealed to me that my upbringing and my early faith experiences missed a lot about God and faith. I never picked up the Bible to read to see what it said for myself until a few years ago. I still have moments where I feel conflicted because it still sometimes seems that the Christianity I adopted rejects the very core of who I am and how God created me. The Korean part of me has been denied culturally as a Christian. There are certain traditions that our family shied away from practicing and participating in once we started going to church and it stopped completely when my grandparents adopted Christianity. I had to let go of my Korean-ness in order to be fully recognized as a Christian. Sometimes, the institution of church made it seem like God was saying to me, “You can’t be Korean and Christian. You have be one or the other. You choose.” God also created me to be outspoken and loud with a bent toward fighting injustice. Traits like that were fine if you didn’t identify as a woman. It always felt like I had to choose one or the other – that I couldn’t be both and still can’t be both. But I’ve finally started embracing the gifts that God has given me instead of wishing I had the gift that would make me fit in with a group of people who wanted me to conform not transform. 

“God, You are sovereign and you know all things. Your love knows no bounds and is lavish. I am grateful for your love and grace in my life. I want to do your will and I want to know Your heart. When words fail me, hear my heart in prayer. Thank you for making me the way that you have made me and for the gifts that are unique to me. I want to change the world for You. Amen.”


Phyllis Myung is a writer, mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend. She primarily works as the director of children and youth at her church in Boston and is passionate about families, mental health awareness and hamburgers.

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“Are you there, God?” It’s me, Nancy Emmanuel Hugh.

Dear God – if there is a God:

Am I doing this right? Is this thing on?

Hello, my name is Nancy. I am six years old. You may know me from being God. Today, I would like to share with you my prayer, which is that I would like to be white – that is – to not have a color and a question mark. To be a Reynolds, which is Steven’s last name and also the name of the tin foil, or a Hellman, which is Stacey’s last name and also the name of a mayonnaise, which is also white but is also HELLMAN, which I would not like for you to send me, which is why I am talking to you.

Anyway, how are you? Oh, hm, that’s nice.

I think being white means you can play out in the ditch when it floods and you can eat Gushers and you get grounded (please explain this? Are you put in the ground?) instead of smacked around. Maybe if I shut my eyes and count to ten, I will open them and wake up colorless.

Dear God – if there is a God:

You may have heard by now that Nancy is not my real name. It’s the name that Vicky – my mother’s nice white friend – gave me and told me I should use because I’ll fit in better at school with an American name. So, I think that makes Ophelia my Chinese name? But I think I have another Chinese name.

But I don’t have a middle name, unlike Cara Anne Matthes or Beth Anne Butler or Casey Anne Jordan. So I thought I’d pick one for myself, and it iiiiiiis… Emmanuel!

What do you think? I think it’s so pretty and girly and I think it’s the long version of Emma, so it’s like Emma Anne DeLonghi’s name but more original.

To be beautiful, you have to be blonde and to have blue eyes, as you know since you look like this too, but I’ll settle for green or even for brown like Helen Moy has, but they have to be light enough that people can tell they aren’t black. So, not like a fermented black bean, please, and more like a Taco Bell bean.

Today in math, we played Around the World with multiplication tables, and I got that 1 x 3 = 3, but what came out was “SAN!” and then afterward, Brittany said, “three,” which was the right answer, and I was so embarrassed. Should I have said nothing instead?!

Dear GITIAG:

Do you know Stephanie? She looks like a mix between who I am and who I wish I were. I sneak out during classes to watch her paint. (Don’t judge me; you would sneak out too if you already knew everything.) Stephanie is an older girl, which means I should pretend I’m cool so maybe she’ll forget I’m 13.

She’s painting a mural on the school hallway, and her hair is short and her voice is like smoke and she has paint on her white tank top. I don’t know why I keep coming back to watch her. Obviously because she’s very good, and I want to be an artist too, or at least look like one, as you can tell by all the black I’m wearing. I hope she never finishes the painting.

Someday, I’d like to be as good at something as Stephanie is at painting.

Dear GITIAG:

I’ve decided you don’t exist, which makes being angry at you really hard. Because now who else do I blame but myself for this predicament (good PSAT word – level I) in which I know the boy I’m dating is using me, but maybe it’s fair because I’m using him too – testing the prayer that I could love a boy and make my mother happy. (He’s just her type.)

High school is hard so far – thanks for asking. If I still had a Top 8, let’s just say you wouldn’t be on it. I changed the spelling of my last name so people can’t find me (but I hope they like my profile song if they do). Now it’s “Hugh,” so it’s like the same, only different.

Have you heard of the Day of Silence? I’m going to do it: a whole day where no one can ask me to talk and I don’t have to answer any questions.

Also, have you heard of Linkin Park? They’re a band. Backward, their name is Krap Niknil.

Dear GITIAG:

Hey – are you ignoring me?!


Ophelia Hu Kinney is a second-generation Chinese American, the daughter of circumstantial pragmatists, and the sister of a hopeful romantic. She lives in Maine with her wife and cat. Her fiction has appeared in The Common, Inheritance Magazine, and HESA Inprint. To read more of, and more beyond, this lifelong story of queer Christian identity, visit QueeringTheKindom.com.

The Protocol

Trigger Warning: Spiritual and Emotional Abuse; Purity Culture

Act 1: Membership Class at Church

Scene 1: Membership Class

Scene 2: Members’ Gossip

Scene 3: Rebuke

Act 2: Counseling Scheduling Office

Scene 1: Making an Appointment

Scene 2: Meeting Love

Roles:

Fidel: Pastor

Martha: New Member/Enabler

Joy: Leader

Tom: Skeptical Member

Casy: New Member

Angel: New Member

Love: Counselor

Act 1: Membership Class at Church

Scene 1: Membership Class

Fidel is leading a membership Class. Joy is facilitating it. Tom and Martha are new members.

Fidel: Just go ahead and write down in the box how much you earn on average per month. That way, we’ll know how much to look out for in your monthly tithe.

Tom: Okay.

Fidel: Also, don’t forget to take out 10% from your housing stipend if you get one. For example, if you make 2,100,000 KRW per month and are given 400,000 KRW for housing, you would want to tithe 250,000 KRW. Not 210,000 KRW.

Tom: Oh…

Fidel: Yes. And if you aren’t able to give, or are late, we will go ahead and check in with you. If you don’t tithe for two months straight, your membership will be cancelled.

Martha: But if we don’t tithe for just one month… we will be okay, right?

Fidel: That’s really between you and God. Everything we practice here is biblical. If you look at Malachi 3, there is an actual curse on the land because of the lack of tithing. That’s why we do it.

Martha: That makes sense.

Joy: I’m so excited to be part of a church that keeps track of these things. That way I know we are all buying in and there are no freeloaders.

Tom: That’s true… (To himself) but something about this just doesn’t feel right

Fidel: We will always send you a confirmation message to let you know that we’ve received your tithe… So don’t worry at all about that.

Martha, Joy, and Tom: Okay.

Fidel: Okay. So, let’s go over the most important aspects of today’s membership class so we can go ahead and get you all sworn in this coming Sunday. How many consecutive absences can you have before your membership is revoked?

Martha: 6.

Fidel: That’s right, Martha! 6 absences before a revoked membership. Remember, this is not to harm you. The rule is there so that we can check in and basically phase you out in the event that your participation shows that you don’t want to be a part of this community.

Fidel: Let’s see… What should you do for every uploaded sermon by one of the head pastors?

Joy: We have to put on a detailed comment that shows that we digested the message. We should also write several statements talking about the most important aspects and how it applies to our lives.

Fidel: That’s right, Joy! And how long should it be?

Joy: It shouldn’t be too short, but it shouldn’t an essay. Like a solid paragraph or more.

Fidel: And where do you post those comments?

Joy: On the public facebook page. You can just see where everyone else is posting their comments.

Fidel: Good. Good. Alright, now let’s go to the most important piece of today’s membership class: Restoration. Who can tell me what restoration is?

Tom: Restoration is a process of bringing someone back to wholeness when they’ve fallen into sin.

Fidel: And what reasons would cause someone to get into restoration?

Tom: Um…

Fidel: Well, first of all… Restoration is not something that is initiated lightly. We have a process where members are first approached about their misconduct. In the case of stubbornness, or rebellion, the chances of restoration are a lot higher. That’s why it’s best to just ‘fess up about any sins you’ve been involved in. Now what are the big things that might cause a rebuke?

Tom: I think it might be sexual…

Martha: I know. It’s sexual sin. Not masturbation, but oral sex. Of course, anything beyond that would be cause for restoration. It also is case by case, I heard.

Fidel: That’s right! It is definitely case by case, so I don’t want any of you freaking about any of this.

Tom: What else might we get put on restoration for?

Fidel: The main thing we look for, which may also be a case for removal is divisiveness. Deliberately maligning the leaders, especially the head pastor, would be a cause for dismissal from our community. But in cases where there is contrition, we may be able to put them on restoration.

Fidel: Well, that’s about all the time we have for today. Hope you enjoy it out there. Please be careful going down the hill with all the rain. Let’s also be quiet and mindful of our volume as we walk down the neighborhood.

Scene 2: Members’ Gossip

At Casy’s house

Casy: How was the membership class for you all?

Tom: I thought it was pretty good. I love how the church keeps a strong record of everything and how their expectations are clear. It sort of makes me feel safe in a way.

Angel: But did you hear about the Dating Protocol?

Tom: Yeah, I’ve heard of it. But I think it’s a good thing. I mean, we all know the expats struggle with temptation living out here in Korea. Expats in Korea need a lot of accountability.

Angel: That’s a good point. Thanks for sharing that, Tom… But do you think it’s weird that people have to be secretive about dating when they start?

Martha: Isn’t that to protect the community in the event it doesn’t work out?

Angel: It just all feels like so much pressure to me. It’s a bit too much. What if it doesn’t work out? Is it always supposed to work out? I’ve heard you even have to write reports about your dates so that the pastors can check. Isn’t that a bit much?

Tom: It’s probably just their way of checking and making sure everything is accountable. Accountability is a huge need for men in the church.

Casy: What I want to talk about is the freaking End Times thing. Do you all really think that we need to plan our finances based on this prediction that it could happen soon?

Everyone: It’s probably good just to be safe.

Tom: I just bought like 20 gallons of water, boxes of batteries, and nonperishable items, like canned tuna, and ramen.

Martha: And toilet paper. Goodness, toilet paper is so important.

Angel: Is anyone else going to actually pull out stocks?

Tom: I am. Just in case. It seems like the Pastor is on to something.

Angel: Wait, wait, wait. I need to ask Tom about something. Tom, don’t you have something to tell us? Angel winks.

Tom: What are you talking about?

Angel: Oh, come on. So… Did you ask Jasmine out on a date?

Tom: Oh… that. Well, I asked P. Fidel. He said that he would check to see if Jasmine is in season and whether I can ask her out on a first date.

Angel: In season? Do girls have to be in season? Would the pastors even tell us if we’re in season? I’m probably not even in season.

Tom: Yeah… well, you know. Like guys, we have to have 10,000,000KRW saved up and stuff before asking a girl out. It just shows that we can be serious if we want to be.

Martha: That’s weird.

Angel: I mean, I get it, but it’s a little bit much. Well? What about Jasmine?

Tom: I’m waiting on P Fidel. I mean, I can’t just ask… maybe I should check my e-mail. Looks at phone.

Tom: Oh wait… oh shoot oh shoot… oh shoot. Reads e-mail.

Tom: I got the green light. P Fidel asked P Adam and they said that I can ask Jasmine out! Whaaaaattttttttttttttt…. Spins around in a daze.

Martha / Angel: Eeeeeeeeek!

Casy: Dude, congrats!

Scene 3: Rebuke 

7 months later…

Fidel via Kakao: *Kakao* Hey, Tom. How are you doing. Are you free to catch up?

Tom via Kakao: Oh hey P Fidel. Sure, can you give me a few minutes?

Fidel via Kakao: *Kakao* Sure. Kakao video chat me in 5 minutes.

Tom via Kakao: Sure thing.

Video chat starts.

Fidel: Hey Tom! Thanks for talking. Are you alone? Is this your place?

Tom: Hey P Fidel. Yes, I’m alone. This is my place. Would you like to see it?

Fidel: Sure. Give me a little spin will you?

Tom: Well, that’s my bed, and my balcony, and a small kitchen. It isn’t much, but it’s a nice cozy place here in Seoul. I like it.

Fidel: Great! It looks pretty nice!… Listen, I wanted to talk to you. I know that we have been talking about your dates with Jasmine. You mentioned that it has been tempting to get physical, and that you all have made out a few times. You also mentioned that you touched her rear. I read your message from earlier about your trip to LA coming up. When did you plan that?

Tom: Oh right. Well, I just planned it two days ago. I was thinking of going to see Jasmine’s hometown and introduce her to my hometown as well. Just light stuff, nothing big.

Fidel: Listen Tom, I know that you’ve been struggling with depression and mental health. And on top of that, you all have really been riding a fine line between spiritual health and sin. I just think this trip is a bad idea. Is there any way that you can call it off?

Tom: Call it off? I mean, I’m scheduled to fly out later today.

Fidel: Right, you’re scheduled to fly out later today, but you only informed me two days ago of your plans. That’s not really that much time to react, and I don’t feel honored in the way that you’re going about this. Look – I’m gonna be honest with you. I’m not happy at all about this. I think it’s a bad idea.

Tom: Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. My plan is to go ahead and go through. I promise that I won’t get involved with Jasmine there.

Fidel: What’s the rooming situation? Are you staying in different places?

Tom: Well… sort of. We were gonna stay at each other’s homes. Obviously not in the same room.

Fidel: Okay, Tom. I’m gonna be very clear. 95% of people that have stayed in the same place when travelling have had oral sex or more. This is a stupid decision. We, as a church, cannot bless this move. Think about what people would think when they saw pictures of you on social media travelling together. So, if people ask me, did I bless Tom to go and travel with Jasmine, the answer is going to be ‘no’. I don’t want you posting on facebook any photos.

Tom: Okay, I won’t. I’ll book separate hotels.

Fidel: Okay, well, I just want to be clear, I don’t agree with this decision. I wish you had told me sooner. I don’t think it’s a good idea at all.

Tom: I understand.

Act 2: Counseling Scheduling Office

Scene 1: Making an Appointment

Sprite: Welcome to the counseling office.

Tom: Well, I’m an English speaker, and would like to request counseling in English if possible.

Sprite: Sure, there is an English counselor. Her name is Love. Would you like an appointment?

Tom: One more thing… Is there a Christian counselor? That’s actually kinda important to me.

Sprite: Oh! Actually, Love is a Christian, I think. She is, right? Yes! She is a Christian, so you should be all set! Your appointment is scheduled for next Monday at 1pm.

Tom: Awesome! Thank you so much. (Bows)

Scene 2: Meeting Love

Love: Hey Tom, it’s nice to see you today. What did you want to talk about today?

Tom: Well, first can we pray? I always like to start my sessions with prayers. It makes me feel like the Holy Spirit is guiding this session.

Love: Oh, absolutely.

Tom bows his head.

DEAR GOD…


About the Author: Tom* spent several years living in South Korea. They originally went to Korea as an ESL teacher. Originally from California, they has since returned home to teach near Los Angeles.

Finding Hope When I’m Worn Down By Injustice

Content warning: homophobia

I realized that I was in need of hope when it confronted me at a gathering of LGBTQ+ Asian Pacific Islanders (API). There, I heard the stories of Filipino Christians advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, LGBTQ+ Southeast Asian refugees combating police brutality and deportation, and Pacific Islanders fighting for queer and trans justice. As I sat in the back of the room listening to different individuals share their stories and witnessing their existences, I felt filled with hope because of them. I was brought to silent tears, feeling overwhelmed and raw, because their existence reminded me of what I haven’t dared to hope for.

Lately, I’ve been worn and tired of trying to find answers to injustice. For too long, I felt consumed with seeking resolution, going in circles in my mind about uphill battles: the pastors and leaders who will never be held accountable for attempting conversion therapy and for outing me, Inter Varsity leaders who won’t be held accountable for firing LGBT-affirming staff, friends and family members who will never affirm queer and trans people, a god who I don’t know truly cares about me or is real. I felt overwhelmed and tired just thinking about people whose lives have been taken or broken apart by police brutality, deportations, unfair housing conditions, lack of access to medical/ mental health resources.

I’ve been shelving my heavy emotions around these injustices for a time so that I can recover and enjoy life. Life has been pretty good: I’m financially stable these days; I have the luxury of working part-time and working on music the rest of the time. I have friends who care about me, and my mental health has been drastically improving in the past year. I’m glad I’m taking the time to enjoy life and fill my headspace with things besides pain.

But sometimes I feel the temptation not just to shelve my feelings about injustice, but to pretend that I’m done with it. I’m reminding myself that I can enjoy my life, but also revisit and confront pain and injustice. I can’t pretend that I don’t need healing or that injustice doesn’t continue to affect people around me.

I still value taking time to recover from engaging deeply with injustice, but I don’t want to give into the desire to forget about it. I’m challenging myself to stay connected to the hope evident in the resilience of LGBTQ+ APIs around me, who I am so grateful for. I’m challenging myself stay hopeful that a just world is possible, not just for myself, but for everyone who needs it.


About the Author: Yiann grew up in the Bay Area and is spending most of their time between youth education and music right now. They sing the kind of soulful, reflective songs that belong to a rainy day, and and their songs are most often about unanswered prayers. Yiann performs around the Bay Area, and you can keep up with their music @kapwatheband or @yiannc.

Instagram: instagram.com/yiannc

Photo credit: Matthew Evearitt at beholdcreators.com