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A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Posted By Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University, Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Author: Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University

 

College Student Affairs. Hello ResLifers! My name is Ian, and I am currently in the College Student Affairs Ed.M program and serving as a graduate hall director at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Coming to Rutgers, I’ve been amazed at the cultural diversity and inclusion efforts present here. I didn’t even know about the existence of specific cultural centers aside from aggregate ‘Multicultural’ centers beforehand. I am extremely grateful to have found a campus that is ready and intentionally staffed to support my queer-Asian identity.

On Being Asian-Pacific Islander. Growing up, I’ve had a consistent battle of how to identify. Per United States identifications, my Filipino-Chinese identity counts as Asian, and Asian only. This means every standardized test, application, and formal communications should reflect that. In recent years, I realized that submitting to that mentality mutes so much of my upbringing.

My mom was born in the Philippines, and immigrated to Hawai’i as a child, where she met my dad. Together, they moved to Virginia after my dad became a proud member of the United States Marines Corps. In Virginia, they molded my childhood homes into places of Hawaiian & Filipino culture. We were very much in contact with all of our relatives still on Hawai’i and had found a small population of Pacific Islanders in Virginia. These are the people who have influenced the Ian Christopher D. Ulep that will enter the field of Student Affairs in 2019 (i.e. #HireMe2019).

Filipino Identity. Through various accounts that I’ve heard through conversation, or even light psycho-social studies, Filipinos are always navigating an extended identity crisis. Some call us the Blacks of Asia, the Latinos of Asia, not Asian at all, and the list goes on. These are to say, that while there are similarities in our cultures, we [relatively] don’t have an individual culture, but a culture to be solely compared to other cultures. In all, we as Filipino-Americans are usually given a narrative or mold to adhere to. We as Filipino-Americans must learn our heritage to give voice to our own authentically Filipino counternarratives in American society. I am also Chinese, which is widely regarded as a definitive Asian identity [if not the identity that all other East Asian identities are compared to]. In the ways that I was raised, I see my Chinese identity as an extension of my Filipino identity, in ways similar to how the Hawaiian culture and landscape have influenced my family dynamic. These identities have informed what it means to be authentically Asian by being able to define it as an individual identity from what American society solely classifies as Asian, Pacific Islander or the [insert non-Asian identity] of Asia.

Queer Folk. The one salient identity that I did not grow up with was my queer identity, which I have proudly owned since 2014. I don’t believe I would have found the passion to explore my Asian-Pacific Islander identity if not for my queer identity. It didn’t come without risk and coming out was the first time I told myself to live authentically. As I’ve continued my personal development journey, I have found so much healing and self-empowerment in standing up to dominant and oppressive narratives that are so widely perpetuated in media, social roles & beyond. Providing counternarratives as equally valid narratives is what I strive to do.

The Old Dominion. Who I am is heavily influenced by those around me, and as such, growing up in Virginia is also a part of who I am. I’ve always seen myself as the other. APIDA (Asian-Pacific-Islander-Desi-American) SA role models were almost nowhere to be found in the South. In a way, I couldn’t connect being Asian-Pacific Islander, and being in Student Affairs until I became involved with professional networking organizations. That is why representation matters; that is why mentorship matters. I couldn’t see the connection until after my undergraduate institution paid the way for me to find these organizations, and subsequently the racial identity groups within them. While there is a lot of work to be done in being able to recognize the plethora of identities and experiences in both the APIDA and LGBTQ+ mega-aggregate groups, we can start that work [for our students] by providing authentic counternarratives and genuine allyship to further their own identity development.

 

Tags:  Filipino-Chinese  Queer 

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