How I Hated My Maleness, with Supplementary Musings from Childhood

By: Keith Sena, originally published here on Friday evening, May 20, 2016

keith bear

“How the fuck [are] you supposed to grow up when you weren’t raised?” –Eminem

Three hundred sixty-five evenings ago, I was reflecting on my first year at Baylor University.  It was the 2014-2015 school year.  In that school year, I took great strides toward understanding my past and recovering from it.  Community, friendships, and the experience of living away from relatives affected me profoundly.  This personal essay is about a complex I had for two decades; on this evening last year, I overcame it.

As a toddler, I lived with my parents and three older sisters.  Our parents would often bicker, but I was oblivious.  Every time our parents began to bicker, my sisters took me into another room and distracted me so I would not have to hear it.  My sisters kept me uncorrupted.  I was sweet to everyone, since the only way I knew how to treat others was with kindness.

Then one time while our parents were bickering, it got so noisy that nothing my sisters did could keep me from hearing it.  I sensed it was bad, but did not know what it was.  A man was shouting like I had never heard before.  I recognized our mom’s voice responding, but did not recognize the man’s voice.  I asked my sisters, “Who is that mean man yelling at Mom?”  His yelling sounded much different from his usual mode of speaking.

As I heard the altercation and discovered the man was our dad, something began changing in me.  “All over me / There’s something changing in me / There’s something growing in me” (Drowning Pool).  Our dad was my only male role model, and he corrupted me.  My psyche took the rest of the day to comprehend the change, and I slept on it.

The next day, I awoke a different person.  I approached a female member of the household—I don’t remember which one—and said something bad to her.  I remember my statement verbatim, but I do not feel comfortable including it here.  My statement was powerful. It included a reference to my maleness.  For a while thereafter, I was mean to everyone.

After a while, still as a toddler, I began to realize the error of my ways.  I did not want to be mean to others.  I wanted to be kind like before.  I had some successes in returning to kindness, but it was difficult because my psyche was corrupted.

Then, still as a toddler, I was playing at a friend’s house one day.  My friend’s mother said something around me to the effect that boys behave badly.  Along with her disparagement of boys—which was bad enough for her to let me hear as an impressionable toddler—her statement included a reference to me and my maleness. I would not stand for it.  I announced, “No, I’m a girl!”  In my mind, boys were bad, and girls were good.  Since I wanted to be good, I convinced myself as best I could that I was a girl.

When I was four years old, one day, my parents were having what would be the last of their usual shouting matches.  I was standing in the living room, observing.  One parent was at each end of the living room, and I completed the triangle by standing to the side between them.  My dad was in the military.  He threw one of his combat boots to the floor near her feet.  I think he intentionally missed hitting her with it, perhaps just to scare her.

Promptly my mom picked me up, and headed for the front door.  I held onto my mom, and looked back at my dad.  While walking through the doorway, she was saying things like, “I’m done with you!  I’m leaving you!”  While standing back, he was saying things like, “That’s fine with me!  Get out of here!”  Then she closed the door behind us.

This moment was the dissolution of my nuclear family; the divorce proceedings that followed were mere formalities.  Though I did not recognize its significance while I was experiencing it, I have come to recognize it as the saddest moment of my life.  In addition to its sad nature and profound effects on my life, it further instilled in me the sense that maleness is bad.

While I was in elementary school, my father shared legal custody of me with my mother.  He is Enneagram Eight, and I am One, so we both have anger as our primary emotion.  He taught me to manage anger poorly.  What he modeled for me at home was frequent outbursts and a short fuse.

My troubled childhood prompted bad behavior in school.  Teachers, staff members, and fellow students often irritated me.  I had a short fuse, and would often physically attack anyone who angered me.  I attended a few elementary schools, and was expelled from one for “excessive violence.”  My fourth-grade teacher joked to my entire class about how easy it was to press my buttons.

On many days, I got in bad enough trouble that the school sent me home.  It was usually for hitting a peer.  My dad often had to leave work early to come and get me.  Each time he had to bring me home for bad behavior, he hit me upon arrival.  He hit me to show me hitting people is wrong.  The school notified him of my bad behavior whether they sent me home or not, and he often hit me in these cases, too.  On one occasion, he picked me up by my shoulders, dug his fingertips extremely hard into my armpits, and yelled in my face about my aggressiveness.  Then he wondered why my behavior was not improving.

My behavior got bad enough for a teacher to call the police on me.  Two uniformed police persons from the city’s police department came to the school—an elementary school, while I was in the fourth grade.  They met with the principal and me.  The policewoman told me that if they ever had to come there again for me, I would be leaving with them; then she hugged me.

It was nice to feel like the policewoman cared about me, but I felt hopeless to improve my behavior.  I expected to be leaving with them in the near future.  Somehow I managed not to have them called on me again; perhaps it was not because my behavior improved, but because the teacher who called them on me was never again in charge of me.

I was unpopular in elementary school.  I managed to fit in only with a few other unpopular boys, and with mixed results.  These boys and I liked to explore as much of the campus as we could during recess and lunchtime.  We usually stayed in the large playground or its immediate vicinity.  Eventually, the time came when we had explored all but one area around the playground: the girls’ bathroom.

We wondered what was in there, and how it looked, but none of us wanted kpto be the one to trespass.  We formed a circle and deliberated for a few minutes.  Since I was the least popular, these “friends” of mine picked me.  They grabbed me and forced me over to the girls’ bathroom.  When we were just outside the entryway, they pushed me in.

I landed on my back, not hard enough to hurt.  I was angry at them.  I wanted to jump up and run out; but before I could get up, I beheld profundity.  I lied still in amazement.

In the boys’ bathroom, other boys and I often had fun with paper towels.  We would wet them, crumple them, and toss them up.  If we did it right, they stuck to the ceiling.  Once stuck to the ceiling, each paper towel dried and stayed there permanently.  Sometimes when we tossed up a paper towel, it would stick to another paper towel that had already dried there.  The new one would dry on the old one, forming a paper towel stalactite.  We continued some of these stalactites with a third paper towel.  The paint up there looked worn out.  Custodians never cleaned the ceiling.

On my back in the girls’ bathroom, I saw a ceiling that looked like nothing had ever touched it since the painter’s brush however long ago.  It was beautiful.  I could find no flaw in it.  I stayed there on my back for a moment, admiring it.  All the anger left me.

Once I felt I had sufficiently appreciated the ceiling, I slowly stood up.  I noticed the tiles on the walls and floor were purple and white, instead of blue and white as in the boys’ bathroom.  This purple and white pleased my eyes.  Slowly I turned to see the rest of the room.  It was all magnificent!

The boys had not checked to see whether anyone was in there before they pushed me in, but I was glad to find nobody in there.  I went back outside and found them laughing.  I tried to tell them what they had missed, but they would not stop laughing for a second to listen.

Then I returned to reality: I was a boy.  That magnificent room I had just seen was not meant for me.  I could never be that clean or admirable.  My role as a male in the world was to be mean and dirty, and ruin beautiful things.  My anger returned.  Shortly thereafter, I made a pathetic attempt at arson of a school building.

Through fifth grade and middle school, I became gradually kinder and less violent.  My brain was developing, and I was becoming less impressionable and better able to decide for myself.  My dad’s behavior gradually lost its effect on mine.

When I was ten years old, my dad remarried.  I lived with my dad and my stepmother for two years, and they had primary legal custody of me during this time.  My stepmother, using her thumb as a visual aid, made a demeaning comment to me about my penis.

Around that time, my dad took me into a bathroom to instruct me on cleaning under my foreskin.  My stepmother later told me that she was (creepily) listening outside the door the whole time.  The way she told me about it seemed calculated to assert dominance over me and make me uncomfortable and embarrassed, all of which it did.

A common embarrassment for boys during puberty is sudden erections for no apparent reason.  One day while my dad, my stepmother, my stepmother’s adult daughter from her previous marriage, and I were together, I had one such erection.  I looked down at myself to see how noticeable it was.  My stepmother asked me, loudly enough to draw the attention of her daughter and my dad, “Are you embarrassed about something?”  I lied, saying I was not embarrassed about anything, since I wanted the situation to end.  Thus I learned to be ashamed of having a penis.

My stepmother would often accuse me of doing things I had not done, and my dad always believed her.  He hit me often for her.  She never hit me, but she liked getting him to hit me.  I once called the police on them for child abuse.  A policeman came to the home and spoke with us.  I begged the policeman to take me with him, but he said he could not take me.

One day when I was 12 years old, my stepmother accused me of doing something I had not done, as usual.  My dad put me over his knee and began spanking me.  As he struck me several times, I looked up at her.  She was looking on from across the room.  She had a big smile.  The longer I looked, the bigger she smiled, and the more animated with delight she became.

As I experienced her sadism and his abusiveness, something began changing in me.  “There’s something changing in me / Something growing inside of me // Go away / Don’t want this” (Drowning Pool).  I no longer cared about finding peace in life.  I just wanted my father and stepmother dead.  I did not care about getting caught.  Whatever would have happened to me, I would have been satisfied knowing I had killed them.  I became the epitome of hatred, valuing their deaths over my life.

My rational faculties recognized this state of affairs was no good.  I wanted to stop myself.  Excelling at introspection, I recognized I had two years until I would no longer be able to restrain myself.  A short time later, still 12 years old, I decided to tell someone.

I don’t remember whom I told; the important part was that I told someone.  I was at school when I told someone.  Various professionals met with me on campus.  That same day, my dad went to court on my behalf, and the judge ordered I stay in a mental hospital for at least 72 hours.  My dad took me to the mental hospital that very day.  I never saw or heard from my (now former) stepmother again after that day.

In an earlier post, I said I had stayed in a mental hospital, but I did not say why.  My desire for murder was the sole reason.  It had nothing to do with suicide or self-harm, neither of which I was even considering.  This brief time 12 years ago (I’m 24 years old now) is the only time I’ve ever been homicidal.  My relationship with my dad has improved, and he has admitted it was his fault I wanted to kill him.

After my 72 hours in the mental hospital, my dad and I lived together.  We were talking one day about my former stepmother, trying to make sense of what she did.  She had two housecats; she was kind and gentle with the female cat, but mean and rough with the male cat.  She had a better relationship with her daughter than with her son.  Her obsession with my penis was peculiar.  Everything we recalled led us to one conclusion: She hated maleness.

I continued through my teenage years and into adulthood with the complex that something is inherently wrong with me because I am male.  My rational faculties recognized it was probably untrue, but complexes cannot simply be reasoned away.  Communities, friendships, and experiences can remove complexes.

Three hundred sixty-five evenings ago, I was reflecting particularly on my friendship with Lydia Williamson.

Lydia and I began amicably at the start of my first year at Baylor University.  However, late in my first semester there, I showed her a rough part of my personality.  She did something harmless and playful with me that happened to upset me, and I responded adversely.  I could tell it bothered her significantly about me.  Surprisingly to me, this incident seemed not to harm our friendship; afterward, we moved on no less amicably than before.

This past fall semester, 11 months after that incident, I asked her how it had affected her.  She said it had made her feel like I was not a safe person.  I said I was sorry.  Then we agreed our friendship had been better since then.

Lydia is one of few people in recent years to have experienced a rough part of my personality that would make me seem unsafe.  Considering my background, it is a miracle my personality still has any warmth.  Three hundred sixty-five evenings ago, feeling touched by Lydia’s kindheartedness, I stopped hating my maleness.  Our friendship was not the only factor, but it was the greatest by far.

During my past two years at Baylor University, several feminist women have befriended me.  They have had positive attitudes toward my maleness, and reassured me of my goodness.  They have made me feel more comfortable in my masculinity than any other people group has.

Now, imagine my reaction when people say feminists hate men.  Ludicrous!  Because of my stepmother, I know what it is like to be hated and mistreated because of my gender; feminism promotes nothing of the sort.  As far as I can tell, my stepmother is the only woman I’ve ever encountered who hated men—and she didn’t even claim to be a feminist!  On the other hand, women throughout their lives encounter many men who hate women.  For every instance of petty “misandry” a man perceives, a hundred instances of harmful misogyny go unnoticed by him.

My old teddy bear is pictured atop this personal essay.  Do you see those dark spots on his face?  One day I was playing with him, in the same room in which my dad would later throw a boot toward my mom.  I tossed him up to the ceiling, like I would later do with paper towels in the boys’ bathroom.  He struck a light fixture.  Those dark spots are permanently burned onto his face.  Likewise, my childhood has scarred me.


By: Jenuine Poetess

“c’mon baby, why don’t you smile?  just give me one smile!”

“hey mami, show me that pretty smile!”

walking down the street
i wear my fuckyou face
i learned to put it on
with the rest of my outfit
because wearing an open face
a friendly face
invites too much attention
walking the streets
taking the bus
existing while being female
has required a
different kind of face
one where i make my eyes go dead
and drain out all their light
i make people into ghosts
staring right through them
(some people take too many liberties
with eye contact)

i set my mouth hard
serious and unmoving

too soft
and they seem kissable
too warm
and people trespass

my smile is my secret weapon
it lights up rooms
changes moods
my smile is home to
those i love
and my home is not open
to everyone

my smile is my own
no one can demand it

i own the power that comes
with giving or
withholding my smile

they call me a bitch
in different languages
if it wouldn’t kill me
i’d laugh at their
in an instant of disobedience
their sweet and charming
a furious, venomous

i have grown hard
but i rather be a
safe bitch
than a
sorry woman

i learned to harden my face
my features
places inside me
when i learned the price
i must pay
for owning soft curves
and for having the
to take up space in the world

for too long i had made myself

in the end
i rather relinquish
the softness of my smile
than any square inch
of my being

Asian Pacific American History Month: Personal Reflections

By: Allan Aquino

1) APAHM 2016: Opening Thoughts on Identity, Along with Some Fundamental Info

The origin of Asian Pacific Heritage Month (APAHM) can be traced to the late 70s when, under the administration of President Jimmy Carter, the first week of May was recognized by Congress as a special Heritage Week in honor of the history and contributions of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIs). The month of May was selected in honor two key events in American history: first, the earliest documented presence of Japanese immigrants in the U.S. in May of 1843, and, second, the completion of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese Americans in May of 1869. By the early 1990s, this celebration was expanded to a month-long celebration under the administration of President George Bush, Sr.

As far back as I can remember I’ve been asked the question, “What are you?” by curious strangers. I have an ambiguous phenotype and have been mistaken as Latino, Samoan, American Indian, African American, or multiracial. Curiosity is natural, and most of those scenarios have mostly been innocuous though, on some occasions, microaggressive and disconcerting. Most people, if asked that question, might instinctively reply by declaring their ethnic background. I, for instance, usually say, “I’m Filipino”. Like most people, I wouldn’t necessarily offer “Asian American” as my first answer. But if one were to ask me, “Are you Asian American?”, or, “Do you consider yourself Asian Pacific American?” I’d say yes. Absolutely, yes. And yet, as per the complex rule-breaking dynamics of Filipino American racial and ethnic identity, I might clarify that “my people”, depending upon social context, may also plausibly be considered Pacific Islanders or Latinos. (More on that later.)

Now, I am an Asian American Studies professor, not an Asian Studies professor. I am by no means an expert on any one Asian culture. And this is (what I call) my five-second summary of Asian history: hundreds of years of Asians trying to kill each other. But despite that history, descendants of various Asian cultures whose ancestors may well have been historic enemies find a common foundation as Asian Americans. What defines an Asian American identity is not a matter of ancestral national origins, it’s not ethnic backgrounds, it’s not a homogenous “Asian culture”, or race, or physical experience.

Asian Americans are defined by common social and historical experiences in America. We are all descendants of transnational immigrants, our families came to America in search of opportunities and a better life, we’ve all faced enormous odds – all the many layers and intersections of marginalization and overt oppression. Yet, despite it all, we’ve settled here, we built lives and communities here, and we’ve accomplished all this in solidarity with one another. We are not, to quote Prof. Ronald Takaki, “strangers from a different shore”. We’ve been here since the 1500s. We helped build this society. We are
everywhere. We are everything.

2) “Latinos of Asia”: What Makes the Pinoy (Filipina/o American) Identity Unique

My parents emigrated from the Philippines in 1971. I was born in Chicago in 1974 and moved to the Los Angeles area around 1979. Growing up, I always had a large extended family comprised of Filipino American and Chicano elders; during my earliest years, I had a fundamental consciousness of that common value in Pinoy and Chicano culture: everyone within reach is a potential relative, and whether or not they’re blood relatives is incidental. It is common knowledge to both communities that family is not a matter of race or DNA – it’s all about whom you love and share your life with most.

Like many brown-skinned kids raised in L.A. what I wanted most was to belong. I was educated in a largely Eurocentric school system that had little regard for the histories and cultures of nonwhite peoples. My sense of ethnic identity was so compromised that by the time I was six I was already a self-hating Filipino. I insisted to my parents that I was American (code for honorary white), and I was overtly ashamed of my family and my dominantly Filipino and Mexican immigrant neighborhood. The stories and experiences of Filipinos, much like our Chicano gente, have always been ignored in histories and pop culture as if we didn’t matter or were best kept invisible. Even in today’s Asian American paradigm Filipinos are referred to as the “forgotten Asians” (despite the fact that there’s so damn many of us!). When people think “Asian”, they often think Chinese, Japanese, or Korean; and, on top of that, many non-Filipinos even consider us more geographically displaced Latinos than “Asians”.

I was awakened to my sense of identity and ethnic pride when I began my life at Cal State University, Northridge (CSUN). I was an incoming freshman in the Fall of 1992. I made quick friends with classmates affiliated with student groups like the Filipino American Student Association, MEChA and, later on, the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP). During that first semester I made my first connection with the CSUN Asian American Studies Department, who brought as a distinguished guest speaker Philip Vera Cruz, the former Vice President and highest-ranking Filipino member of the United Farm Workers. That particular experience defined my life and my destiny.

Through pure storytelling Manong Philip, as we called him, told me about Filipinos who’d immigrated to America in the early 20th century, working in agricultural fields and providing domestic services, essentially taking on the kinds of jobs and livelihoods the average U.S. citizen didn’t want. Alongside their Mexican neighbors and extended family relatives, I learned that brown kids like me were not a simple by-product of aliens from a foreign culture. My Filipino and Mexican family communities, since the earliest decades of U.S. history, built this society. We have always been an integral part of it. We deserve dignity and respect as much as anyone.

Manong Philip Vera Cruz told me about his contemporaries like the great militant Larry Itliong, who began organizing Filipino and Mexican laborers by way of strikes, boycotts, and demonstrations as early as the 1920s. And even amidst the Great Depression, Pinoys and Chicanos struggled and fought for a better life for their community families; interestingly, while the rest of America starved, there were no Pinoys or Chicanos in the bread lines begging for assistance. As our communities know, no matter how poor we are, no matter how much we struggle, what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine, and as long as we stick together as a family we’ll not only survive, we will live rich and joyful lives.

Inspired by Manong Philip I got into Ethnic Studies at CSUN. In 1995 I declared a Special Major in Comparative Ethnic Histories, and though most of my classes were based in the Asian American Studies Department, I took classes in American Indian Studies, what was then known as Pan-African Studies and, of course, Chicano Studies. I was fortunate to take courses on the history of Mexico and Chicano history, most notably with our community father and elder statesman Prof. Rodolfo Acuna. Now, prior to taking Rudy’s class I’d studied Filipino American history and culture quite extensively and was already an assistant in the Asian American Studies Department’s Filipino American Experience class. When I took Rudy’s class, I was amazed at how easily and effortlessly I empathized with and wholly appreciated Chicano social and historical experiences. I felt as if I was studying Filipino American history all over again, and it was a most awesome experience.

On that note, let me geek out over my fascinations with history and culture. Allow me to articulate how Pinoys and Chicanos share so much more of a common and singular history and culture than we realize. I’ve been teaching the Filipino American Experience class for 15 years, and though I’ve always had Chicano students, one of the first things I tell the Filipino kids is, “If you claim Pinoy pride, you’ve got a lot of Mexican in you and you probably don’t know it!”

Most of us know that the Philippines and Mexico were occupied by the Spanish Catholic empire since the 1500s. We know that Pinoys and Chicanos share common Spanish surnames and cultural traditions anchored in everyday things like religion, special holidays, culinary traditions, and vocabulary words. When I talk about the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, I clarify that statement by insisting we were occupied by Spain by way of Mexico and Central America. When it came to key economic and military decisions in the Philippines, the Viceroy of Mexico called the shots, and not so much the Spanish emperor. Beginning in the 1500s the Spanish empire established the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade in order to enslave the Philippines and import goods from China and India to the Spanish imperial territories. Filipino slaves, Christianized indigenous Malayo-Polynesian people, were called “indios” along with all other indigenous peoples of the Americas. Filipino indios played a key role in physically building Spanish territories in California, Mexico, and Central America. Likewise, enslaved indigenous peoples of Mexico, referred to in Nahuatl as “Huachinangos” were “exported” out of cities like Guadalajara and Acapulco as slaves in the Philippines. So as early as the 1500s there were Filipinos in Mexico, there were Mexicans in the Philippines, and all through time we’ve contributed to one another’s cultures and, ultimately, to a shared culture, a shared history, and a shared identity. Filipinos undeniably have Southeast Asian and Malayo-Polynesian roots; we got some Chinese and Indian and Arabian heritage in us. But our Mexican roots are key to defining what makes us unique as well as more in common with our Chicano gente than most people realize.

Throughout our lives in the United States, Pinoys and Chicanos lived out loud and side by side: boxing is a common sport and martial art in our communities; Pachuco culture and the Zoot Suit aesthetic, which some call West Coast hip-hop or urban fashion, is another commonality; many ingredients in our diet are mutual – Filipino food employs annatto seeds from the Yucatan, while Philippine mangos are grown in Mexico and ultimately imported to Chicano produce markets. Though Filipinos born in the twentieth century are not as fluent in Spanish as our forebears (my grandparents and eldest aunts and uncles were Spanish-fluent), we literally share elements of common language. For example, in Filipino language we call our aunties Tita; in Mexican, we say Tia. We call our mothers Nanay; in Mexican, we might say Nana. Both languages say Lola, which comes from abujuela, when referring to our grandmothers. Most of my life I assumed those were Tagalog words; only through Ethnic Studies did I learn those words are from Nahuatl – ergo, to listen to a conversation in Filipino language is to listen to wondrous inflections of Mexican culture. It is also through Ethnic Studies, even beyond my initial experience with Philip Vera Cruz, that I studied and eventually shared a working knowledge of the common history and culture of Pinoys and Chicanos upon which our common struggle was always built.

Around 1996, in a casual conversation I had with Prof. Acuna we came to talk about the UFW. With his trademark charm and enthusiasm Rudy said to me, “You Filipinos were the crazy ones!”, which he meant with tremendous respect and affection. As he himself wrote about in his landmark book Occupied America, Larry Itliong and the Filipinos of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) had physically battled the police and corrupt agribusiness officials well before they began collaborating with Dolores Huerta, ultimately reaching out Cesar Chavez and the NFWA to form the United Farm Workers movement that changed American labor history forever. Let us not forget the very reason it’s called the United Farm Workers movement is because 5,000 Chicanos united with 2,000 Pinoys.

It is obvious why, to quote my colleague Prof. Anthony Ocampo, many Pinoys and Chicanos alike refer to Filipinos as “the Latinos of Asia”. Filipinos, much like our Chicano and Latino gente, constantly break the rules and conventions of race and simplistic ethnic categories. Our very existence challenges a lot of stereotypes. And though Filipinos share common social and historical experiences in America with our fellow Asian Pacific Americans (we are API, after all), our common roots with our Chicano gente must never be denied. I for one feel it’s a true source for pride and celebration. When I claim “Pinoy pride” it is because I see myself, my history, and my heritage intertwined with and reflective of everyone in my community family amidst, as well as regardless of, what intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and sexual orientation define us. To quote my community brother Jonah De Ocampo, better known as the rapper Bambu: “Our people are the same, it’s [only] a map that divides us”.

3) …But Back to My API Identity:

Although I am undeniably proud of my Filipino American heritage, I stand completely united with my East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Island peoples. But even before I claim my “Filipinoness” or my “Asian Pacificness”, in my heart I am first a Los Angeleno. My sense of home and purpose, the language I speak, the food I eat, how I live my daily life – I share so much more in common with my fellow residents than with any of my kin in the Philippines.

The purpose of the month of May is not for APIs to retreat into ourselves, but to explore and share our stories with everyone. To celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month is to celebrate the meaning of civilization. To be truly Asian American is to stand in communion with all people and all issues pertaining to social justice and the end of oppression. We are ultimately one community and there is no separateness when it comes to social justice. If you claim an API identity but fail to empathize with issues ranging from education and the attacks on Ethnic Studies, the Black Lives Matter Movement, gender equality, the continuing epidemic of transphobia and homophobia, or the pervasive homelessness in Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in history — then you truly need a critical self-examination of your own identity.

I conclude by quoting Manong Philip Vera Cruz: “Leadership is only incidental to The Movement… The Movement must go beyond its leaders… It must be something that is continuous, with goals and ideas that the leadership can then build upon… If more young people could just get involved in the important issues of social justice, they would form a golden foundation for the struggle for all people to improve their lives.”

Allan Aquino is a poet and professor of Asian American Studies at California State University, Northridge. Information on his work may be found at