A Reflection by Lee Te
I would never think of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. When I first immigrated to the US, the people I knew, would greet the month with “May the fourth,” “Cinco de Mayo,” and “It’s Gonna Be May.” As a matter of fact, the first time I ever heard of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, was when I had to read a piece on it at Founders MCC around 2013-2014. Funny, since I officially became an American citizen in 2012, a year or two before. In the process of my naturalization, I was able to change my gender marker and name to that which aligns with my authenticity. This is something that I would not be able to do in the Philippines. My name and gender marker change definitely silenced the gender dysphoria I lived with. I am grateful for laws that exist in the U.S. (or parts of it) that STILL have to recognize and protect the right of trans and gender-non-conforming folk.
I am also very lucky to be in Los Angeles. It isn’t that hard to come across a Filipino Asian-American in this culturally diverse city. In fact, I am part of Founders MCC Bayanihan Ministry whose members are mostly Filipino. It is the Bayanihan Ministry that cultivated me to become more visible in Founders MCC. As a highly active trans Filipina member of Bayanihan, I have held myself accountable to teach what I learned about the beautiful gender spectrum to this group and to Founders as well. Founders MCC has been such a blessing. I am able to come to Founders broken, weak, and hurt, things that are difficult to express because of my Filipino upbringing. Through Founders I have learned to accept these traits as part of what makes me unique, strong and relatable to my community, and even to others outside of my community. Being able to learn to love myself fully, as a woman who happens to be trans, has definitely helped me grow spiritually. If I stayed in the Philippines, my Catholic upbringing would have hindered me from knowing, making amends with, and becoming who I really am. It would have challenged my truth, that I am a trans woman, and I am right with my God. I am exactly who my God calls me to be.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I also love being Asian. My Asian palette allows me to try a variety of cuisines, even those which may be considered unusual in Western eyes, at least once. I oftentimes attribute my openness to ideas and beliefs that are different than mine to my openness to eat diverse food. You never know what you may learn from tasting something different, or listening to an opinion that differs from yours. The possibilities can be very exciting, and sometimes scary. Growing up in a developing country, makes me very grateful for all that I have experienced here in the US. It makes me resourceful, equipped to smile amidst adversity and have a sense of humor with most everything I face. And the love I have for my Bayanihan family, and MCC, surely comes from my Filipino upbringing.
The Asian and American in me undoubtedly makes it colorful for me to Be MCC.