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spring 2004

An in-depth look
into the duality of
being both gay and
Asian at Stanford
spring 2004, v.III, issue no.3

cover graphic by Tracy Cheng

FEATURE CommunicASIANS is published quarterly

by the Asian American Activities Center.
Queer and Asian at Stanford...............................................................3 Views expressed in CommunicASIANS are
those of the writers and do not necessarily

3 An in-depth look into the duality of being both gay and Asian at Stanford
Gay OR Asian: Can You Be Both?!................................................5
The controversial Details magazine piece “Gay or Asian?”
“I thought you were...”.........................................................6
represent the opinions of the a³c.
CommunicASIANS welcomes all signed
letters of opinion, which are subject to
editing for length, accuracy and grammar.
Ronak Kapadia recounts his journey around the world
Q&A with Ankur Dalal and Hammad Ahmed...........................8 Asian American Activities Center
Two very different perspectives on being both gay and South Asian Old Union Clubhouse, Room 13
Stanford, CA 94305-3064
Questioning Assumptions........................................................12

12 Alumni Elly Matsumura makes a political statement for the LGBTQQI community
Queers of Color....................................................................13


KASCON 2004: Looking Back and Looking Forward..................................14 LAYOUT EDITORS
Born Again Sorority Girl.........................................................................15 TRACY LI CHEUNG
A personal look into Sigma Psi Zeta, the new Asian-Interest Sorority STEPHANIE NGUYEN

20 The Asian Language Phenonenom..................................................................16

Just a fetish, an intellectual pursuit, or the latest trend?


Anime: More than a Cartoon..........................................................................18
A Japanese art’s influence on American pop culture

24 Ashni Mohnot: Journey Through the Holocaust......................20

Tracy Cheung: The Freshman Experience, Part 3................................22
Patrick Chen: Good Bye.................................................................24 CHRISTINE YANG
Let’s say you and I meet at a party.
We talk about classes, housing and the weather.
During the course of this pseudo conversation, I fall into a mini coma, only to awaken DIRECTOR
when you spill your beer all over my new shoes. DEAN RICHARD YUEN
Then I shove you into a wall and my friends have to hold me back because they know ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
when I get like this, no one is safe. CINDY NG
(I swear, you can ask them. Seriously. Well, they’re in Canada right now. But I’ll let you ASSISTANTS TO THE DIRECTOR
know when they get back and then you can ask them and they will totally vouch for the fact CONNIE CHAN
that I am hardcore like that). SARAH IHN
But I don’t want that to happen with us. Because, baby, what we have is special. This
cherished bond between editor and reader, this is not something to be taken lightly. Ex-
editor Pat is long gone. Within a matter of weeks he’ll have graduated and then it’s off to a
“, what we
life of short-sleeved button downs and sassy coffee mugs.
Don’t be mistaken. I too have sassy coffee mugs. But instead of coffee, you know what AIM COORDINATOR
have is special.” JIMMY WU
they’re filled with? Ideas.
Ideas about articles, about features, opinions, news, entertainment, and a whole realm of ASIAN AMERICAN STUDIES
possibilities we haven’t even begun to cover. So many of you have responded JENNIFER KONG
enthusiastically, suggesting possibilities that we hadn’t even considered. I urge you to keep COMMUNICASIANS
contributing. Because, not to be cheesy, but you all literally are the voices of PATRICK CHEN
CommunicAsians. STEFANIE KIM
I think this may be one of the first issues in which we have included responses to a past ASHNI MOHNOT
article. Okay, so possibly, they may also be the first written responses we’ve ever received. RENEE NG
But still, that is definitely something we’ll continue to do in the future. This kind of COMMUNITY BUILDING
acknowledgement further broadens the voices of the Asian American community and keeps HAIBINH NGUYEN
our writers accountable for the ways in which they address their topics. Maybe you’re JENNIFER YANG
thinking to yourself that there’s something we’re covering too much of, too little of, or not at COMPUTER SERVICES COORDINATOR
all. So sit yourself in front of your computer and write me an email about your ideas. Or BRIAN NGUYEN
even better, write what you feel is missing and send it on over. I’m CULTURAL PROGRAMMING
and I check my inbox literally every ten minutes. SHALLENE CUA
This glossy little number that you hold in your hands right now started out as a flimsy BRIAN KIM
little newsletter that didn’t reach nearly the population it does now. The fact that people are RATHUL NARAIN
responding at all makes me sort of amazed, and wonder about the possibilities
CommunicAsians holds. There’s potential within these shiny black and white pages. I really
think that.
letters to the editor TAMMY PHAN
I was deeply disturbed by Patrick Chen’s “The traits of a few individuals and universalizing them TIFFANY TENG
Asian Male Perspective” in the last issue of for the entire sub-population. When the “typical
Communicasians. Although it purports to take the Asian male” himself parrots them shamelessly,
willingly humiliating himself, it is sure sign that we
typical Asian male perspective, the article flippantly
degrades the sexual capacities of all Asian men and are losing the battle for a self-respecting, socially PROGRAMMING COORDINATORS
commodifies Asian women. Furthermore, it responsible, healthy Asian-American community. CYNTHIA LEE
embraces the perceived sexual inferiority of Asian JEFFREY ERFE FLORENCE LEE
men, which is viewed not as a social neurosis or Class of 2007 PUBLICITY COORDINATOR
psychological hang-up but rather an irrefutable, JULIA LEE
scientific fact. What is offensive is not that the Patrick Chen’s article was nothing short of absolute SPEAKER SERIES
author feels this way; rather, it is that he attempts brilliance. I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for MARGARET HSU
to resolve this feeling by universalizing it, applying standing up for us little guys. WEBMASTER
it to all Asian males. That’s how stereotypes are DENNIS CHANG
created in the first place, by choosing the singular Class of 2005

2 communicasians

and at Stanford
It is hard enough being gay, let alone gay and Asian. Come explore
the duality of being both gay and Asian on Stanford campus
by Helen Kim

I n Houston, in the Chinatown along Bellaire Boulevard, in the

plaza not with Dynasty Mall or Diho Supermarket but the Welcome
Shopping Center, I came out to my mom on her 49th birthday.
No, this is not my own coming out story, although I bet you were
waiting for the next lines of how my mother almost choked on her
Imagine if you were in Angela’s position of announcing that
inarguably defining statement – “I’m gay” – to your mother on her 49th
birthday. Well, first, you might not have chosen her 49th birthday to
do this. And second, your mother may have already known. But in
any case, coming out just may be one of the most frightening moments
soymilk, flabbergasted at my confession of “deviant” sexual identity. in your life, a moment which you had been waiting years to reveal your
Or perhaps you were waiting for the details of how I then lived in mother, or anyone for that matter.
darkness in the years after my mother shunned me from her presence. You may be terrified because much like Angela’s mother, the first
These are all plausible events, seeing as how little most communities words out of your mother’s mouth may have been: “Well, then, you’re
know about queer identity. But this is actually the first line of a coming not Chinese… We should have never left Taiwan...You would not be
out narrative written by Angela Cheng, a lesbian, Asian American gay if our family stayed there.” It may be as if claiming a homosexual
activist from UT Austin. identity negated one’s Asian heritage.

communicasians 3

Left, members of
Stanford Queer and
Asian marching in the
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual
and Transgender
Parade, and below,
Angela Cheng, a
lesbian and Asian
American activist from
UT Austin

However, it is not as if Asia does not have The absence of discussion around sex
its spectrum of sexuality – it is common to see certainly is not an exclusively Asian American
women holding hands with each other and experience, but maybe more telling of American
school boys linking arms in Korea, for society in general. American society has a
instance. But the language of coming out and puritanical notion that sex and sexuality are
claiming a sexual identity may be much more not things to be talked about. The difficulty dominant discourses lack the vocabulary to
foreign to many immigrant parents. The form and awkwardness with which most of discuss queer people of color.” Chester notes
of homosexual sex acts may have existed for television’s parental figures have with the lack of discourse available for a queer and
our parents growing up, but they may not discussing sex with their children is telling of colored person on campus and in the
have conceptualized it as something integral this muted dialogue around sex in American community at large. While a queer Asian
to one’s identity as in American society today. homes. But what is also telling about these American may enter a queer community space
Furthermore, the Asian American scenes on television is that some families and find a safe space to explore her queer
homosexual is working against strict gender seem to be at least attempting to have these identity and may then enter an Asian American
codes and expectations of heterosexual “talks.” In Asian American families, where space and find a place to engage in her Asian
marriage, in order to come out to her parents. parents ban boys from calling and entering American identity, the culmination of the two
Even more so, in a household where sex their homes through high school, it does not in one space is quite difficult to find.
and sexuality are not the usual topic of seem like these talks are happening in these Moreover, she may find herself in a position
discussion, coming to terms with homosexual homes. where she feels marginalized in both settings,
identity can be particularly difficult. The idea The home is a locus of tension for Asian experiencing her identity as a “double
of having the “sex talk” with parents is quite Americans with non-hegemonic sexual minority.” Within the queer community, for
foreign to many Asian Americans, let alone identities, but also outside the home, queer instance, we can find hegemonic racial
discussions of the sex of one’s partner. Sex is and Asian American communities are structures to be at play. Angela writes in her
something you learn about from television, negotiating the intersection of these identities. coming out story: “The racism I have
your older cousin, or simply from sex-ed. Chester Day, a 2000 Stanford alumni writes, experienced in the gay community is not the
Where dialogue about sexual desire is muffled, “Stanford University assigns its students a overt color of red but the subtle, unwavering
sexual identity is not an easy topic to pick up. label, an identity, and an occupation, but tinge of blue. It is the blue in eyes that forget

“ The idea of having the “sex talk” with parents is quite foreign to many Asian Americans... ”
4 communicasians

to see you, that sweep over you during a

mainstream GLBT function. It is the default
belief that gay America is gay white America.
It is the blue color of neglect and ignorance.” Gay OR Asian: Can you be both?!
And within the Asian American community,
there are similarly heteronormative structures Details magazine apologized for its “Gay or Asian?” feature in this year’s
at play. April issue after the piece (below) sparked an outcry from the Asian and Gay
But the coupling of these two identities communities. Its title implies that one could be gay or Asian, but not both.
not only reveals the tension that the two Spokeswoman for Fairchild Publications, Andrea Kaplan, responded, “We
identities can have with each other, but also
regret the fact that anyone has been offended by this article. We are sorry
reveals the ways in which both
heteronormative structures and racial that a piece of satire has been interpreted in a way that was certainly not
hegemonic structures serve to put both the intended.” An official response is printed in this month’s issue.
Asian American and queer identity in a bind.
For instance, the Asian American community
is working against the stereotypical image of
the emasculated Asian American male.
However, in its April edition, Details magazine
ran a story titled “Gay or Asian?” It compared
the physical and stylistic features of an Asian
American male with an outrageously gay male,
begging the reader to choose which identity
the male could be most identified with. By
bringing these two images together, it seems
as though white heterosexual society is killing
two birds with one stone – emasculating the
Asian American male and confining the
external presentations of the queer male. And
on the women side of things, stereotypical
images of exoticized Asian American women
are coupled with lesbian women. A simple
Google search of “Asian lesbians” may be
quite telling - porn. Theses
misrepresentations of homosexual identity
and Asian American identity are coupled
together to keep both intact as marginalized
With articles like this, you’re always
wondering, what is the sexuality of the writer,
is she a lesbian? I won’t tell you much about
myself, but I’d like to ask you a question
instead. Have you ever questioned your
sexual identity? Asking questions about your
sexuality does not mean you have to doubt
your own sexual identity, but it does mean
that you have critically asked questions about
how you came to be attracted to a certain
person or a certain type of person. I think if
we choose to ask questions about our own
selves, it opens more doors to talk about
sexuality and places ourselves in a better
position to understand queerness. 

communicasians 5


photo courtesy of Ronak Kapadia

Spicy questions, curry
queens and straight
Guju boys

by Ronak Kapadia the club. A Bjork remix blares from the can come up to me and demand, of all things,
speakers. As I nurse my third Smirnoff Ice magic carpet rides and Arabian nights?

H ave you ever heard the following

“You’re Indian?! …Oh, man, I
thought you were gay, dude.”
and try not to get trampled by the pacifier-
wearing Raver boys, I see a curry queen
eyeing me from the other side of the club.
You can usually spot this type of guy because
I wanted to write about the sheer audacity
of curry queens, the expansive and finely-
coded racism of the larger queer community,
Or maybe it should go like this? he is generally 1) over thirty-five, 2) white, 3) and the naïve assumption that my parents are
“You’re gay?! Oh, gawd. So… you’re affluent- “looking,” and 4) eyeing YOU – the even more (as opposed to differently)
not Indian?” one Indian boy – from across the club. homophobic because they are from the dark
I get this all the time. But still I hesitated The curry queen approaches: depths of the third world, and homosexuality
when asked to write this article because I’ve “Hey, boy, can I get a ride on your magic is “not easily accepted in the South Asian
been abroad for six months and worried I might carpet?” community,” to which I ask, is it eagerly
be slightly out of touch with the “American Wow. He seems to have mistaken me for embraced in other communities?
queer desi” perspective. That fear quickly Aladdin. While “captivated” by his cigar But alas, this article will resist turning into
faded recently upon reentry into the American breath and over-eager outfit, I try to ignore another queer Asian coming-out story – (not
gay clubbing scene. Imagine the following: him. My blank stares not discouraging, he to discredit how valid such a project
continues: “I love your olive-toned skin and continues to be). Instead, I want to paint a
SAN FRANCISCO. The present. My friends dark, mysterious eyes, boy. You look like slightly more complicated picture of life as an
and I are impeccably dressed at yet another you’ve got a lot of secrets behind those eyes.” American queer desi abroad.
techno-ish gay club. (I hate techno-ish gay I gag. I try to not vomit and/or eat him So travel with me for a moment…
clubs). As usual, hundreds of scantily-clad, alive, but give me a break! These curry queens
twenty-something white men are scoping out are OUT OF CONTROL! What possesses a LONDON. December 31. Club Kali. The
the crowd. We are the only brown people in forty-five year old white man into thinking he largest queer South Asian club in the world!

6 communicasians

It’s their New Year’s Eve bash. My Air India at the Oakland Box Theater– an all South Asian Ahmedabadi girl to marry, okay? You want
flight from Bombay dropped me off in London performance event sponsored by Trikone (the an Ahmedbadi girl, no?” (As opposed to a
not more than fifteen hours ago, and I haven’t Bay Area South Asian LGBT organization). girl from another city?!)
quite adjusted to GMT. Somehow I stumble An Indo-Kenyan queer poet drops a piece My mother surprisingly comes to the rescue:
over to this club on the East End. Club Kali about lesbian suicide and domestic violence. - “Ronak is not going to marry any
features a mix–gendered clientele, straights Then, a famed Indian diva does an ode to Ahmedabadi girl. He will pick to love whoever
Elizabeth Taylor – he wants to. Right, beta?”
“Dildos (not - “Right.” I almost choke on my last pani
“ What possesses a forty-five year old
white man into thinking he can come up to

and chutney all Now, let’s be honest: my mother isn’t the

me and demand, of all things, magic around. The event biggest PFLAG volunteer in the world. In
carpet rides and Arabian nights?
” gets picked up in the
East Bay Express
and the Oakland Box
fact, she probably doesn’t even know what
PFLAG stands for. But she does have her
spicy moments. Whenever I’m around
and queer folk, six feet tall drag queens in wants to produce four more South Asian extended family and feel pressure to submit
saris and stilettos, muscle T shirted desi dykes, shows! to the “straight, docile Guju boy” act (as most
South Asians, Arabs, French Algerians, queers of color like myself often do), my mum
Jamaicans and even white Brits! The famed GUJARAT. December. Back to the Kapadia intervenes. Although her words may mean
DJ Ritu spins her special brand of hip hop, family reunion. The 17th marriage proposal and nothing to everyone else present, to me,
bhangra, R&B, garage, chutney and SOCA. the 17th pani poori is shoved down my face. they’re breathtaking.
I’m dancing till 5 am with this too-cute-to-be- The 17th aunt also asks the following: I’ve come to appreciate the subtle, but
true French Arab boy. A nice introduction to - “Have you finished your studies yet, crucial moments where she chooses to show
British life…and the New Year. beta?”sd her support for her queer American desi son.
- “No auntie, years of schooling left and then It’s something that stays with me as I travel
DELHI. October. Two months earlier. I’m on grad school, too.” around the world and back – battling curry
the rooftops of the India Coffee House in -“Oh, well, that’s okay. When you are done, queens and spicy queer questions along the
Connaught Place – the famous 1970s you come back and we will find you a good way. 
underground activist hangout in
India’s capital city. It’s still an eclectic
mix of old Communist comrades
smoking and drinking coffee (no chai),
radical feminist groups planning their
next protest, and Prism – the sexuality-
rights advocacy group I’m following
around during my research stint in
Delhi. Prism calls an emergency
meeting to organize their latest press
conference on sexuality legislation in
the Indian Penal Code system.
Cigarettes all lit, two monkeys are
fighting on the ledge, one spills my
small cup of coffee; I take notes.
Meanwhile, Prism is deciding between
Arundhati Roy, the actress from “Fire”
– Nandita Das, or Upendra Baxi to
speak on their behalf. A compromise
is reached. They decide on Nandita,
but Prof. Baxi would be a useful
academic voice at the upcoming World
Social Forum in Bombay.

OAKLAND, CA. August. Two A shot from a popular techno-ish gay club in LA. It is filled with, as Kapadia describes, “hundreds of scantily-
months earlier, I’m emceeing an event clad, twenty-something white men scoping out the crowd.”

communicasians 7
Q& W

As told to Ashni
Mohnot and Tracy
Li Chueng

ur Dalal Ank
CA: How did you make the connection

photo courtesy of
between these feelings you had for males
Ankur Dalal and your identification with a gay
Senior, ‘04 identity?
Computer Science Ahmed: There were definitely times
during freshman year when I would do
something like hold a cup a certain way,
run a certain way, write a certain way
and think: Woah, that’s kind of gay. I’d
think: Woah…I have to consciously
think about my movements because
what comes naturally to me is an
expression of what is socially
unacceptable. That’s when gay was
not just a sexual orientation but a
out of the fourteen males there, seven or eight behavior.
of them were openly gay. It finally made me Dalal: You think you’d know you’re queer by

C ommunicAsians: How do you identify

yourself – gay, queer, homosexual –
and why?
Ankur Dalal: Queer. Certain people don’t
realize that being gay was a legitimate source
of identification. It wasn’t that I realized at
that point that I was gay, but I realized I could
be socially accepted. At around eighth grade
some kind of sexual act. The word homosexual
says something about sex and sexuality. I
didn’t act on anything that I felt, but I knew
what it meant to be gay. It’s hard to say when
understand the term so I use gay. But I like I felt socially pressured to like girls but then and how I claimed this as my identity. I think
the inclusivity of the word queer. It includes around ninth or tenth grade, I thought: I like I had internalized it. There was no
basically anyone who’s willing to question the way cross country shorts look on guys, consciousness to it. It was all I had ever felt.
and live out the questioning of dominant not girls.
notions of gender and sexuality, that there’s Dalal: When I was ten years old. I had this CA: When and how did you come out of the
more than one way to be. crush on this guy on this TV show. closet?
Hammad Ahmed: I don’t really see the Dalal: Coming out doesn’t happen just once.
distinction between homosexual and gay, but CA: What TV show? It happens multiple times. Some people deviate
I think I’ll just say gay because I definitely Dalal: Swan’s Crossing. It’s a really lame teen from masculinity in their presentation, but I
am strongly male. I don’t think I am a female soap opera. Not my proudest moment. But I have a traditional gender presentation, so I
trapped in a male’s body. Gay would be the realized he was cute and I liked him have more of a choice to come out to people.
best label, I suppose. I came out in college, to my freshman dorm.
CA: Did you ever have a crush on a girl? Ahmed: My friend Anne was probably the
CA: When did you realize you were gay? Ahmed: Yeah, but it was a kiddy crush when I first person I came out to. She was so
Ahmed: The summer after junior year is when was ten. I’m still friends with this girl. I was staunchly lesbian that I had nothing to hide
I went to a summer program at Cornell, where just really fascinated by her. from her. I just said, “I’m gay” and she sent

8 communicasians

With Ankur Dalal

and Hammad Ahmed
Two very different perspectives on being Gay and South Asian
me a congratulations letter with balloons. The first day
I decided not to hide my homosexuality was here at

CA: How did coming out of the closet change you

internally and on a day-to-day basis?
Ahmed: It made me see a lot of things with a much more
laissez-faire attitude. When you stop living a life where
you have to hide things you see [the] futility of living
behind a curtain.
Dalal: When you’re out, it feels good to have
congruence with your thoughts and actions. Aligning
those two is so key. It sounds so simple, but it is so
empowering, and so important.

CA: What was it like to come out to your parents? Did

you find it particularly difficult to come out to Asian
Ahmed: Yes, it was really difficult for me to come out to
my parents. They found out and they weren’t supportive
at all. I wrote an editorial for my high school newspaper
about the negatives of homophobia and they asked me
if I really held these beliefs, and I responded, “yes,” so
they finally asked, “Are you one of these people” and I
answered, “What if I am?” and it caused a lot of
Only religious morality works with them. I can’t talk
to them about queerness and the continuum because
they don’t buy it. My father has explicitly said the he
regrets sending me to Sunday school and not to Paki-
stan to interact with my cousins who live a different life.
Honestly, I really want to bring up the subject again.
It’s been about seven months since we last talked about
it and I hope they’ve changed and gotten less angry
about it.
photo courtesy of Hammad Ahmed

CA: So, how do Islam and homosexuality fit into your

life? Hammad Ahmed
Ahmed: Homosexuality was my final goodbye to Islam. Freshman, ‘07
There’s no place for homosexuality in Islam. I really do Psychology/Biological Scienes
like the culture though. I could see myself visiting a

communicasians 9

I’ve dated and my straight

friends have dated. For
many queer people,
you’ve missed out on
adolescence and there’s
an excitement to being out
and able to date.

CA: In its April edition,

Details magazine
published a controversial
piece titled, “Gay or
Asian?” It had a picture
that compared the physical
features and style of an
Asian American male to
an outrageously gay male.
What do you think about
Dalal: [Laughs]. That’s
such a limited view of gay
people and of Asian sexu-
This April marked the 30th Anniversary of Queer Awarness Days (QuAD) at Stanford. Both Dalal and Ahmed participated in ality. They need to exam-
this years events, such as National Day of Silence, a movement protesting the silence faced by homosexuals and their allies. ine the range of queer
physical expressions.
There are a lot of queer
mosque because I love singing the prayers. CA: So, I want to talk about dating. Is it easy people who dress differently, and it’s
Another great thing about being interracial: to get a date at Stanford? What’s the dating conflating this with the way some Asian
say we had kids, wow, that’d be intense scene like for a queer person at Stanford? people dress. It’s doing a disservice to the
because the kid would not only be exposed Ahmed: It’s really easy to date here. The social diversity present in both communities.
to two cultures, but a micro-culture of being connections are so tight. Now that we have Ahmed: Wow. That’s a really problematic
queer. the online, it’s much easier. article. That obviously shows how whiteness
There are fewer strings attached the and the male aesthetic are dominant. This
CA: And, what was it like to come out to your homosexual dating situation because you article is just an indication of how the
parents, Ankur? perception of people in America,
Dalal: Spring break freshman year, and especially the gay
I came out to my parents.
My parents had an arranged
marriage—they had some choice,
“ I have an uncle who is a doctor.
[My parents] called to see of some
population in America, like Asian
males because they’re hairless,
round and cutesy. It’s a trend of
but their parents definitely had a minor proportions. White people
list of approved people from
which they could have chosen.
When you have an arranged
cure for homosexuality...
” have little Asian boyfriends.
Asian men are fetishized. Asian
people suffer a double standard.
marriage, you think of love
differently. You marry with the intention of don’t have to worry about getting a girl CA: Some people might contend that there is
creating a family. It’s very family-driven. I’m pregnant, you don’t have to worry about the increased homophobia in the Asian American
considering love in a completely different way, prospect of marriage and other girl-boy things. community because of a backlash against the
a western, individual way where it’s my choice. Queer people seem to understand each other stereotype of the emasculated Asian
I have an uncle who is a doctor. They called pretty well. American male. To what extent do you think
to see of some cure for homosexuality, and Dalal: I’m busy, like most Stanford students. this is true?
my aunt said to me, “I understand that you’re I’ve had some boyfriends. It’s easier to hook Dalal: I had never thought about that. It’s
gay, but I can’t understand why you can’t up. It may be easier to date in the queer hard to say. What does homophobia look like
get married.” community than the straight community, by anyway? That’s hard to say. It’s more of a
comparing just the sheer numbers of the guys discomfort. I mean, I feel a little bit

10 communicasians

uncomfortable in predominantly South Asian AC: How important is gay activism for you?
spaces. You gather together because you’re Dalal: I’ve been working at the center for four It’s sort of saying marriage is yet another civil
South Asian, and letting in other minority years. I LOVE this center. I manage the website liberty that has to be granted. I don’t think
experiences threatens that unity. You’re right now and previously coordinated the that gay people, when they get married, see it
already such a minority, and you need to push queer speaker’s panel. Activism has so many as the same social philosophical weight that
for unity in ethnic gatherings. forms, it’s not just about protesting. It’s about heterosexual people feel when they get
visibility, too. I think communication is a form married because you can go to San Francisco,
CA: Do you ever feel like a double minority, of activism. Like with the website, for students spend three minutes in the rain [getting
as a South Asian and queer male? who are too scared to come to the center, or married. It’s not like they spend a thousand
Ahmed: I love being a minority, actually. I about applying to Stanford, they have a way dollars on it even though it is a big statement.
love all the cultural things about Pakistan. to find out about the center. It is important to
When people ask me where I’m from I could preserve a sense of memory, so we capture CA: So what would you tell a prospective
say Pakistan, Georgia or Rinconada, but I do the history of the center on the website as student who is interested in the Stanford
feel sometimes that I’m South Asian. I most well. queer community? Is it an open and affirming
feel that [way] when I’m around South Asian place to be?
people and I feel excluded. I feel like I’m South CA: What do you think about the gay Dalal: Stanford is a wonderful place. It’s very
Asian and they won’t recognize that about marriage – is it a step forward or backward supportive. It’s a little small and it’s a little far
me. for queer activism? away from the city. But it is very friendly and
Dalal: Most of my queer friends I’ve made Ahmed: Forward. It’s just social recognition. really loving.
through the LGBT-CRC Ahmed: You have to make your
center. They do a good job own space. It’s definitely not
with being racially diverse The “Gay Liberation” sculpture the place where everyone
and they are diverse in so outside of the Main Quad was first throws out their arms and
many other ways— installed at Stanford in February welcomes you. You have to let
diversity in thought, 1984. Despite two vandalizations, people know you are gay and
appearance. it remains a symbol of pride for the people should be courteous.
A long time ago, the gay and lesbian community and its The thing to remember is that
center used to be known this is a college campus so there
for being very white at the will be homophobia and it will
expense of the minority [be] irrational. Nobody will be
students. But today there’s violent towards you; some
a lot of comfort. I do feel people just may not speak to
more like a minority outside you. I’m really happy in the end
photos by Elizabeth Callaway

of Stanford, like at national that I chose Stanford and I look

conferences, I’m like, forward to making the gay
Woah, this is really white. community even stronger. 

communicasians 11

Question Assumptions
Alumni Elly Matsumura makes a political statement for the LGBTQQI community
by Jessica Wang community as a whole, especially since she Matsumura proposed to Ishida on their
came from a small high school with 65 kids in three year anniversary in November 2003.

hen Elly Matsumura ’01 started the the graduating class. She jumped right in and “At the time, we weren’t even thinking
process of co-founding a Gay- volunteered at the LGBT-CRC when it had no about legal marriage, it wasn’t even an option
Straight Alliance in her high school, full-time staff. on our radar,” she said. “But we planned on
she thought of herself as being a straight ally. “That was Spring of 1997, when there were having a ceremony in May where we could
However, after a conversation with a friend a lot of high-profile homophobic events on exchange vows.”
who was struggling with their sexual identity, campus,” she said. “The community really It came as a complete shock when they
she realized that she too had similar questions. rallied together and it was a good opportunity found out in February that they were able to
“Before, the whole concept was abstract, to learn about campus activism.” She get married legally in San Francisco. After a
but I realized that someone I knew, who I continues her activist involvement as a board great deal of “political and personal soul
called for English homework and who I ate member with Stanford Pride, the LGBTQQI searching,” the two decided they wanted to
lunch with everyday was queer, and this alumni group. follow through with a marriage to “swell the
brought it home for me and made me question It was through activism that Matsumura numbers.”
my own sexual identity,” she explained. first met her partner, Janelle Ishida, ’03. The “We wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been
“I assumed that because I was attracted to two first met at a Stanford Students for Choice the right time in our relationship to make that
guys I was straight, but I realized I was not.” meeting and then later worked together on serious type of commitment anyway,”
Matsumura first arrived at Stanford in the the campaign to give more funding to the six Matsumura said. “But we were excited to do
fall of 1996, excited not only about being a community centers. it in a context where we’re sending a message
part of the gay community but the larger about the importance of this issue.”

Elly Matsumura,
right, and her
partner Janelle
Ishida, left, happily
pose for the camera
and, below, hold a
sign made by a
friend who could not

photos courtesy of Elly Matsumura

Matsumura, and Ishida,

running by a cheering line of
waiting couples. They are about
to get their marriage license
officially signed.

12 communicasians

On February 19, Matsumura and

Ishida awoke at four in the morning Chester Day
and arrived at San Francisco City Hall Class of 2000
around 5:15 a.m. to line up as couple
number 26. To their left was a couple
who had been together longer than
either Ishida or Matsumura had been
Queers of Color
alive. To their right was a couple who ince my freshman year, I how community is defined.
had flown down from Oregon and had have been an active Definitions that include some will
been together for 10-15 years. member of both the queer also exclude others through the
“One thing that was unusual about and Asian-American sin of omission. These unspoken
Janelle’s and my experience getting communities. Like many other words reserve queerness for the
married is that it was our first time and people of color, I feel comfortable “white middle-class” and equate
we were rushing it, and we were identifying as both “queer” and ethnicity with “heterosexual
surrounded by people who had done “Asian-American” here at Christian men.” Orientation
commitment ceremonies 10 years Stanford. However, my Stanford reinforces divisions within the
before, 20 years before,” Matsumura experience has taught me that the Stanford community and
said. “But it was an idea of what’s to racism and homophobia in reinscribes new students into
come, when people can get married American society at large still systems of oppression and
legally the first time instead of waiting operate on our campus to make many queer marginalization. Stanford University assigns its
decades for legal recognition.” people of color uncomfortable with their students a label, an identity, and an occupation,
Matsumura described the sexuality or racial identity. These perceptions but dominant discourses lack the vocabulary to
ceremony and atmosphere as a “mix of exclusion and marginalization are not shared discuss queer people of color. Unlike straight
between a wedding and political rally.” equally by all queer people of color. In fact, people of color and white queers, we do not have
“Basically when each couple would many people in Q&A experience the queer the “privilege” of making opposition to racism or
come out of the office after getting community as welcoming, and are more homophobia the center of our political, social,
their license, they would run past a concerned about the homophobia of our ethnic and cultural identities. We view racism and
line of people who were still waiting, community. However, that fact does not erase homophobia as different sides of the same
and the people would clap and cheer the need to address the reality of racism and struggle, our lifelong struggle to recognize and
and hoot and holler and scream homophobia as overlapping systems of end all forms of discrimination.
congratulations,” Matsumura said. “It discrimination. That process begins with our We refuse to choose our cause, accept our
was beautiful, especially since these dis-orientation. label, compromise our values, rank our priorities,
were perfect strangers.” Dis-orientation is a common experience for or quantify our multiple identities.
Matsumura also noted that the queer people of color here at Stanford. When Marginalization is a qualitative experience, one
media has published photos of her and ethnic groups “orient” us, we often feel like the that cannot be measured, homogenized, diluted,
Ishida’s marriage without permission, only non-heterosexual in the community. At their packaged, or explained. We inhabit hostile
including in Yahoo! News, The San conferences, dinners, and parties, compulsory borderlands at the intersection of race, sexuality,
Jose Mercury News, Time Magazine, heterosexuality erases our identities and ignores class, gender, disability, and nationality. We
and even in Playboy Magazine (a our issues. When queer groups “orient” us, we demand a space that crosses boundaries, that
clothed, candid shot). often feel like the only non-white person in the defies categorization, destroys stereotypes, and
“We have a feeling that this is an community. At their workshops, socials, and celebrates diversity.
above average amount of attention, dances, whiteness marks us as “other,” renders Diversity at Stanford is not about dividing
and we can’t help but wonder whether us invisible, and commodifies us as exotic. Two the Stanford community any further. Instead, the
us being people of color has communities claim us and reject us goal of diversity is to make all student comfortable
something to do with it. If it does, that simultaneously because of racism and with themselves and welcome in any community
still leaves some questions – is the homophobia. The gay community and the ethnic with which they choose to identify. As queer
media trying to showcase the diversity communities welcome you on paper, but exclude people of color we are not helpless victims - we
of same-sex couples who got married? you in person - that is the ultimate dis- have agency and bear some responsibility for
Are we, as Asian women with the orientation. the state of our marginalization. Actively
sexualized and submissive stereotype, The silence of the closet and the history of crossing boundaries and forcing the LGBCC and
somehow more palatable to political racial oppression both bear heavily on the ethnic community centers to accept us in their
moderates, or less threatening to shoulders of queer people of color. Our very midst is part of our ongoing struggle to make
macho straight guys?”  existence forces dominant culture to reconsider Stanford safe for queer people of color. 

communicasians 13
on campus

Looking Back and

KASCON 2004: by Sarah Ihn
Looking Forward
and seminars on Korean American issues, including ones hosted by
Juju Chang, Charles Kim (executive director of the Korean American

T he 18th annual Korean American Students Conference

(KASCON) was hosted by Korean American students at Yale
University in New Haven from March 25-28. This year’s
KASCON theme was “Realizing Korean America: Rising to New
Coalition), Paul Shin (Senator from Washington), Angela Oh (civil
rights lawyer and activist), Hyun-Sik Kim (a North Korean defector
and former professor at Pyongyang University), and Debbie Liang-
Fenton (director of the US Committee for Human Rights in North
Challenges.” KASCON is the oldest and largest annual ethnic student Korea).
conference in the nation, and is described as “a national forum for
discussion and debate on the most pressing Korean American issues
in the fields of politics, business, academia, culture, entertainment,
media, journalism, literature, and the arts. It draws on leaders from the
highest levels of government, business, non-profits and other fields,
to provide insight and guidance to a new generation of leaders.”
Seniors Sarah Ihn and Jennifer Kim, and junior Gloria Koo attended,
with generous sponsorship by Provost Gene Awakuni, the A3C, and
their parents. Here are Sarah and Gloria’s thoughts on their experience

What did you expect before going to KASCON?

Gloria: I don’t know about me, but I sure know what Sarah was
expecting. However, I prefer not to disclose that here and now.
Sarah: Well, I had heard that KASCON was a “meat market” thinly
disguised as an ethnic student conference. I had no intention of
participating in this ritual, and was seriously going because of the
speakers and workshops that were being advertised.
G: Yeah, when I looked at the schedule and biographies of the speakers,
it seemed like a good opportunity to hear from and meet cool people, What was your favorite thing about KASCON?
like Harold Koh, the new dean of Yale Law School, and Juju Chang, a S: There were many things I enjoyed about KASCON. In particular, I
Stanford alumna and ABC news correspondent, and so forth. enjoyed eating dinner with Debbie Liang-Fenton and discussing the
S: Although it wasn’t the friendliest crowd, we met a good deal of issue of North Korean human rights. This woman is the executive
nice, fun, and committed college students. director of the only US non-governmental organization focusing full-
time on this issue. Another thing I enjoyed was the closing night
So what did you do there? show with comedian PK and singer/songwriter Ken Oak Very talented.
S: There were speakers, workshops, seminars, concerts, performances, In general, KASCON was very inspirational – just seeing, meeting,
parties…lots of different things. and hearing from Korean Americans like ourselves with interests in
G: The opening plenary session included speeches by Dean Harold politics, art, justice…all of those things that we’re always being told
Koh and Shinae Chun, the director of the Department of Labor’s are atypical, but really aren’t.
Women’s Bureau and the highest ranking Korean American in the G: The concept of “Korean America” was interesting for me. I haven’t
Bush cabinet. Don’t hold that against her – she’s cool. Dean Koh given that much thought to being a Korean American person before.
urged us to ask ourselves and grapple with questions like, “Do I want It was cool seeing so many people who also grapple with what it
to do good, or do I want to do well?” or “What do I stand for?” or means to be Korean-Americans, and what it means to construct a
“Who would be served by my work?” As I was making plans and “Korean America.” And about the conference – actually, I didn’t
wondering about what I wanted to do with my life, these questions have favorites. It was overall a good conference, but I can’t really
made me stop and think what I really am living for. pinpoint one thing… hmm… let me just recount things I liked. The
S: That’s deep, Gloria. It was also really cool to hear from Shinae soldiers, sailors, Canadians, Cambridge folks, musicians, dancers,
Chun, who challenges conventional roles of women in Korean and and… Sarah!
Korean American society through her work. She told us a story about
how when she was young, she never got meat in her soup because Would you recommend others to go next year (KASCON XIX will
her mother would give it all to her father and her brothers. But instead be hosted by the University of Washington)?
of just being content with meatless soup, she would challenge the G: Yeah, for sure, if you’re interested in hearing about various issues
reasoning behind it, that females weren’t on par with males. I am all that Korean American people face.
for Korean American feminist role models. S: I would definitely recommend KASCON. And it’s not just for super
G: Yeah, if my mother had given me meatless soup, I don’t know what “Korean” Korean Americans—there were even non-Korean Americans
I would have done…We also went to a bunch of different workshops there who were enjoying it and learning a lot. Go to KASCON! 

14 communicasians
on campus

Born Again Sorority Girl

A personal look into Sigma Psi Zeta, the new Asian-Interest Sorority
by Yvonne Hung Governing Council to bring events such as Dating 101 and domestic
violence workshops. In the future, we plan to have a variety of

M y life in Sigma Psi Zeta is a satire. Like many people, I too

was biased against sororities, which I imaged as cults of
party-hungry and catty girls. However, I must admit that as
a young freshman, I longed to find a group of girls who would be my
community service and social events to further reach our goals. We
hope that Sigma Psi Zeta will become another positive outlet for Asian
Americans and women.
While many individuals and organizations have welcomed our
best friends at Stanford, but I ruled out sororities as an option because arrival, others in the Asian community have also questioned our
of my stubborn biases. Three years later, I became a founder of SYZ, intentions. More specifically, many wonder about our relationship
and now, crazily enough, am with alpha Kappa Delta Phi. Let
writing an article on how great I me clarify.
believe this sorority is. Left, The Alpha Class From the very beginning, SYZ
(from left: Stephanie
Ladies and gentlemen, let me has respected the kdphi’s for their
Nguyen, Wenfei Xie,
introduce to you: Sigma Psi Zeta. and Leslie Liang) and contributions to the Stanford
Based on the East Coast, SYZ is below, the Charter community. The fact is, there is a
an Asian American sorority Class (Allison Gaw, large Asian American population
founded at the University in Hanna Chiou, Alice on campus, and a single sorority
Albany, NY in 1993. As an interest Siu, Miki Nguyen, cannot cater to the needs of all
group, the Stanford charter class Jenny Truong, Yvonne Asian American women. In
felt an immediate bond with SYZ Hung, and Jamie establishing SYZ, we aspire to
though the values of Funamura) at promote and expose diversity
Installations in April.
independence and unity, and within the Asian community. We
believed that SYZ would most are not the antithesis of the
benefit the Stanford community. kdphi’s, nor do we want to
After a long administrative compete with them. In fact,
process, the University officially through our individual friendships
recognized us this winter quarter. with kdphi sisters, we find them
We are the first chapter on the to be truly inspirational women.
West Coast. We hope that we can work
Currently there are ten active together in the near future as
sisters: Jenny Truong, Hanna representative organizations in
Chiou, Alice Siu, Jamie Funamura, the Asian community.
photo courtesy of Wenfei Xie

Miki Nguyen, Allison Gaw, Wenfei I would now like to speak about
Xie, Stephanie Nguyen, Leslie my personal experience as an SYZ.
Liang, and me. Together, we work Although my friends and I
towards two main goals. The first occasionally make fun of my new
is to combat violence against sorority status and I still refrain
women. We are one of the first from wearing Greek letters unless
student groups on campus to address this issue, which is pertinent to mandatory, I must admit that Sigma Psi Zeta has enhanced my life at
both the Asian community, with its roots in a culture of tradition, and Stanford. The stereotypical image of sorority girls is not applicable. I
the Stanford community. Second, we aim to celebrate diversity by find my sisters down to earth, intelligent, outspoken, ambitious, and
uniting Greek and Non-Greek, as well as Asian and Non-Asian just cool. If it weren’t for SYZ, I don’t think I would have met them or
organizations. Our goal is to counter the stereotypes associated with love them the way I do now. SYZ has made me re-evaluate my priorities.
Greek organizations and “Asian cliques” by actively reaching out to As Stanford students, sometimes we consume ourselves in academics,
other groups, both on and off campus. but SYZ has reminded me that interests and friendships are more
So far, we have worked with the Women’s Center, Vaden, Palo Alto important. As graduation approaches, it is my sorority memories and
Police Department, the Asian American Activities Center, Asian lifelong friendships that will stay with me. In my opinion, sisterhood
Americans for Community Involvement, and the Multicultural is by far the most genuine offer SYZ can give to the community. 

communicasians 15
on campus

The Asian Language Phenomenon:

Just a Fetish, an Intellectual Pursuit,
or the Latest Trend?
by Sarah Teng rugs…right down to those little temporary Phi, has taken four quarters of Mandarin at
tattoos of Chinese characters, $1.99 for two. Stanford. “I chose to learn Mandarin, because

s I walk through the mall with a friend, Let’s face it: right now, it’s “trendy” to be I am fairly sure that I want to settle in Los
no matter where we look, we are Asian. Reflecting the increasing popularity Angeles,” she said. “Already being semi-
bombarded. With racks of skimpy- of being Asian is the enrollment in Asian fluent in Spanish, I figured that if I became
looking, pseudo-traditional Asian language classes at Stanford, which has proficient in Mandarin, too, I would be able
floral clubbing tops. By the guy at the food increased noticeably in the past few years. to help an even greater proportion of the city’s
court handing out tooth-picked fast food And it is not just Asians taking these classes, population when I join the workforce as a
samples of sesame chicken from Panda plenty of non-Asians are signing up as well. lawyer or a non-profit worker.”
Express. In shops selling Asian art, oriental The increasing global power of Asia and Paloma also suggested that the Western
its importance in future careers seems to be a fascination with Asian culture in general has
prominent reason for many non-Asian been ongoing for centuries. “I think that
students’ decisions to study an people in the ‘West’ have exoticized Asian
Asian language. culture for centuries. I think the difference is
Freshman Sean Laurie is now that Americans of non-Asian descent
taking Japanese in order to have greater access to language classes and
prepare for a career in neatly packaged Americanized
video game design, an representations of ‘Asian’ culture…
industry that is based Americanized ‘Asian’ food, trinkets in ethnic
mostly in Japan. “I decided enclaves, pop music, clothes,” Paloma said.
to take Japanese because I “Many Americans who aren’t Asian take
plan to become part of the Asian languages because they perceive them
video game designing as very different from English and the
industry in the near future, Romance languages…and as a way to
and most major distinguish themselves as more unique.”
companies are in Japan,” Sophomore Linda Tran, believes the
Sean said. “To learn fascination with the “exoticism” of Asian
Japanese will be a step culture is due to some people, particularly
that will set me on the right white people, having an almost overly
path to becoming a video obsessive interest in Asian culture because
game designer.” they themselves lack a distinct culture. “We

“I originally star ted taking Mandarin because I fig-

ured I would score points with Chinese parents if I
ever dated a Chinese American Girl.”

Paloma Rosenbaum, a half- The

must ask orginated
Manipuri ourselves
in the why non-Asians
12th century and is
Chicano/half-white senior based on the balanced
commodify movements
our culture, drapeofthemselves
both sides ofin
majoring in Comparative the body.
traditional Asian clothing, pride themselves
Studies in Race and Ethnicity, on being an expert on Asian ‘gourmet’ food,
and member of Asian-interest or collect Asian art, as if it’s trendy to be
sorority alpha Kappa Delta Asian,” she said.

16 communicasians Dressed in
on campus

This Quarter on Campus

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

Spring Quarter abounded in a host of events on Asia and performances by Asian groups. Some memorable
South Asian Awareness Week: Ranging from a talk on South Asian nuclear politics by Professor Scott Sagan
to South Asian women’s activism, LGBT South Asians, and a discussion and workshop with Shona Ramaya,
acclaimed author of Operation Monsoon, South Asia week sizzled with information and discussion on the overlooked
Asians, culminating in a ‘Raas for Relief’ concert and spectacular Bhangra party.
North Korea Human Rights Week: A benefit concert, letter-writing campaigns,
a talk by James Lilley, former U.S. Ambassador to North Korea and China, and Lion dancers in
documentary screenings all served to help students identify with the atrocious the first ever
human rights violations occurring in North Korea. Vietnamese
Culture Night
API Heritage Month: The above events and many others fell under the
general umbrella of API Month celebrations that also included the AASA fashion
show, the first ever Vietnamese Culture Night, the first ever Japanese Culture
Night, AASA semi-formal, Stanford Asian-American film festival and other exciting
events. Another notable event was the Taiko concert on May 8th featuring
Noopur, the Indian ‘Bharatnatyam’ dance troupe in a breathtaking blend of
Japanese drums and Indian classical dance.

photo by Stephanie Nguyen

Movement to institute a Filipino Studies Department: Supported by
Professor David Palumbo-Liu and started by Brenda Bantados, this initiative
seeks to fill the need for a Filipino/a Studies Department and major at Stanford
University. Stay tuned for more updates!

Linda also touched upon a more However, other accounts from non-Asians Another Caucasian male student, John
controversial motive for non-Asians who take enrolled in Asian language classes verify that (not his real name), admits something along
Asian language classes – an obsession with some use the classes to not only to improve the same lines. “I originally took Chinese to
the Asian race in a more sexual manner, better their knowledge, but their social lives as well. ‘get in better’ with my ex-girlfriend’s
known as the Asian fetish. “Although you Zachary Levine, a Caucasian senior at family…to be more accepted by their culture,”
can always use the disclaimer that some Stanford, confessed, “I originally started he said. “I hate the term ‘Asian fetish’ applied
people are genuinely interested in and want taking Mandarin because I figured I would to myself, and my friends know that it’s not
to study an Asian language, the fact remains score points with Chinese parents if I ever true. However, there are some non-Asian
that there are those who fetishize Asian culture dated a Chinese American girl.” people who will go after any Asian girl just
in general,” Linda said. because they think it is ‘a dream come true.’”
Paloma echoed Linda’s thoughts, saying, “I’m not saying it’s bad, and I’m not saying
“I think the Asian fetish in dating is similar, it’s good,” says a student who also wishes to
though a little more extreme and coupled with remain anonymous. “I’m not saying all non-
male Americans’ search for sexual power. Asians interested in Asian culture have or
Sometimes, non-Asian men seem to use don’t have a fetish either. But the first thing
Chinese language classes to find dates who we need to do is ask ourselves ‘why’ in
are Asian women.” order to understand.”
Sophomore Brett Hudson, who is an Perhaps by asking
African-American student taking Japanese, why and
takes offense to claims that non-Asian men examining the
use language classes to fuel their fetishes. underlying
He declared, “I don’t have a fetish. I’m taking reasons, we can
Japanese because Japan is really big in terms eventually change
of economical power, and I’m going to find it perceptions and
helpful if I go into international business.” help Asian culture
become more than just
a trend. 
communicasians 17

Anime: More Than a Cartoon

A Japanese art’s influence on American pop culture
by Christine Yang elaborate cartoon, no different
than Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry.

was in middle school when first introduced to anime. I was one To classify it as such, however,
day innocently flipping through the channels when I stumbled would be a hasty error in judgment.
across an episode of the newly subbed Sailor Moon S. After The earliest anime came from
watching thirty minutes of sweat drops, face plants, and cheesy mangas (graphic novels) of pre-
transformation sequences with even cheesier battle poses, I snorted World War II Japan, and some of the earliest
scornfully, decided that anime was simply too stupid to be worth my animes were created as propaganda tools during
while, and the war. An
quickly changed example of this is
the channel. Six “The days of anime as a marginalized phenom- Momotaro no
years later, I find Umiwashi, which
myself with an enon are long gone. With TV stations...releasing depicted
ever-growing series after series, these cartoons have integrated furry animals
collection of on a fleet of
mangas, resin themselves fully into the pop culture landsape.” ships battling
models, 15 Americans, a
different series, cartoon
plushies, keychains, artbooks, CDs, posters, calendars…you name it, created to represent the attack on
I have it. So then, how is it that I, once an avid opponent of all that Pearl Harbor. Anime made its way
was wide eyed and long legged, became such a die-hard fan (though over to America in the 1960’s, but was
I hesitate to name myself as an not met with much enthusiasm. It
otaku, or anime fanatic)? And wasn’t until the arrival of animes such
here’s an even more puzzling as Macross (changed to Robotech when
question: how is it that now it was imported) and Voltron that anime
there are innumerable fans of began to gain in popularity. With its
anime whose levels of fancy robots and extravagant battle
obsession match, and even scenes, these series easily caught the
supersede, my own? interest of children. Junior Whalen
Anime, short for Rozelle recollects some of his
Japanimation, has definitely earliest encounters with anime: “It
become a great force in was a cool idea. Robots
American pop culture. On fighting…robots that turned
the surface, anime into cars and planes, how cool
appears to be merely an is that, really? Also, the animation

18 communicasians
was just better than American Network, for example, now has two hour blocks solely devoted to
cartoons. It’s crisper, ASIAN INVOLVEMENT
more lively, AT timeslot.
anime during their Adult Swim STANFORD
just looks better.” Many are drawn to the maturity and complexity that animes possess.
As interest in anime proliferated “Anime is edgier, or at least, those are the ones I watch,” Rozelle says.
through the households of America, “There’s actually a plot, and it’s not always so predictable. People
more series began to be imported. The die. Bad stuff happens. Not everyone is perfect. No prince charming
80’s marked a turning point in the or damsel in distress.”
importation of anime, with the Freshman Richard Luong agrees. “I
emergence of new distributors. started watching when local stations
Through these companies, a wider started broadcasting dubbed anime,
variety of genres was made and I kept with it because often than
available to the growing public. not, they were better than American
However, the main force cartoons. They had plot, character
responsible for bringing anime development, etc, everything crucial
to the US was the fansubbing to a good story.” But for
community. In order to help Luong, it’s even
encourage the importation of deeper. “I also
new series, fansubbers watch anime
obtain animes in their raw because I see it as
Japanese form, add subtitles, a refuge for minorities.
and then distribute them. The With so little publicity of
intent is to raise public Asians in American media,
awareness of anime, but since it’s comforting to know that you’re
this is technically illegal, many being represented.”
only sub and distribute animes that And as for me? Anime is
have not yet had their copyrights far more than just a
bought out by American companies. cartoon. Though there
The days of anime as a marginalized are series that are
phenomenon are long gone. With TV definitely geared
stations, as well as fansubbers, releasing towards children,
series after series, these cartoons have others are far more
integrated themselves fully into the pop complex. The plots
culture landscape. However, there twist and turn, the bad
remains some resistance: Escaflowne guys are not always so bad,
was abruptly taken off the air after it and sometimes there’s even a little
was condemned as too violent for romance thrown in. With the triumph
children. The misperception of of Spirited Away at the Academy Awards,
anime as a silly cartoon for anime has clearly established itself as a
children persists, but even that force to be reckoned with, one will remain a
is slowly being eroded. Cartoon large part of the world of entertainment. 

communicasians 19

Journey Through the Holocaust

Despite reunification, racism still perpetuates in present-day Berlin
Alexanderplatz stretches stark and vacuous on decided firmness from the blunders of the past. ‘We are not responsible
every side of the Park Inn hotel. It is a plaza for what our parents did,’ one middle-aged woman informed me. In
dimly peppered with beer and bratwurst stalls fact, the end of the War is treated not as a defeat, but as ‘the liberation
and a prim little fountain spurting in the middle. of the German people from the tyranny of Adolf Hitler,’ an ingenious
The brilliance of the wintry sun glints off the and perhaps necessary absolution of responsibility and personal
immaculately paved courtyard. The dust agency. Historically, culturally and politically, Berlin is a queer
settles slowly, creating an aura of sheerness conglomeration of sorts. It is constantly struggling to shrug off its
and sterility that is almost menacing. A few tainted past, like an unwanted scab, an effort heightened by the will of
people are loitering in scarves and parkas. the German government to make amends.
Ashni Mohnot They are mostly Stanford students, in Berlin The most striking monument to the regret and guilt of the war is the
for the winter quarter World War II conference, newly built Judisches (Jewish) Museum in Berlin. Housed in a modern
listening intently to their tour guide narrate the turbulent history of steel structure, with sharp angles and sleek curves (like much of Berlin
former East Berlin. architecture) are two exhibits that succinctly encapsulate the kernel
It’s been 15 years since Alexanderplatz raged red with the power of of the Holocaust experience. On entering the museum, my attention
the Moscow Kremlin poised was arrested by the
like a guillotine over the Holocaust Tower, a tall
heads of its citizens, as the angular room with a sliver of
crème of the Communist “Historically, culturally and politically, Berlin is a light slicing into the darkness
government strode through queer conglomeration of sor ts. It is constantly from a narrow window
the corridors of the Park Inn. somewhere high up in the
15 years since the Berlin wall, struggling to shrug off its tainted past, like an ceiling. I walked in and the
a stone’s throw away from unwanted scab...” door shut with a hollow
the Brandenburg Gate, was clang. I heard echoes from
demolished by a sobbing outside the enclosure but
throng of people, cheering they seemed to bounce off
for the freedom and peace symbolized by America. The ghosts of the the outside wall, never fully penetrating my consciousness. I heard
city’s Nazi past and its newly reunited halves are ever present. It was snatches of laughter, but they circled the exterior of those walls and
only recently that East and West Berlin, slaughtered between two mocking, quietly slipped into oblivion. This is how they must have
ideologies pitted against each other, were made one. Berlin is the felt, those bolted into camps as Prisoners of the War, not seeing,
breeding ground of the most defining events of the 20th century. barely hearing, boxed off from the normal world and yearning for it. It
Interestingly, the current generation of Germans dissociates itself with was sobering, to say the least.

20 communicasians

The other exhibit that stands ineffaceable in my memory is by an People like me? Who are these people like me? The ones with
Israeli artist whose name I cannot remember. It comprised a long tunnel, brown skin or for that matter, the ones with black skin or slanted eyes,
partially lit, stretching into darkness. The floor of the tunnel was littered the ones who are of a different sexual orientation, or the ones who
with metal faces of different sizes and expressions. Thousands of defy social convention simply by existing as themselves. The people
these nameless faces, relics of a past quite fresh in Berlin, stared who the neo-Nazis of East Berlin wouldn’t think twice about
dumbly at visitors. The artist’s explanation of his work requested exterminating, because, though we collectively form a majority in the
visitors to walk on it – walk on the faces of those that died, those that world, we are different human beings because we look different. And
were never remembered and also never forgotten. It was impossible despite the constant pressure on German politicians to compensate
and I could not do it; the famous picture that came to mind was Orwell’s for their heinous past, it was in the implicit lingering of racism that my
callous image of a boot-heel grinding into a human face. It many varied impressions of Berlin coalesced – its barren construction steel
ways, his construction captures the sheer powerlessness of those buildings, its remnants of Communism, its stark white spaces that
crushed by the totalitarian unfolded into an empty
regime of his imagination distance, and its compact,
in 1984 and by Hitler’s self-contained people.
authoritarianism of the “People like me? Who are these people like me? The To be entirely fair, I will
30s and 40s. ones with brown skin for that matter, the ones with admit that these are
The Sachsenhausen simply first impressions
concentration camp black skin or slanted eyes, the ones who are of a and should be taken as
however, reeked of the different sexual orientation, or the ones who defy such, and as nothing
calculative reality of the more. In fact, I’d like to
War. Long, low grey social convention simply by existing as themselves.” make a distinction
buildings lay stretched between the lingering
felinely in every direction. neo-Nazis and the rest of
Within their bellies lay coiled a potent power to harm, that if released Berlin’s population. There are racist people in every country and Berlin’s
would consume not only the Jews but also me, as an Asian. For the general population, for the most part, conscious of the reputation
first time, I began thinking of the broader implications of these their city has garnered, is extra cautious about racial sensitivity. A
atrocities. Wandering around Sachsenhausen, it dawned on me that friend who was part of the Stanford Berlin program last fall, was utterly
my Indian heritage would, in the 40s, have been as abhorrent to Hitler impressed by the friendliness of the people and the sense of safety
as a Jewish background, a realisation that hasn’t ceased to terrify me she felt imbued with in Berlin that she could not regain in America.
since. It tinged all my experiences in Berlin that weekend with a macabre Perhaps, she suggested, it is only parts of former East Berlin that hold
sadism. Somehow, Berlin has not managed to rid itself of its reputation; these strong racist views; the pattern was certainly not replicated in
some students within our group were even called racist slurs. The the areas she lived in.
eerie homogeneity of the eastern sector was also disturbing; there I’d like to go back to Berlin someday and explore the city more
was barely a coloured face in the smattering of white people on the thoroughly than three days allowed me. In fact, I am sure I will be
street. I was even warned by a professor from the Moscow program to proven wrong about the racist undercurrents in modern day Berlin for
avoid certain areas of Berlin because “this is the place where Nazism I cannot imagine any place on earth that cannot see how we are all
existed...You are brown; they might not like people like you.” lighter shades of black and darker shades of white. 

Photos by Ashni Mohnot

communicasians 21

The Freshman Experience, Part 3

They sure weren’t kidding when they told me to watch out for spring fever...
When upperclassmen tell me spring quarter is the best, they are
right. It is great: nice weather, longer days, fewer units and, of
course, the upcoming summer. What’s not to love?
This is also the perfect time to reflect on my not having to rush from place to place. Unfortunately, cutting down
freshman year. I began this quarter just like on units did come at the expense of dropping one of my favorite
every other freshman. I had no sense of classes, Piano. For the past eleven or so years, piano has been my
direction on this vast campus – I even got biggest passion. It was a difficult decision, but I am taking a chance
Tracy Li Cheung lost in Wilbur Hall, often confusing other because I want to explore other opportunities here at Stanford. It was
dorms for Junipero. And I was overwhelmed hard for me to take a break from something I’ve been devoted to for
with all the organizations to join while also trying to meet new people. almost all my life, but I think it’ll be beneficial in the long run. I’m not
Does this sound familiar? However, I can now say that I am pretty too worried though because I know this is just a hiatus. I’ll most
well adjusted and although I am still a bit clueless, I have a better idea likely resume lessons next year.
as to what I enjoy doing here and what makes me happy at Stanford. Having more time also allowed me to ruminate on more “serious”
Last quarter, I made the mistake of taking twenty units, and by the matters. Although I was initially resistant to my friends’ invitations
end, I was feeling overwhelmed preparing for four finals. I recall my to Bible study and church services, I have come to discover
inefficiency as I stayed up trying to study for both my Physics and religious life on campus, but on my own terms. At home, I went to
IHUM finals at once. When I walked out of my last final, IHUM, I church on high holy holidays but it was more of an obligation than
breathed a sigh of relief as I biked home enjoying the refreshing night of my own accord. Recently, however, I’ve been attending public
air. This quarter, the first amendment to my schedule was to shave worship on my own at MemChu on Sundays. I’m not completely
some units. Now, I have a grand total of 16 units and it feels like a certain about my religious beliefs, but I know I enjoy listening to
huge burden has been lifted. Instead of having classes from 10 to the rich organ, taking part in communion, and singing hymns. Even
four on Fridays, I only have two classes and I can walk instead when I am not in church or worship, I feel the benefits throughout
of biking everywhere. It’s great the week. It has made me a more positive person – I hold fewer
grudges and I am more grateful for what I have. Although I’m
still not completely sure the role

f e l l o w New Yo
n g with m
Ch i l l i Kate
Paul and I
are a little
delirious aft
er the Boat
22 communicasians

religion plays in my life, I know that I find much happiness in being about things outside the realm of academics, I realize it’s so easy to
spiritual. It may sound cheesy, but if it brings me happiness, it’s get caught up in work and forget about a lot of other important things.
reason enough for me to believe in it. I’ve come to appreciate the things I took for granted in the past. I will
Something else that has dawned upon me is how lucky I am to continue exploring different interests, and hopefully I will find or
bring part of my past into the present. My older brother, Eric, is a develop a passion. So to conclude the final installment of my freshman
junior here. Since I hail from the East Coast, seeing Eric really makes experience, I hope everyone has had as much fun as I have had and I’ll
home seem one step closer, which has enriched my freshman see you around next year as a sophomore! 
experience. One of the coolest things about starting college
is meeting new people, but it’s always comforting to talk to
somebody who knows the “you” from your past just as well
as the “you” in the present. When I hang out with my brother,
I inevitably think of my high school memories and the people
who shaped my childhood experiences. I think one of the
consequences of coming to college for many students is that
it’s easy to lose touch with old friends, but I’m lucky to have
one of my closest New York buddies in the freshman class
with me. She lives in another dorm in Wilbur, so I get to see
her frequently and we always reminisce and giggle about the
summers we shared in high school. So, I’m glad that even
while I’m living a new chapter in my life, I have my brother
and friend from home to share it with me.
So far, spring has been my best quarter yet. We’re lucky
to be wearing shorts and T-shirts while those at east coast
schools (such as some of my unlucky friends) are still bundled
up in jackets and sweaters. But not only that, Spring Quarter
has afforded me the chance to try new things and the time to
think about things I normally wouldn’t think about. Stanford
has so much to offer it can be hard to step back and put
Jea and I aren’t too
things in perspective, but what I realized is that what goes old to hang
on outside of class is just as important as what goes on in out at the playground
class. Now that I have more time to think .

cour te
sy of T
racy Li

e t a king m
l u c k y to b
t h e math re
er? We .
’re i n
e n you’
y b r o t h wh
with m ere eet each.
quad h is s w
Life he b
at t
communicasians 23

Senior Reflection

Big-up, Keep it Real, and Goodbye!

As I sat outside on the Sunday morning of would pass. There will be no second boba for me, thank you. I’ve
Admit Weekend, waiting for the church van had quite a run here at Stanford, and as my pal William Hung would
to come pick me up, I watched as the little say, “I have no regrets at all.”
ProFros came out with their bags of luggage,
exhausted from a weekend of craziness and Big-ups
eager to get home. I remember that feeling, Big-up to Vince, my Taiwanese brother, frosh roommate, and
that feeling of tired happiness, knowing that future housemate. I remember freshman move-in day—you wouldn’t
all the fun you’re about to have in your last believe how relieved I was to find that I would be rooming with a
weeks as a senior in high school will but fellow TPer! Thanks for all the good times—teaching me a new
Patrick Chen pale in comparison to the experience you’ll level of vulgarity, introducing me to CS/WC, and complaining with
have in your next four years at Stanford. It me about the lack of girlfriends. It’s been a great four years, and I
is this exact moment at which you can look to the past, present, and look forward to the next, even though you’ll be i-banking your life
future, and be wholly satisfied with your life. It is this exact instant away!
in time that may be considered one of the happiest moments of your Big-up to my bro Drew, the Korean Pony and honorary member
life thus far. of Team Greater China. Even though you jacked me during soph
As I sat there, watching these ProFros soak in the warm California year draw, even though you ditched me that time your parents came
sun and wait for the airport shuttle to come and whisk them off to for dinner freshman year, and even though you so often pass gas in
the carefree days of high my car and/or room, you are
school senioritis, I felt just a still my bro. It’s too bad you’re
tinge of envy. Just a tinge. For leaving for VA. I will miss your
although I too am ending my seasonal tennis/guitar/skiing
days as a senior, I am fickleness, and I will especially
embarking on an adventure far miss flossing my toes on your
different from that of a pillow. Thanks for teaching me
ProFro’s. The next four years the ways of Corea, and I hope
of my life will not be filled with you will be back next year!
hall water balloon fights or late Big-up to my HK bro Ma-
night Pho runs, but will instead Hung-Lo, aka Theo. I will
be filled with something called never forget those late night
“work,” an ancient Greek word iAD meetings and all of our
meaning, “what the hell am I dreams to work together in the
doing with my life?” Instead future. It’s too bad it didn’t
of talking with drawmates into work out in the end, but at least
photo courtesy of Patrick Chen

the wee hours of the morning, we have those memories.

I will be asleep by midnight, Thanks for putting up with all
every night. Instead of falling the jokes and always being up
asleep in my 10am class, I will for a WC/Halo/Wolfenstein
be pulling my leg hairs out so match. I still remember the time
my boss won’t catch me nodding off. And though it sounds like I you taught us that “halt” in German meant “halt” in English. Good
am deathly afraid of the prospect of becoming yet another Peter times, man. Have a safe trip back to HK, and on my next Asia trip,
Gibbons with a “case of the Mondays” … I think I’ll be okay. I’m paying your ass a visit!
Sure, I’m going to miss college like crazy, but I feel like it’s time Big-up to my freshman suitemate, the SC Rebel, the Cauc-ASIAN,
for this chapter of my life to close. It’s kind of like that perfect cup of Jon Parr. You have been the coolest token white friend an Asian
boba. Every sip of tea and every pearl is just what you wanted, and guy could ask for. Thanks for always being up for a boba run and
when you’ve finally finished off the cup, you couldn’t possibly go teaching me the ways of capping. BAH! BAH! BADOO! Take care
for anymore. (Trust me, two cups in one day is not the way to go. of Drew next year, and make sure he stays Asian at heart—just like
That second one just ain’t the same.) you. Have a great time in med school, and I’ll see you in SC in July!
Like a great cup of boba, my college experience has filled me with Don’t forget, you promised I could go hunting!
such happiness and satisfaction; I haven’t any desire for more. Finally, big-up to FiCS. It is through FiCS that I found a grounding
These past four years at Stanford have truly been the best of my in life. There are too many good times and good friends to fit into
life, where I’ve made lifelong friendships and unforgettable this one little blurb, so I leave it at this—Thanks for everything. I’ll
memories. If given the chance to do it all again, I’m pretty sure I miss you guys. 

24 communicasians
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Palo Alto, CA
Permit No. 187


Published by the Asian American Activities Center, Old Union Clubhouse, Room 13, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
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