What I Learned From My Chinese Heritage

What I Learned From My Chinese Heritage

And why I'm proud of it.
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We are burning zhiqian again.

My dad drags a lighter gently across the joss paper stack's edges, and flames leap to interrupt the blue-bruised twilight. The zhiqian curl, fire hungrily charring their edges, outlining dad’s face in a tapestry of blood red and ebony. My mom and I hold each other's hands as we both think of gonggong, my grandpa. We remember different things, but our pain is the same: sharp and bitter, infused with a tinge of sweetness like an amplified aftertaste of tieguanyin tea. It has been seven years, and every year, we light the zhiqian, and every year, I worry that the memories will fade. Still, as the zhiqian rustle, I know gonggong’s essence will not.

We used to worry about running out of zhiqian, but being a Chinese-American in Southern California means that a one-hour drive teleports us to Chinatown. There, zhiqian is sold in fat bundles at variety stores along with fake jian that hang so low from the ceiling, their blades skim the part in my hair. None of the jian is worth buying, though. Years of Kung Fu have taught me that the only cheap sword worth unsheathing is one I make myself. Nonetheless, even the masters, our shifu, aren't immune to the cultural love for haggling--anything is too expensive, after all, until it is free.

Shifu also tell us that meditation is the antidote to time, and as I grow as a budding Buddhist, I believe it. When I miss my gonggong, I meditate. When my heart spins, restless with a stupefying thirst to watch the ice castles in Harbin glow as I dance in layers of storm-shadowed snow jackets, my breath smearing the air in arabesque beneath stars as bright as the zhiqian fire, I meditate. Time moves ceaselessly forward, but my culture has taught me that we progress only when we stop to reflect.

A famous Chinese proverb says that a bird doesn't sing because it has an answer—it sings because it has a song. Just as meditation teaches me humility through reflections, Chinese music has taught me vulnerability through its earnestness. My erhu can unleash the wail of a river, though it is not my bow but the soul stitched into rhythms thousands of years old that makes it sing. Amidst the music, I forget to pretend to feel nothing. In the songs of my ethnic minority group, buyi, my emotions betray me again, and I’m left as breathless by the poetry of culture as I am by its ability to so utterly understand me. Not just with music, but with land. For though buyi represent only 0.02 percent of the Chinese population, our home province, Guizhou, boasts jade mountains, bamboo-studded hills, and rivers gleaming in rain-chilled sunlight like silk. The land has so little meaning on a map but so much meaning in my head. It reminds me that the tiny is mighty, the heart is huge and the human is wonderfully small.

The night we burned the zhiqian, I told gonggong my dreams. I told him about this culture that has taught me that I am not singular but plural; that I am the sunset on one side of the world and the sunrise on the other; that I am the legacy of the Tang Dynasty and the carver of the modern odyssey; that I am a child of the dragons and an awe-brimmed cosmopolitan. I told him, with eyes closed but heart opened, that my dream was to make this a world deserving of the beauty my culture has helped me see: quiet love, reflectivity and soul-deep vulnerability.



Glossary (in order of appearance, with links to the Wikipedia entry when useful):

Zhiqian: Joss paper, essentially fake money burnt as offerings/blessings to the dead

Gonggong: Maternal grandpa

Tieguanyin: A type of Chinese oolong tea

Jian: Chinese sword

Shifu: Masters, usually used in martial arts to refer to the teachers (think Kung Fu Panda--Master Oogway)

Harbin: Capital city of the Heilongjiang province in northeastern China, famous for its ice sculptures

Erhu: Chinese fiddle, a two-stringed instrument usually used to play traditional Chinese music

Buyi: One of China's 56 ethnicities, considered an ethnic minority

Guizhou: A province in southwestern China



Cover Image Credit: Moonglass Studios

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.
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It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).



2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!


3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).


Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).


5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).





6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.


7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.


This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.


Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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Football Players Aren't Kneeling To 'Disrespect The Flag,' They're Kneeling Because People Are Being Killed

It seems like every day there is another unjustified police shooting against a minority. And that is exactly what the NFL players that kneel are trying to bring awareness to.

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If you have been watching the news this past football season, then you had to have heard about all the kneeling controversy. if you are confused or haven't heard about it don't worry, I will make it easy for you to understand. Back in 2016 Colin Kaepernick, a player for the San Francisco 49ers at the time, began to sit then eventually kneel, every time the National Anthem was sung. Once the media got ahold of this it was like a wildfire. Other teams and players that understood why Colin was doing it and began to do it too. It took off so much that even newscasters began to argue about it.

What the media, politicians, news crews, and some people in general don't understand is that these football players ARE NOT kneeling with intent to disrespect the American flag, the National Anthem, or our vets. They kneel to bring awareness to the growing issue of police brutality we have going on in our country. We all have to admit that lately the only things that have been in the news a lot are things about police shootings. Especially "accidental" killings against minorities.

Many of these protests started with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. But now they have escalated. It seems like every day there is another unjustified police shooting against a minority. And that is exactly what the NFL players that kneel are trying to bring awareness to. Since kneeling Colin Kaepernick was dropped by the 49ers and has literally been blackballed, no team has picked him up. Not because he isn't a good player, he is actually very good at football, but because the team knows that if they pick him up, Colin will kneel. And that will bring unwanted attention to said team.

Now that about two seasons have gone by and players are still kneeling, President Trump has gotten in on the commentary action. His comments have sparked more attention to these kneeling players and a lot of dislike towards them. Which is wrong, clearly people do not understand why the players are protesting. Although it seems like from these comments the NFL has decided to make a new rule about the National Anthem, whoever tries to kneel or sit will be heavily fined.

This new rule has brought on a lot more controversy. Although I believe Malcolm Jenkins from the Philadelphia Eagles said it best in his You Aren't Listening interview. He gave facts as to why players kneel, these were some of the facts,

Approximately 60% of people in prison are people of color. In 2018, almost 500 people have been killed by police thus far. The US population is made up of 8% African American males & now 25% of African American males have been shot and killed.

These were just a few of the facts. There are many more out there that are very outstanding. Start listening. It's not about disrespect, its about bringing awareness. I want you to keep those facts in mind the next time you see someone kneeling or sitting when the National Anthem is being played.

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https://unsplash.com/photos/iWv-bGqUfao

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