LET THE WORDS FALL OUT
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
MIND OVER MATTER
BREAKING THE SILENCE
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Maureen Mariano editor-in-chief • Patricia Potestades managing editor • Jina Choi creative director • Michelle Leute content editor • Mary Elysee “Mae” Velasco design editor • Peter Vo photography editor • Jimmy Moy finance director • Shannon Tai finance director • Kim Dang programming director • Tanaka “Tiki” Dang programming director • Alan Yang online director • June Lee multimedia editor
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Patrick Emralino online writer • Samrenee’ Green multimedia committee • Alicia Soller staff
writer • Erie Uy staff photographer • Zaina Sheets staff photographer • Annie Yin multimedia committee • Danielle Shu staff photographer • Mario Cediel staff photographer • Narayan Kulkarni online writer • Phillip Hayes designer • Cresonia Hsieh staff writer • Jocelyn Flores staff writer • Rachel Lo designer • Marcus Degnan staff writer
NOT PICTURED: Stephanie Wong online writer • Cori Foster promotions director • DanQing Huang online writer
• Lisa Lu promotions director • Yishui Chen staff photographer • Ali Petsopoulos staff photographer • Priya Kamath online writer • Marilé Quintana multimedia committee • Rachel Han staff writer • Jason Liu exapansion director • Denise Lau designer • Crystal Nguyen designer • Erika Choi staff photographer • Trung Phan staff photographer 04 || SPARKS ISSUE NO. 5 “UNSPOKEN”
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear reader, It didn’t take much to stand out at Archbishop Curley-Notre Dame High School — a small Catholic institution, nestled in the heart of Miami’s Design District aka Little Haiti — as one of nine other Asians among a sea of predominantly black and Hispanic students. We simply looked different, and that alone was enough to set us apart. I was lucky to have my best friends, Allison Gatchalian and Jessica Velasco, who are also Filipino, by my side during our tumultuous high school years. Collectively, we were known as the “Asian Dolls,” a term coined by our 400-member student body. It was cute and rather flattering as measly freshmen wanting to fit in, until we realized we were doing ourselves a disservice by accepting a label based on our long black hair, slanted eyes and porcelain skin (theirs not mine). As we began to break out of our collective identity and speak up for ourselves individually, everyone else followed. And as I transitioned into the role of editor-in-chief of Sparks, I recognized the same systematic approach to power dynamics: those who stand up for who they are and what they believe in can make a difference. Our fifth issue explores topics that are rarely talked about within the Asian American community. From confronting the HIV stigma to shedding light on domestic violence, these stories aim to educate and empower our readers so that they, too, can make a difference. My past and present experiences have taught me that rules are meant to be broken; ideas are meant to be challenged. So, as you flip through these pages, I hope you not only find inspiration, but also the realization that every person has a voice — worthy of respect and dignity — that should never go unspoken.
Maureen Mariano Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org SPARKS ISSUE NO. 5 “UNSPOKEN” || 05
ASIAN AMERICANS AND ALCOHOL ABUSE WRITTEN BY JOCELYN FLORES || PHOTOGRAPHED BY DANIELLE SHU || DESIGNED BY RACHEL LO
He enjoyed every minute — the laughing,
He climbed over the fence and broke his ankle on the landing. At the time, he dancing and stumbling of people in crowded thought it was just a sprain, so he ignored rooms. Everything seemed to blur, including the swelling. his troubles.
When it was time to go home, his friend, Adam Olsen* looked forward to going out who was to drive his car, set off the car and drinking, especially after he got back alarm. Olsen had failed to let him know from his first deployment. his car had gone through some renovations that left his security system damaged. “Things were easy ‘cause I had money to spend on alcohol, and I lived with guys,” he He tried to solve the problem himself by said. “I would come home each night and getting into the driver’s seat and cruising drink a six-pack with them, just to relax and around until the alarm turned off, but his socialize.” plan was cut short when the police pulled him over. Back then, he drank because of the social setting it provided. Now, at 28, he doesn’t After a trip to the hospital, Olsen was takconsider himself an alcohol addict, but he en to jail and charged with a DUI. said his excessive drinking habits may have been caused by his friends and the army. “It was the worst feeling ever,” he said. “It was like a bad dream.” “I was addicted to having fun and wanting to hang out with friends,” he said. Since his DUI arrest, Olsen has become smarter when it comes to drinking alcohol. Olsen, along with many other Asian Americans, have used drinking to cope with life’s He only drinks if he has a place to stay or a problems and everyday demands. While rearide home. He also believes in pacing himsons of alcohol abuse may differ, one thing self, shying away from shots and sticking to remains: it’s not addressed within the Asian a couple beers. American community. Olsen’s parents have a history with alcohol as well. When he was in high school, his mother, who is Korean, separated from his father, who is Caucasian. Suffering, she turned to alcohol and would come home drunk. But his father always had a drinking problem. Although he doesn’t want to be like him, he was close to following his footsteps in 2007, when Olsen, then 22, was arrested for drunken driving in Jacksonville.
Dr. Choi Chun-Chung, a licensed psychologist at the University of Florida, has worked with about 20 percent of Asian Americans with alcohol issues during her eight years at the university.
Chun-Chung said that many Asian Americans seek help for issues other than alcohol, and it’s only until later that he realizes it’s alcohol abuse. He said the majority of students he sees will say, “Oh, by the way, I have this [alcoholic] problem.”
He and his friends went to a sushi restauChun-Chung said that he didn’t find out rant, where they got free Sake shots. Later, about one Asian American patient’s alcothey went downtown, stopping at a nearby hol abuse until her senior year. Irish pub before heading to the beach. She turned to alcohol to cope with her Olsen was intoxicated and gave his keys to failing grades at UF, he said, unlike stua friend after they decided to go to a closed dents who come in with alcohol problems pier. to seek treatment due to legal or conduct
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issues. Many Asian Americans feel less Asian among their peers when they perform poorly in school. As a result, they keep things hidden from their friends and family. With no proper coping strategy, students may turn to alcohol, he said. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders were less likely than persons of other racial and ethnic groups to need alcohol or illicit drug use treatment.” Joan Scully, a licensed clinical social worker at the UF Counseling & Wellness Center, said she thinks those statistics are misleading. “It’s a cultural norm not to ask for help”, she said. First-generation students, especially those in pre-professional or medical programs, are faced with high expectations. As a result of cultural expectations and first generation pressure, many students don’t come out with their problems. Julia Rae Varnes, a health promotion specialist at GatorWell, said a cultural component could play a factor in the percentage of Asians who choose to keep their problems to themselves. She said she believes the study is accurate, because Asian Americans have traditionally been the lowest ethnic group to report or seek help for alcohol abuse from her experience. Varnes said addictions have both a genetic and environmental component. A specific portion of the brain responds to the pleasure, and the environment helps to set off that trigger. Olsen, who seems to have a genetic predisposition toward alcohol, isn’t ashamed of his past. But now that he’s more aware of the consequences, he hopes to be better than his parents. *Name changed upon request.
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“I was addicted to having fun and wanting to hang out with friends,” he said. SPARKS ISSUE NO. 5 “UNSPOKEN” || 07
Saving Grace RELIGION AMONG DIFFERENT GENERATIONS
Last Spring, Alex Koo, a 20-year-old junior psychology major at the University of Florida, went through a crisis in faith when his friend asked him why he believed in the Bible so firmly. Even though he had an answer to his friend’s question, he wondered why he should believe in a book so much. “Is it reliable or accurate enough to risk my whole life living for the message of the Bible?” he asked. This self-doubt really shook his trust in Christianity, and he began an investigation to find assurance in his beliefs. “I was missing the point all along,” Koo said. “For the longest time, I read the Bible. I thought that it was a rulebook of sorts, and I was striving to do all these commandments, and that’s what I thought it meant to be a Christian.” He realized Christianity is not about what he needed from it, but the belief of what Jesus did for him. Koo said going through this period of doubt with Christianity allowed him to have a stronger belief and perspective with his
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faith. Historically, religion has been a dominant aspect of Asian cultures, particularly for immigrant families. Immigrant parents sometimes view religion as a way to find peace in hard times. But for younger generations, their view of religion may be entirely different. Although Koo came from a Christian upbringing through grade school, he never saw Christianity as a serious part of his life until college. He said going to church was more of a social environment, where he could hang out with his friends. As a freshman, he wanted to experience the “college life.” “I felt that growing up in my home, my faith was more of an inherited faith — more of a faith that was transferred to me — simply because it was tradition, not really a reality,” Koo said. When he came to college, he had to ask himself if this was worth his time and something he wanted to live for. He went through a period where he distanced him-
self from his faith and decided to find his own interests. He expected his parents to be shocked and angry, but instead, they accepted his decision. Unlike Koo, Lynn Phu, a 19-year-old sophomore health science major at UF, has had a stable relationship with her faith in Buddhism. Phu said that a lot of her beliefs and practices in Buddhism were mainly influenced from her parents growing up. Her family does not often practice rituals, and she said that she does not believe religion should be something that requires constant practice of faith. Instead, Phu’s approach to Buddhism is more applied to an individual’s way of life. Phu emphasized that unlike other religions, Buddhism is not structured. “There are not a lot of rules or things that you can or cannot do,” she said. “It is more of a decision [in life] that you should or should not strive for.”
|| WRITTEN BY JASON LIU || || PHOTOGRAPHED BY ZAINA SHEETS || || DESIGN CONCEPT BY PHILLIP HAYES || Growing up, Phu learned that these beliefs make a lot of sense. “When things were rough for my parents when they were immigrating here, they really had no hope,” she said. Phu said her mom was able to push through those arduous times and find happiness because of her faith. Seeing her mother’s experience with Buddhism, she has learned that she cannot give up when there are challenges, because there is a reason for why things happen. Similarly to Phu, Antony Rivera, a 20-yearold senior food and resource economics major at UF, applies the morals and teachings of Christianity to his daily life. However, he refuses to believe in the religion itself, despite his strong Roman Catholic upbringing. He began to question his religion around high school when he started understanding more about his parent’s divorce and different subjects in school.
Having worked with science and mathematics, Rivera believes that everything should have tangible results where you can understand how everything works. “With religion you just hope and wish, and you just keep on doing that and you’ll never really explain how anything that you hoped or wished for came into fruition,” he said. “It just didn’t make sense.” Rivera also mentioned that it was a struggle with his parents to accept him not believing in Christianity. “Particularly during my high school years, I would get into my fights with my mom, because I would absolutely refuse to go to church,” he said. “I didn’t think that it really had any real effect in my life or any real purpose.” Rivera believes that you can pray and hope constantly, but if you do not see any results, it makes you wonder.
Rivera’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which is a chronic disease that involves the immune system attacking the central nervous system. He believes this disease has affected his father’s mental stability, describing his actions as “morbid and hypocritical.” As his father’s disease worsened, Rivera said that his dad was not the dad that he grew up with. He was less of a father figure and more paranoid, he said. Rivera wondered how such a devout Christian like his dad could go through this disease and just waste away. As some Asian Americans have found strength in religion on their own, there are still many others, like Rivera, who question it. “If God was so kind, why would he do this to a good person?” he said. “It didn’t make any sense. Why would he do this to my dad?”
This subject — now, an unspoken one between him and his parents — is the reason he and his father are divided even further, and his mother has stopped trying.
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For once in my life, I am left speechless. Truly at a loss of words of how to explain something. And this, my friends, doesn’t happen very often. I find myself grappling this fine Monday morning as I lounge burrito-style (wrapped in a comforter) from a friend’s posh Metro Manila high-rise condo overlooking the business center of the Philippines, consumed with a deadline on the horizon for this very important, yet ultimately, very intricate, complex and perplexing topic that’s got me mentally tossing and turning as if my mind was like those folks in those 24hour flu/cold medicine commercials. You know, the one with Drew Brees or whatever. You see, it’s not that I’ve been procrastinating (well, not entirely). It’s not that I haven’t been busy with my new job teaching, empowering the youth of my motherland, living the shenanigans of your typical 28-year-old searching for her place in the world and having fun while doing it, or just
you know, adjusting to life in a developing nation and shifting my entire being and understanding of the world as I knew it to adapt and survive in my new surroundings. It’s not all those other things that take up space on my proverbial Outlook calendar aka the scraps of paper I write my random “To-Do Lists” on, because life here, for me, is a bit helter-skelter. “Lemme-do-what-Igotta-do-to-get-by” compared to my “gogo-go! efficiency is key” experience in the states. It’s the fact that the topic of crosscultural communication is a doozy. It’s tough. And for this reason and the multifaceted layers upon layers of nuances and complications that throw my mind, spirit and being in a tailspin, I am at a loss for how to even start this piece. But, as with any other great adventure, I suppose you just have to jump right in (after rambling and fumbling around for a few paragraphs).
Let the Words Fall Out EDITORIAL WRITTEN BY LEAH VILLANUEVA || PHOTOGRAPHED BY PETER VO
May I be the first to acknowledge that living for six months in another country, having a little shy of two years as the University of Florida’s first Director of Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs under my belt, and being a woman of color, first-generation American, progeny of an immigrant family in predominantly white environments for 28 years does not make me an expert in cross-cultural communication. These experiences have, however, forced me to constantly come face to face with the complexities of existing in places and spaces in which I was the “other” and have made me conscious of these different systems of power and privilege that are enmeshed in our daily lives. With this awareness, I feel more equipped to handle those delicate, tense, and just downright awkward moments and interactions in my life whether they are in the workplace or in my daily grind with the people around me. Growing up with the experience of being the “other” gives you a different framework from which to understand the world, your interactions with others and yourself. However, this experience is only given to you if you embrace your “otherness” and choose to place and find power in this aspect of you. If you are in any way like me when I was younger, I shunned my cultural identity. I did not place it as an important facet of me and rather conveniently placed it in the back burner of my mind and the expression and manifestation of me. Besides eating food in the privacy of my own house, I did not express my “Filipinaness.” Being teased at school every now and then and being fearful or anxious of my Asianness being put on blast, made me feel less due to my differences. It’s what I subconsciously had to do to, in some aspects, to survive. If I hid my “otherness” by adjusting
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my manners, behavior, values, way of dress and speaking, then I would fit in, not be teased, and finally feel OK and comfortable in my own skin, right? Gets na gets? (Some Taglish for your reading pleasure.) I would gain the acceptance that all of us as human beings (let alone little kids in grade school) seek and crave. But this self-imposed repression of self can really stifle a person’s personal development and essentially lead to a struggle or a fight for your personhood; the right to be your authentic self and be fully embraced and appreciated for all of who you are. And, the omission or watering-down of certain voices to the dialogue that is, in grandiose terms, the fabric of humanity, really just flattens this wonderful, crazy, hot-messthough-beautiful roller coaster known as life.
"Growing up with the experience of being the 'other' gives you a different framework from which to understand the world..." And just as nobody (of legal drinking age, of course) can honestly say they enjoy a good can of Natural Light or any beer that’s basically colored water, aren’t we dulling the experience of life by only exposing our minds and consciousness to a few selected and revered voices out of the many tones of humanity? This is where you come in. We all have a voice. We all have unique thoughts that create a distinct reality for us and every sin-
gle voice is worthy of respect, appreciation and dignity. It’s one of the most fundamental American beliefs: freedom of speech. So I’m encouraging us all to put our voices to work not for our own benefit, but for that of a greater cause. Living abroad and seeing firsthand an intricate blend of power dynamics not only among various ethnic and religious groups, but also between genders and sexual orientations, and, first and foremost, differing ages and classes, has made me realize just how beautifully and meticulously created this art of communication really is. It’s kinda like that old school Minesweeper game; you always have to be on your toes, because one misstep can take you out of the game. Like, tick-tick-tick BOOM, my friends and concerned global citizens, alike. This daily boot camp of cross-cultural communication that I face here in the Philippines is a true test of patience and awareness. Akin to a python that eats a whole cow, or whatever ridiculously huge animal “Snakes on a Plane” may have us all thinking that these boa constrictors can gulp down easier than Italian Gator on a late night post-drinking sesh, this whole schtick of cross-cultural communication is slow, painstaking slow, at times, to get, accept and master. But, just as we’re able to inhale and enjoy that delicious, greasy, hot glob of pepperoni and cheese, and just as I’m sure that boa constrictor doesn’t just implode from the sheer size of its meal, with the right amount of time, practice and dedication to the art and skill of relationship-building, which communication at its core is — the bringing together of different parties — anyone with the proper desire to partake in respectful cross-cultural communication aka not just imposing your attitudes and beliefs as superior on another group of people can make this happen.
Holy long sentences, Batman! Let’s break it down, shall we? All this talk about identity and the politics of such lend themselves well in this very delicate dance that is cross-cultural communication. It’s almost as if both parties’ identity and politics are the right and left foot that lead us across the dance floor toward our eventual goal of relaying a message, influencing a decision, whatever. It’s about learning how to coordinate our steps so that they are in stride with the other party’s rhythm and vibe to have all involved in this two-step feel like they’re getting their proverbial piece of the pie. Now, ask any middle or high schooler and I’m sure they will tell you that dances are nerve-racking, awkward and a source of stress on some level. Elevating this analogy to that of communicating across communities and the complexity magnifies, because every individual holds his or her own unique set of sensitive points, values and areas of concern and ways in which he or she shares information and expect information to be relayed. As much as we’d like to be able to Google this ish and call it a day, unfortunately, sound cross-cultural communication doesn’t necessarily happen over Facebook and in 140
characters or less; it happens through (gasp) actual in-person interaction.
words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”
Even though the world is becoming more and more digital and globalized, there is still an unprecedented value in actual human exchange and dialogue to which an infinite number of “likes” will never equate.
As an American or person who lives in the U.S., you have an enormous amount of freedom in your speech. There is a certain value placed on vocalization and expression of self that is not the norm in other places on this great planet of ours.
"Don't be that wallflower at the dance of cross-cultural communication; jump in, make a move..." While I am coming from more of a global perspective, because that is my lived reality nowadays, I realize that at UF, this intergroup communication happens on the daily via the different interest groups on campus. That’s why even though it may feel unimportant, unwanted or unnecessary, speak up. Use your otherness (or your non-otherness, however you define yourself ) and add some dimension to campus dialogue. As Sarah Bareilles says in, let’s be honest, a refreshing, though somewhat clumsy video to watch, “Say what you want to say. Let the
Don’t take that for granted. Don’t be that wallflower at the dance of cross-cultural communication; jump in, make a move, do the wop, drop it like it’s hot, whatever. It is through diligent practice that you’ll become that expert dancer and be able to coast through any interaction with ease and sophistication while still keeping the integrity of your message. And, just as it takes two to tango, it takes at least two to communicate cross-culturally. Give UF, and the world for that matter, the gift of your consciousness as Asian Pacific Islander American. You are a necessary partner and can give others the opportunity to become the more graceful, skilled dancers they (and we) can all be in this dance of life. As far as I’m concerned, the music’s playing so let’s get on it.
THE STATE OF LGBTQ IDENTITY While the repeals of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have created radical legislative change in recent years, those caught at the intersection of two minorities – Asian American LGBTQ individuals – must continue to face barriers in a heteronormative society.
|| WRITTEN BY MARCUS DEGNAN || || PHOTOGRAPHED BY ERIKA CHOI || || DESIGNED BY DENISE LAU ||
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n Sparks Magazine’s first issue, “Vulnerability/ Strength, Andrew Sun, now a senior at the University of Florida, was interviewed to discuss Asian Americans and gender identity. The article highlighted the political science major’s struggle between personal identity and familial expectations, and how these problems create conflict for people claiming to be both Asian American and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ). Since that article was published in 2011, Sun said there has been significant progress with his family: he no longer has to hide who he is. “My mom has been more supportive, and my dad has taken steps to try and understand,” he said. Problems that occur in many Asian Pacific Islander families still arise (like reputation within the community and a father that is more conservative and traditional), but Sun said his family is at least trying to move forward, one step at a time. With the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), radical legislative changes have passed in recent years, catering to the LGBTQ community. While these are landmark social cases for the U.S., it is important to consider how these changes have affected Asian Americans who identify as LGBTQ individuals. When asked about the state of LGBTQ people in the Asian American community, Sun brought up a disconnect he felt during an Asian American Student Union (AASU) sub-org meeting. Instead, Sun found his calling in UF’s Pride Student Union (PSU), which is the university’s largest on-campus organization that deals with LGBTQ issues from a variety of perspectives. Sun addressed self-choice when talking about preference for campus organizations. Rather than committing to both the Asian American or LGBTQ
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clubs equally, he said he was able to ease into PSU, because it felt more accepting to his specific needs. While the recent legislation brought some hope for gays and lesbians, Sun said more complex issues were overlooked as a result. He commented on the Internet movement encouraging Facebook users to change their default picture to red equal signs last March as an example.
"While legislation h society, there is stil
Though the signs became expressions of communal support for gay marriage by many allies, Sun said this support diverted attention from understanding issues like transgender identity that are also primary concerns for the LGBTQ community. Sun equated this misinformation as the problem that occurs with the emphasis of single-issue legislation like support for gay marriage, which fails to consider the larger spectrum of LGBTQ needs. Bryan Baquiran, a sophomore telecommunications major at UF, also said positive changes like DOMA gave him optimism but only to an extent. “While legislation has increased the visibility of LGBTQ individuals in society, there is still a stigma within the Asian American community,” he said. Baquiran’s statements referenced a heteronormative emphasis within AASU. While many members express their support of LGBTQ issues, there is still a stigma associated with being gay, bisexual, transgender or any other gender/sexual deviation conveyed through frequent homophobic slurs and behaviors. Not only does being a racial minority within the U.S. create problems, but also being a minority within a minority complicates the issue further, preventing
many people from expressing themselves within their own communities. Both Sun and Baquiran, while supportive of efforts,
Arlene Shi, a senior health science major and a student ambassador for LGBT Affairs, understands the problems of representation and the sexual/gender complexities that have been overlooked on campus.
has increased the visibility of LGBTQ individuals in ll a stigma within the Asian American community." took critical stances on the social implications of pro-LGBTQ legislation and how they contributed to acceptance within the Asian American community. LB Hannahs, the director of LGBT Affairs at UF, also shared these concerns by emphasizing underlying complexities. Hannahs said that although there are more resources available to students than ever before, there are still long ways to go in the larger social acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, especially for racial minorities. Politics do not create change, but education that encourages talk about sexuality does, she said. In Hannahs’ opinion, the most beneficial federal programs that actively affect the lives of LGBTQ individuals are ones that ensure protection of a person’s holistic concerns. One example is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prevents discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Over the past few years at UF, she has learned a great deal about the struggles of LGBTQ individuals. She said there have been more improvements in initiating the conversations to address gender concerns, such as LGBTQ-focused events within AASU during Asian Kaleidoscope Month that serve to educate students about the problems many experience. However, Shi agreed with Baquiran that homophobia is still present in AASU through the stereotypical jokes that promote heteronormative behavior. She feels it is important to educate the majority about the issues of LGBTQ people and increase the actual student involvement to create change. “There needs to be a stronger understanding of what people go through,” Shi said. The largest and most basic type of change is conversation, being careful of our choice of words and how they affect other people who experience struggles rooted in sexuality, gender expression or anything else, she said.
This legislation ensures the rights of an individual and actively includes gender expression as a part of those rights in need of protection. Though there is skepticism towards recent legislation, some express a bit more confidence with the changes taking place and progress being made.
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“By not talking about it, they thought they were protecting me.” L A NI Y U
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OUT OF THE DARKNESS: CONFRONTING THE HIV STIGMA IN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
WRITTEN BY ALICIA SOLLER || PHOTOGRAPHED BY MARIO CEDIEL || DESIGNED BY CRYSTAL NGUYEN Battling the Stigma You might not pay attention to it because it sounds like the common flu — sore throat, body aches, fever. But this isn’t just another case of the flu. These are the initial symptoms of HIV, which are afflicting the Asian Pacific Islander American population in clandestine ways. The Asian American population is the fastest-growing racial group in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But an alarming trend is also growing within the Asian American community. The rate of HIV infection is increasing among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, according to the Office of Minority Health, and a startling amount of Asian Americans are not seeking testing or treatment despite the rising rate. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It attacks the immune system, destroying a type of white blood cell needed to combat disease. HIV ultimately leads to AIDS. Through the advent of HIV medication and shattered misconceptions of the virus since the height of its epidemic in the 1980s, the HIV stigma still lives. Tige Harrison, director of the Gainesville Area AIDS Project, who himself is HIV-positive, laments that some of the general stigma that surrounds HIV is due
to sex — one of the common forms of HIV transmission — and its stigma in the United States. “Sex is just taboo here,” Harrison said. “In other countries, it’s like drinking coffee. Here, it’s this horrible thing.” The HIV stigma is contributing to the rise in HIV infection rates in API communities, according to the Banyan Tree Project. Calvin Marquez, the development director for Life Foundation (a nonprofit organization in Hawaii that serves and supports those affected by HIV), believes the stigma takes root in a common attitude in Asian culture. “With a lot of Asian cultures, you don’t bring shame upon your family,” he said. “Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian — the mentality is that even if you got the disease, it should have been prevented.” Marquez said sex remains a taboo subject among Asians and Pacific Islanders. Any discussion about sex is virtually nonexistent among older generations of APIs or even first-generation APIs. “It’s kind of a no-no in our culture,” he said. Lani Yu, a 20-year-old psychology major at the University of Florida, said her parents never had the sex talk with her, because they weren’t open about the subject.
“By not talking about it, they thought they were protecting me,” she said. Kapya Ilay, a 20-year-old civil engineering major at UF, never got the sex talk from her parents either. She feels that most Asians (at least of older generations), denounce sex, especially with the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases. Ultimately, they form negative judgments. “It’s like, if you have HIV, you’re kind of poor, for a lack of a better word,” she said. Dr. John Chin, co-founder and former deputy executive director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA), proposed that immigrant communities perpetuate the HIV stigma because of the threat of change. “It’s already threatening to be an immigrant in the U.S., because there’s discrimination and culture and language barriers, emphasizing their need to stick to ideas they know,” he said. Chin also emphasized immigrants’ tendency to recreate their home culture to combat the perceived hostility of change. As a result, testing rates among APIs are low. Almost two-thirds of Asians and three-quarters of Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in three Asian and Pacific Islander Americans is living with HIV and doesn’t know it.
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ESTIMATED NUMBER OF DIAGNOSED RATES
(per 100,000) of HIV infection, 2011 Note: The Asian American to White ratio is 0.9
White (7.0) | Asian (6.5) White Female (2.0) | Asian Female (2.3) Source: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov
Marquez has seen many of his clients, who are predominantly Asian and Pacific Islander, refuse treatment or testing to avoid the risk of seeing someone they know. “We have to literally go to our clients and make sure they’re getting treatment, because they’re so ashamed about coming into the office,” he said. Chin faced the same predicament among the clients he worked with at APICHA, many of whom have only divulged their HIV status to their medical providers and case managers. This led to isolation, and, consequently, depression and anxiety. HIV in Asian American Women According to the Office of Minority Health, Asian American women are 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than Caucasian women. Young Asian American women are four
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White Male (14.5) | Asian Male (13.8)
times more likely than young Asian American men to contract a sexually transmitted disease, according to a study performed by Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm, assistant professor at Boston University. The theory of gender and power, which Hahm uses to support her finding, proposes that the less power women have in relationships, the more likely they are to partake in risky sexual behavior or exhibit disempowerment, thus increasing their risk for STD contraction. Yu said her parents told her it was the male’s responsibility to worry about protection. Since she was never adequately educated about sex and her own protection, she felt obliged to seek her own enlightenment. “Because the older generation is so hushhush about it, it’s easier for you to search out the information yourself,” she said. Yu said she’s taken a sexuality studies
course that has been immensely helpful in her own empowerment. Chin noted a specific case in which a female Asian American client, who did not speak or understand English, contracted HIV from her husband. She never knew her husband was HIV-positive, and her husband never divulged her status to her even after she was diagnosed. “She would just take the medication that was prescribed to her, but she didn’t know what she had,” Chin said. Resources and Support Robert Jenkins, board member of the Gainesville Area AIDS Project, said that although there are many resources today that pertain to HIV testing and treatment, the amount of support groups for HIV-positive individuals is sparse. Jenkins expressed how he would like to see more support groups aimed at encouraging HIV-positive individuals
to communicate their statuses to their families, ultimately eliminating the isolation many feel as a result of hiding their status. Marquez emphasizes that Life Foundation makes itself available and transparent to all the nationalities within the Hawaiian community. “A lot of people here say, ‘I don’t see myself in that and it doesn’t apply to me,’” he said of past marketing materials sent to Life Foundation from mainland United States. They had no visual representations of the Asian and Pacific Islander American communities, leading the community to feel underrepresented. Therefore, in a recent campaign, “Stand Up to HIV,” Life foundation featured local Filipino, Hawaiian and Samoan girls to reflect its diverse community. Chin said the quality and quantity of HIV resources for the API population varies upon geographic location in the United States. New York has suitable resources, considering its large Asian population, but rural areas and smaller cities with a
growing Asian population are not adequately serviced, he said. Chin ultimately believes the answer to eliminating the stigma is within the community. He was the chief investigator of a five-year study that examined religious organizations’ — predominantly Christian churches and Buddhist temples — contribution to the HIV stigma and how religious leaders could ultimately use their positions to combat it. Chin and his team are collaborating with religious leaders to talk about HIV in a non-stigmatized way, allowing others to openly partake in HIV conversation without thinking it is inappropriate. This feat, however, has been met with some apprehension. “Some of them are really timid about it, because they think there would be disapproval if they got involved,” he said. But Chin remains hopeful. The people within these religious organizations are fairly representative of the immigrant communities, who are a vulnerable group already, he said.
May 19 marks the National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is designed to recognize and support Asian and Pacific Islander communities in dealing with HIV/AIDS. Marquez notes how important this day is for Hawaii, especially due to its huge Asian and Pacific Islander population. “Because there is Asian Pacific Islander attached to it, we have to recognize that HIV/AIDS does affect our community,” he said. “Even though it’s just one day, it’s still one more day it’s being talked about.” Jenkins, who has been HIV-positive for nearly three decades and was once reluctant to face his own HIV status, believes people universally need to not only become educated but also empowered to face their HIV status. “Knowledge is power,” he said. “You have to do the right thing for yourself and everyone around you.”
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BY MAUREEN MARIANO
THE LYING GAME
“Oh, my God. I love your skirt! Where did you get it?” Girl walks away. “That is the ugliest effing skirt I have ever seen.”
Let’s face it. We all lie. But whether we take it to Regina George’s level in “Mean Girls,” now that’s a different story. While there are certain situations in which the truth is better left unsaid or slightly bent, often times, we end up doing a disservice to those near and dear to us by not being honest with them. So before you tell the next lie, take the quiz below to find out if you fall within the realms of being a pathological liar or a straight-up individual who holds the truth to the highest caliber.
It’s exam week. Your friend is stressed and has resorted to eating copious amounts of food. She asks you, “Have I gotten fatter?” Her weight gain is obvious, but you respond: A. No, girl. You look the same! B. Um, yes. Don’t ask me for a piggy-back ride anytime soon! C. It’s not that noticeable. A homeless person specifically asks you for a $5 bill. Coincidentally, the only things in your wallet are a $5 bill, which you were planning to buy Wendy’s with, an emergency credit card and a few nickels and dimes. You say: A. Sorry! I don’t have any cash. B. I actually do have a $5 bill. Here you go! C. I don’t have any cash, but I do have loose change. One day, your friend Nelson tells you a secret that no one else knows about. The next day, you meet up with a mutual friend, Tina, and the secret comes out like word vomit, so you swear Tina to secrecy. A couple days later, everyone now knows about Nelson’s secret. He confronts you and asks if you told anyone. You respond: A. Of course not! You had my word, bro. B. Yeah, I did. People were going to find out eventually! C. Tina pried it out of me. I’m so sorry, Nelson.
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You no longer feel that “spark” between you and your significant other. You break up by saying: A. It’s not you, it’s me. You deserve better. B. I’m just not into you anymore. We’re better off as friends. C. Now’s not the right time. Maybe one day we can be together again.
During an exam, your friend passes you a note with all the answers on it. The professor catches you opening the note, sees what’s written on it and fails you on the spot. He asks you who gave you the note, and if he finds out you’re lying, you’ll fail the class. You respond: A. No one gave it to me. I made this cheat sheet at home. B. My friend gave it to me, but it’s not her fault! C. I found it on the floor and wanted to see what it was. It’s not fair to fail me! You lie when: A. there’s no other way out. B. I rather not lie at all. C. another person’s feelings are involved. Answer Key: If you circled mostly… A. You just might be a compulsive liar. Get help, fast! B. You don’t play any games. You tell it like it is! C. You lie to spare emotional grief. Glad to know you have a heart!
Circle the best response.
Mind Over Matter
AN EXAMINATION OF ASIAN AMERICAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER MENTAL HEALTH || WRITTEN BY RACHEL HAN|| || PHOTOGRAPHED BY YISHUI CHEN || || DESIGN CONCEPT BY PHILLIP HAYES ||
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“So I locked myself in my room, and I tried to kill myself. I wrapped a piece of rubber wire around my neck. It didn’t work. I took some scissors, and I cut myself instead. It was a good kind of pain. I finally understood why people did it. But at that exact moment, my mom knocked on the door and said, ‘While you’re in there, you should clean your room — a little work’s not gonna kill you.’” Melanie Tran*, a 23-year-old Asian American currently residing in Gainesville, Fla., related a traumatizing experience from February of this year. “I just wanted to run away, run away and leave, but I knew I had no place to go,” she said. “My mom said that if I left, I could never come back.” At this point, she had already been diagnosed as clinically depressed, regularly taking antidepressants originally prescribed to her in October of 2011. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s
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thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Oftentimes, it can be treated with therapeutic methods. However, when placed within the context of Asian American society, the term “mental illness” entails many other things. It brings into perspective a question of identity that oftentimes clashes with certain expectations and preconceived notions instilled through culture discrepancies and generation gaps (namely, between parents and their children). For example, as a cultural factor, Asian Americans often associate the body as an intrinsic part of the soul and mind and vice versa. Therefore, they may often utilize physical methods of treatment rather than psychological means to alleviate and treat internalized emotional problems. And as Asian American values and belief systems vary from those of other cultures, illnesses such as depression and anxiety can be seen as unacceptable, dishonorable or taboo. Statistically, Asian Americans have the
highest suicide rates out of any ethnic group throughout the country. Tran’s depression was the culmination of many factors. The clashing of her high intellect with her severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often led her to become a social outcast all throughout her middle school to college years. Her mixed descent (half Vietnamese, half white) also created troublesome identity issues, as members of both backgrounds proved unable to accept her. “Someone wrote to me over Facebook once, ‘Fuck you, you stupid halfbreed,’” she said. “A lot of people would call me ‘Weeaboo’ or ‘Wapanese.” Throughout her life, she straddled a line. Kim Segovia, a sophomore at the University of Florida, also opened up with her personal experiences with depression and anxiety. She said UF kids all want to be successful and were raised and pressured to do such.
“I remember once in elementary school, I got a 97 on a spelling test, and I actually had to hide it from my parents, because I knew they would hit me,” she said. Segovia would often have breakdowns over her grades and her confusion with her sexuality coupled with the death of her second boyfriend in a car accident took a toll. When asked if her parents’ academic standards were a cause of her depression, she answered without hesitation, “Definitely. I started having suicidal thoughts in the second grade.” She wrote a suicidal Facebook status her junior year of high school. Someone told the guidance counselor, and she was called into the office. Her mother was already there. Dr. Dave Suchman, a psychologist at the Counseling and Wellness Center at UF, brought up that a sense of isolation and foreignness is one of the reasons many Asian Americans feel the need to seek counseling. “Foreign student advisers overseas tell them not to worry about the language and culture barrier, because most of their work will be in mathematics, engineering, physics, which I think is terrible advice,” he said. He also said that Asian cultural standards and expectations may create and/ or shape mental illness within teenagers and college students. “I find that many often have a hard time understanding that a balance of work and play is more effective than twice as much work,” Suchman said. “[Asian Americans] handle difficulties about as well as everyone else. Everyone experiences alienation at some point or separation from friends and family, just feeling like the odd person.” He believes the acceptance of Asian culture through others’ eyes would greatly assist in diminishing Asian Americans’ sense of isolation and anxiety. “I like the idea that Asians may be from another country, but not from another world,” he said. The mother of Tisha Antique, a Univer-
sity of North Florida student who had also experienced depression and undergone subsequent therapy, was asked if she believed mental illness to be more prevalent in teens and college students of this day and age as compared to before. Her response was “Yes. Before when I was in high school and college, these things were never heard of.” She expressed that at first, she did not believe her child had depression, remaining in a temporary state of denial. Her daughter claimed that being a single child made things quite difficult, as well as the communication gap that arose from moving from another country. “It was hard to understand at first, because the reason we came from the Philippines in the first place was so that we could have better lives,” Mrs. Antique said. “But it ended up not being that way. In the end, I realized that support, communication and a better attempt to understand was the best treatment I could give her as a parent.” She believes depression is neither an exclusive flaw in character nor a flaw in chemistry. It depends on the person. It could be physical, chemical or surrounding distressors. “It can be treated with both medicine and a change in attitude: through positive thinking and making yourself busy,” she added. “But there are many causes, and it’s difficult to pinpoint.” Mrs. Antique said that there is definitely a stigma against mental illness in the Asian American community, as it used to be something people didn’t want to discuss. Now that they’re getting exposed to it a lot more and are more educated, it must be faced. For Tran, the environment definitely played a role in aiding her depression. After moving from Pensacola to Gainesville over the summer of 2013, she stopped taking antidepressants. “The people are a lot nicer here, a lot more open,” she said. “Being away from my parents also helped.” Originally shunned from the Asian American organization at the University of West Florida, she took a chance
in joining UF’s Asian American Student Union — and there, she found a home. Segovia made a point in saying that communication is what fixed her relationship with her parents, thus helping her depression. After her mom found out, she made her take self-esteem classes and became much more open in their relationship. “She started treating me differently,” she said. “She started saying that she loved me, and I was like, ‘Whoa, who are you?’” “They changed how they talked to me. I used to be scared of my mom, and I’d tell her that. She never knew how to respond. But now, we can just laugh together.” Although her parents helped fuel her issues, they also helped in assisting with her recovery as soon as the communication barrier was overcome. Identity issues, pressures inflicted by parents, and cultural expectations and standards are all potential causes of mental illness within not only the Asian American student population, but also the population at large. However, many organizations have been created to help Asian Americans overcome these obstacles, such as The Bridge program located in New York, the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA), the Asian Health Coalition, and the Asian American Psychological Association. And as Suchman said, taking the simple initiative to be more welcoming and compassionate members of society — devoid of judgment — should play a large role in assisting them as well. This has undeniably helped in Tran’s case, thanks to UF’s Asian American community, who have proven to be much more amicable than the people of her past. “I’m starting to accept my identity and find myself here, although some things still affect me,” she said. “I’m learning not to take other people’s thoughts to heart, and I’m definitely reaching out more.” *Name changed upon request.
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Breaking the Silence ADDRESSING THE MYTHS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE || WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY CRESONIA HSIEH || DESIGNED BY RACHEL LO Meet Kim Lee. In 2011, Lee’s husband, Li Yang, threw his wife against the floor, unloaded his weight onto her back, choked his wife with both hands and slammed her head against the ground. When Lee attempted to pry herself from her husband’s clenched hands, Yang grabbed his wife’s brown hair and bashed her head against the floor repeatedly. Meet Li Yan. Shortly after marrying her husband, Tan Yong, Yong would lock his wife outside the house on wintry nights and smack her head against the wall. He would put out his cigarettes over Yan’s face and legs, leaving permanent burn marks. He cut off part of her finger once. Both Lee and Yan are victims of domestic violence in China who sought help but found none. Their stories have been publicized greatly. Kim Lee’s and Li Yan’s stories were written on National Public Radio (NPR), “The Huffington Post” and “The Guardian.” Though they are only two women, according to the Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (APIIDV), they represent the 41 to 60 percent of Asian women who report experiencing domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. On Matters of Culture Jessica Li, executive director of the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project, said that though Asian women do experience higher rates of domestic violence, domestic violence is not a cultural characteristic. Li said domestic violence happens in every culture and stems from the notion of patriarchy and our perspective of how men and women view each other. (i.e. Men used to hunt, and women used to stay at home and take care of
family; thus, men are seen as more powerful and as leaders.) However, the reason for silence and the nature of the violence differ in Asian cases, she said. Nature of Violence Jamie Funderburk, a clinical associate professor and licensed psychologist, said domestic violence typically has a cyclical nature. The cycle of violence usually involves a honeymoon phase, tension buildup, incident and a makeup session. Then the cycle repeats itself. However, Li said this is not what usually happens in Asian relationships. “The honeymoon phase doesn’t exist in Asian cultures,” she said. Instead, the perpetrators use push factors rather than pull factors to make their victim obey. In this instance, the perpetrator may state all the shortcomings of the victim rather than encourage acts that the woman has done well. The perpetrator may say statements like, “You did not help the way a good Asian homemaker would.” Additionally, the perpetrator may escalate these comments to threats in order to make his wife more submissive. Reason for Silence Funderburk believes the silence surrounding issues on domestic abuse stems from cultural messages that may cause the woman to feel like she is to blame. She may also fear rejection by close friends and family, lack of a strong support system and perhaps even possess psychological effects of dependence or idolization of the perpetrator, which is called Stockholm Syndrome.
Local Resources 352-377-8255 PEACEFUL PATHS offers emergency shelter, transi-
tional housing, crisis hotline, victim advocacy, children’s programming, education and training, counseling and support groups, community awareness and intervention, violence prevention programs, and batterer’s intervention programming.
352-392-5648 UFPD OFFICE OF VICTIM SERVICES provides an advocate that will accompany and support victims through criminal justice processes, ranging from law enforcement interviews to injunction hearings. A victim advocate can also provide emotional support and offer referrals for counseling and other services.
Li adds to this notion by explaining the Asian desire for perfection, fear of shame and/or being portrayed as weak, parental pressure, faulty justice system, and silence regarding the act of sex in and of itself. In Asian communities, sex is typically not a topic of conversation, even in schools. Thus, when the community fails to address these issues of sex and domestic violence, victims may fail to recognize that they are being abused. “When a community is silent on these issues, survivors sometimes create their own perception on what domestic violence is,” she said. In Li’s experience, survivors often do not recognize that they are even survivors. Instead, they try to tell their stories by saying they are afraid or they do not know why their marriages are not working but rarely point to the fact that they are victims of domestic abuse. One other reason for silence among Asian women is the powerful role parents have on their daughters-in-law. According to the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC), in-laws in Asian families are allowed a powerful role in making decisions. Furthermore, Asian American women were expected to accept their situation if their husbands had affairs or if their husbands or mothers-in-law abused them. Such cultural characteristics may make women less likely to report such issues of abuse, because outing the husband would bring shame and dishonor to the family. Asian women are thus expected to minimize the severity of incidences of abuse. In Asia, the need to report issues of abuse is not felt as
strongly, because the legal system may tend to favor the male despite the male being the abuser. China Today Though Kim Lee was successful in divorcing her husband and has custody of her three daughters, Li Yan is not so fortunate. In response to suffering repeated incidents of domestic abuse from her husband, Yan murdered her husband. The Supreme People’s Court has approved her execution. Today, China does not have a law that forbids domestic violence. What can you do? If you think someone you know is getting abused in his or her relationship, Funderburk suggests looking for physical signs of abuse — black eye, scratches, broken limbs, etc. Additionally, observe the relationship to see if one spouse is more controlling than the other. The batterer may also try to isolate the partner from his or her family and friends. Do you find your friend making up excuses as to why he or she cannot socialize with others? If you think your friend or someone you know is getting abused, the best thing is to let your friend know that you support him or her and to remind him or her that domestic violence is not OK. Try not to take action into your own hands, because someone who is victimized has already lost independence and power to his or her abuser. Instead, be encouraging and share professional resources.
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Hours: Mon-Sat 6:30 a.m.-9:00 p.m. || Sun 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Breakfast starts at 6:30 a.m. || Noodles start at 11 a.m. 1222 W. University Ave. Gainesville, FL 32601
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REAL stories. REAL people. The Unspoken issue.