What Being Asian American Means to Me
By the Rev. Peggy Lo
During Asian American-Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, I invite you to seek out a diversity of stories and writings about AAPI history in general and of women and theologians in particular– not to arrive at answers or draw conclusions, but to listen and walk alongside.
Here is what being an Asian American woman and priest means for me:
- Living on the edge, as in the edges where borders meet. Edges so sharp they can cut my feet. Edges worn smooth over time as reconciliation and resurrection happen within and without.
- Living on the margins, watching from the sidelines, except when the margins of multiple aspects of my identity converge at the center, as I end up with invitations to tables I’m not sure I belong at, wondering if we need a bigger table, a new kind of table, or no tables at all.
- Wondering when to point out that I’m Taiwanese American, the kind with ancestors who weren’t in Taiwan as long as the Indigenous people but longer than those who arrived with the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1948, the kind who experienced the Japanese occupation and then martial law. But without being blind to my own privileges.
- Wondering when to use the hyphen in my name. Systems (most often the computer variety) rob me of the choice—some accept the hyphen in my first name, some insist on a space, some insist on no hyphen and no space if I don’t want my first and middle names to lose their structural integrity. There are all these versions of me, not quite in sync, slightly out of phase.
- Wondering how to talk or write about my identity. When do I use the hyphen? When is there a space? In some contexts, I feel more one than the other. In some, I am both separately or both together. In some, I feel very much neither. Can I talk about being a POC (person of color) or WOC (woman of color)? Is my body included when people talk about Black and Brown bodies?
- Assessing what is mine to carry and what is not. When is it my responsibility to teach? When is it my responsibility to be open and honest? When is it my responsibility to build bridges? Who am I responsible to? Responsible for? Maybe that’s not the right word… when is it a privilege? When is it a call?
- Assessing when to be patient and when to stop being patient. Can patience and rage exist in the same body at the same time? Can I patiently rage or sit with impatient calm? Can I accept that the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice and jump up and down on the end that’s not quite bending yet?
- Struggling to identify the commonalities between Asian Americans without essentializing them.
- Struggling to see beyond the struggle that is being Asian American to the gift that is being Asian American, to not be defined by pain but by the joy of creating, seeing something no one else notices.
- Doing extra-credit work, extra-curricular work, or just extra work, period, whether the work is related to internal processing or external organizing.
- Doing my best, with God’s help, and with the help of my siblings in Christ, to humbly learn, to boldly teach, to fail spectacularly without causing harm, and to keep trying.
- Always seeking to become, to belong, and just to be.
The Rev. Peggy Lo serves as the rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas.