Season 03: Episode 16: Ivy FanTranscript
Queer Diagnosis Podcast
Season 03: Episode 16: Ivy Fan
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Zarya: Hi, Welcome back to Queer Diagnosis! I'm your host Zarya, my pronouns are she/her/hers.
Srihita: I'm your co-host Srihita, my pronouns are also she/her/hers. Our guest today is Ivy Fan, the creator of Juxtapose Magazine. Hello Ivy, could you please introduce yourself with your pronouns?
Ivy: Hi, my name is Ivy. I use both she and they pronouns and I'm a recent college grad from Boston University. Thanks for having me on the show today.
Zarya: Of course, and also for our listeners, Ivy and I went to high school together. Remember how I was talking about all my trauma from high school in previous episodes? Ivy was with me for it!
Ivy: We were there. It was a time.
Zarya: It was a time. Learning more about your magazine, what is Juxtapose, and what inspired you to create it?
Ivy: Juxtapose is a currently digital-only publication that centers on the experiences of Asian individuals who identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. I think this is something that I had always thought about whether it was in high school in terms of coming into my own identity and working on different publications back then. I think what inspired it was my freshman year of college, I took a class called Poetry is Activism where I got to explore these different parts of my identity, and they always felt like they were conflicting. In my experiences in college, I felt like when I was going to a queer club on campus, a lot of the time voices like mine and other people of color got dampened in those spaces and I wanted to amplify these voices. In the same way in Asian communities, I think a lot of the time, queer folks who identify as Asian feel like they don't have a lot to say in that space or are worried about their safety and being ostracized. For me, I wanted a place that could highlight these voices and showcase these narratives because they aren't a monolith. This was where I wanted to go and bring that forward.
Zarya: When you said that, it resonated with me because when I was in college I went to… first of all, it was the pandemic so there weren't that many opportunities for queer spaces to begin with. But in the available Zoom forums, I went to this one meeting and I was one of the only minority students there and it felt like my experience coming from a household with kind of liberal parents, kind of not liberal, somewhere in the middle there. It was difficult for me to fit in with the group and for them to understand my experiences since they might have been very different from theirs. Is that along the lines of how you felt on your campus?
Ivy: I have to say I think I found a cool space to be and I think everyone has their niche at BU but I did meet plenty of other queer Asians when I was there, but it felt like they were my personal friends. We weren't able to talk about this at a larger stage or platform. That's why I wanted to create Juxtapose in the first place. The name itself centers on, in the general public, that in popular media you rarely find characters who you can get your LGBTQ representation that also gives you Asian representation. For me, it was like “Well, we exist and why not do that.” But to your point about family, I come from a first generation, Chinese American family and it's hard to talk to them about those things. But it's always a work in progress, I think.
Srihita: I think that segues well into the next question. Can you talk about how your relationship with your identity has changed over the years? And how your relationship with your family has been affected by your identity?
Ivy: Yeah, of course. I think the way that I viewed my identity over the years has changed because when Zarya and I were in high school, I feel like the act of being a teenager, everything always felt intense. When I first came out, I was 14 and I liked the term Pansexual, and it's a term that I don't use as much now, I generally use the word, queer.
There's an elusiveness with it, I think it allows more flexibility and gentleness with myself to continue this journey and figure things out. But at the time, I had been very much using she/her pronouns, and even now, last summer I started using, they/them pronouns as well. I think it's all a spectrum and everything is very fluid. But I think my relationship with my parents has gotten better over the years, whether it was getting out of state to go to college and having them let me be an adult and have that room to grow. But when we first started we didn't talk about it. But now, my mom will sometimes be like “Oh, have you been dating anybody lately? Do you have a boyfriend?” and then she'll add “Do you have a girlfriend?” and that's been entirely new. I think for them they've needed time to adjust but I'm thankful that they're on board with it now. It's still awkward, but I’m grateful that they're not the type of parents who will be like “Oh, we're disowning you or whatever.” They've been great in that process. It's taken time. There's been hurt on both ends. I think it's unfair to have to go through all of this time for them to find acceptance, but I am glad at the end of the day, that they are still supportive people in my life.
Zarya: It's cool that… although I'm South Asian and as is Srihita, it feels like, within Asian households, there is still this barrier between.. especially if your parents have immigrated, or at least in my experience, there is a generational gap between my parents understanding that I am my own person and while I hold cultural values close to my heart, there are still some ways in which I'm “American” especially when it comes to my identity. Just the other day, I was at an award ceremony and I was giving a talk, and I've become more comfortable with wearing traditional Pakistani clothing.
I was wearing a shalwar kameez, as we call it. My mom looked at me and she was like “Okay, I don't see why you're wearing this because you're not Pakistani.” I thought that was bizarre because my whole life she's been saying “You should be very proud of Pakistani culture” and then she pivoted to saying, “You're not even Pakistani. Why are you doing this?” And I feel like but then on the other hand, when she learned that I was giving a talk about the podcast, that's what I had been asked to speak about, she was like, “Oh, why wasn’t I invited to this thing? I'm so excited for your project.” I was like, “You're giving me so many mixed signals about how you want to fit into my life right now.”
I understand the frustration within or even in the transition period between your mom being a little bit more distant to now wanting to know a little bit more. I don't know about how it might be in your house, but the pressure within Desi or South Asian households for marriage increases the older that you get.
Ivy: Right! I think it goes from “Oh, no focus on your studies” to “Oh my God, when are you getting married?” Which… there's no time in between those things. You're either studying or then you're looking for a partner. But I think to this other point that you're talking about with family and even ethnicity and nationality, I think there's… something I talk about quite a bit is hyphen identity. For me, it's falling between the Chinese and the American or even East Asian and American. It's hard to find that balance between trying to portray both things because one side will always say “You're too American” and the other side will be like “You're not pretty, you're too Asian” and I don't think there's ever going to be the right blend of anything. I think it's taken me a lot of time and a lot of work through internalized racism as well to enjoy things in my own culture and realize that whatever balance I ended up striking, I'm gonna have to be okay with it because it's never going to be okay with somebody else. But yeah, I mean, there are times when I'll visit my dad's side of the family in Guangzhou, China, and I'm sitting at this huge dinner table, and I feel like nobody knows that I am queer in this group. Unless.. my cousin is as well queer and we've connected on that. She's always someone I've been pretty close with. But I always felt like the black sheep of the family. I'm like “What would my relatives in China think about my parents” and being in America if they realize this part about my identity and I don't want it to reflect poorly on them. But at the same time, it's not a bad thing to be queer. But it's still this thought. I don't want to bring shame into that part of the family or things like that. And it's a lot to reconcile, for sure.
Srihita: Yeah, I think the part that you said about going back home and having to almost re-orient myself when I'm back in India… there are certain things that I won't talk about or there are certain things I can't wear. There are these parts of my personality that I might be able to share with my parents, but I can't share with my extended family. Because as you said, there is this idea that the way that we are reflects on the way that they are as parents. That responsibility that we have to carry that I feel like maybe other kids who have been here for generations or have been wherever they are for generations don't always have to deal with… I don't think I had a question at the end of that. I wanted to share that.
Ivy: I feel that and sometimes it's this guilt that totally should not fall onto our shoulders, but it does feel like that sometimes. The other thing is I feel like I fall silent in those spaces because even though Chinese was my first language, English has far outpaced that by now and I don't think I could voice those abstract thoughts in Cantonese and Mandarin to them and be able to defend myself that way. I think that's something that stops me in my tracks as well because we can talk about these things and I could be on this podcast but I don't think I could talk about it in the same way in what was originally my native tongue.
Zarya: You know what's crazy? Srihita and I, talked for two or three hours last night. It was about this exactly where I was saying one of the other things that my mom mentioned when she said you're not Pakistani, which again, totally, messed with my head because two different messages were being sent to me. When I was younger, my mom was like “Why don't you be Cleopatra and wear traditional Pakistani clothes to fit an Indian princess or Pakistani princess?” But the other thing that she said is “Oh, you don't even speak the native tongue.” The thing is, I had been on my own trying to learn it and I can speak a little bit but it's that it feels weird to identify as an American in my house compared to my parents who are from Pakistan originally. I feel shy about speaking with them. In their head, it's like I've distanced myself from the culture but in reality, I'm practicing on my own and trying to perfect it before I present it to them. But they don't recognize that there's an effort being made, which I can't blame them for. That's its own work in progress. It is cool to hear you talk about visiting your family back in China and then feeling like you can't communicate with them because in all honesty, when I was in Pakistan, my mom was trying to explain what my senior thesis was about to my extended family. For my senior thesis, I looked at the sexual and reproductive health needs of South Asian students on campus, and part of that was asking students “Do you have sex? How does that fit in with your religious values or cultural values?” When my mom asked me to explain it to my family back home, I was like…Well, it's very explicitly about sex, birth control, things like that. My aunt and uncle were sitting next to me and they were like, “Try telling us in English. We'll try to do our best to understand.”
And then I started… it was awkward. I was like “Are you familiar with fertility?” Trying to figure out what is the best way to say this. Then they were like “Stop.. you're dancing around something, say what you're saying.” I was like we talk about sex and birth control and then they talked about their own lives. They talked about trying to get pregnant and that cultural phenomenon of the stress that goes into you get married, and then you're expected to have kids and it was the most honest conversation I've ever had with a family member that wasn’t my parent. I think we got a little bit off-topic from what I originally intended. It's cool to know that somebody else is going through this because I haven't, I'm in a fun position where a lot of my friends and their families are living in the United States. They're a little bit more progressive. But I think even in Pakistan, I know people who are more progressive because we have the concept of the third gender in Pakistan. One of the questions I want to ask is, specifically in terms of the work that you've done on campus and through the magazine, especially, what changes would you like to see being made towards inclusivity for Asian Pacific Islander folks within the queer community?
Ivy: I think that… Wow, that's a great question! I think the biggest thing right now is that I don't see that kind of representation. I think because it isn't there in terms of bigger cultural media moments. I think it makes people feel alienated when they do. I feel because you're born a specific ethnicity…For me, I always knew I was Chinese before I knew I was queer. I feel like it's easier to hide this queer part of yourself. But if more people can come out and show these different parts of themselves, I think it'll be easier for the younger kids that are like “Oh, people like me do exist” then it's not only white voices that keep getting amplified in these spaces.
I think family and cultural ties are a big part of being Asian and sometimes I think we downplay these sides of ourselves and other parts of identity, whether it is a queer identity or creative aspirations and things like that. I think seeing people pursue those will be a big difference. I think the first step is coming to TV and movie representation. I don't know if that necessarily relates to campus but a big part of why I wanted to go into the entertainment industry was to work on the back end of things and promote shows and things that did work to have people of color, and every part of it: in front of the screen, behind the screen, directing, producing, writing. I think having an authentic experience that shows the world what this part of that culture is like is the most influential thing at this moment in time because there are a lot of communities that won't see a person of color in real life. Not to say just Middle America but even when I was abroad there would be a lot of people that were ignorant of what being Asian was like and I would still have people make faces by messing around with their eyes and their fingers to be like “Oh, what kind of Asian are you? or what kind of ethnicity are you?” and I was like “That was so 2003/elementary school…like people not knowing what to say and being offensive.” I think for a lot of folks that don't have access to that on their screens. It's like, “Wait a minute, I've never seen this person before” and then that goes back into the oddity side of things. I'm pushing for representation and having a publication that is available on the internet. That would be huge for me and then also showcasing people, talking about these things, about their aspirations, and where they want to be and uplifting each other as well as having some mentorship. I'm huge about mentorship, whether it's me as a mentee or as a mentor. I think it's been great having other people show you the way and having champions in your court, whether it's at school or work. It's important to have somebody that you can confide in.
Srihita: Do you have a moment where you were watching a film or listening to a song where you felt represented and you felt heard and seen?
Ivy: I think it's gonna take me a minute to think of that and also sorry for that tangent that went on earlier. But I think I've always connected to music and I think you can make those messages your own. But somebody that I feel heard and seen by, who came up pretty recently is Rina Sawayama she sings a song called This Hell. In it, she owns the fact that for a lot of the time Christianity, or especially the radical side of people using religion to dictate what behavior is allowed and what identities are allowed, because I mean, for the longest time, the truth has been “Say no to being gay” and all these things like that. She owns all of it. She is a Japanese British singer, who rose to popularity in the last few years, but I think the work that she's been showcasing is amazing because I think… she is queer and she talks about that. She has a song called Chosen Family, which is good. I think…I saw her in concert, and I was crying and bawling. But then also, a recent film that I watched was Fire Island. I thought it would be fun, but I was like “Oh, this was emotional” and I like some of those messages that they're showcasing there and that are resonant of the “gaysian” side of things. I'll hear from my gay male friends who are Asian that talk about it. I'm like “Oh yeah, that sounds like something that like he's experienced.” But I'm loving seeing things that are coming up in popular media. Even Bowen Yang is on SNL now, that's amazing.
Zarya: I love Bowen, especially because… Have you seen the SNL skit where it's Bowen and I'm blanking on his name?
Ivy: I know exactly what you're talking about.
Zarya: Srihita, do you know?
Ivy: Simu [Liu]
Zarya: Yes! Yes! The skit is Bowen and Simu going back and forth and they're like, “Oh, I won number one Asian for like brushing my hair and being gay”, it's funny because these people are token minorities in their workplaces but they're doing such a great job. I didn't think that they would do something like that on SNL. It was honest.
Ivy: Me neither and then the punch line for that which I think for listeners was great. Simu was like “I’m doing the first of this but then Bowen will be like “I'm the first Asian and gay person to do that.” It’s like saying “I'll always beat you on that front.” But it's great and I think that is because we're having somebody on-screen showcasing these parts of themselves because I don't think we've ever had a fully Asian cast member on SNL until Bowen
Zarya: I do love Bowen.
Srihita: I was thinking of the one where he plays the iceberg that Titanic hit. I think about that a lot.
Ivy: Yeah. I think that was good.
Srihita: I wanted to ask that question. Because I think growing up a lot of the time I almost dismissed the importance of representation because I never had it and I was like “It can't be that important because I don't have it” and, what am I going to do? I think it was weird because I would have… people would have these experiences when they would watch certain movies and they'd be like “Oh my god, I feel seen.” and I just… the first time I had that was with Hasan Minaj at a comedy special a few years ago called Homecoming King and it was that same thing where there was an emotional response because it was a specific experience that I understood so quickly. And it was this weird thing where I showed it to my mom because my mom and I have different experiences in the sense of she grew up in India and had a whole life there before she came here. She couldn't relate to the idea of having to navigate those two worlds because she was still rooted in India. I think it's a specific experience and I think I finally started to understand the importance of representation because I finally got to have it.
Ivy: Yeah. I will throw it in here very quickly. I feel like it's crazy that we had American Dragon Jake Long on Disney, but I will still say I feel like a lot of the 2000s Asian representation was highly stereotyped and I feel like that's a misrepresentation. It's there but I feel like for a lot of folks Asian representation has been…For East Asians specifically, it’s martial arts. Then I feel like, for South Asians, a lot of it's IT geeks and I'm sure it sucks seeing that over and over again. But at least now we're having different aspects and different things of “you can be whatever you want to be.” I do miss that part of being a child; feeling like you could do whatever you wanted to do without the limits of reality kicking in.
Zarya: I was in Manhattan yesterday, speaking of bad misrepresentation. There was a bus ad on an MTA bus and it was a South Asian boy wearing very geeky clothing; a calculator in his pocket, that kind of thing. The ad is for getting a dermatologist…it was a double-ended thing where it was about getting your skin fixed because you must be a nerd so you must not take care of yourself. Then about getting your teeth straight because who's gonna go out with you if you don't and it was insane and I was with my sister and I was like “How can someone look at this and feel like that's okay?” because I feel like for South Asians, it is the IT stereotype and that's like the geeky… It made me mad. I was like, “Who approved this? We're in New York, somebody must have seen this and said, this is not okay?” But anyway, that's my little rant about the ad. Talking a little bit more about Juxtapose because the work that you're doing is amazing. Where do you see it headed?
Ivy: Yeah, for sure. It was hard for me to start with Juxtapose and get everything going because I feel like I had such grand plans for it. But I was like, “The first step is to get it out there.” But I think in the future, we'd love to work with different foundations, get a few more grants to work with our writers and either provide them a stipend or some other way to compensate for the work that they're doing. As well as visual artists and other people who are contributing and are staffed to work with the magazine. Because I feel like a lot of these stories that people are digging into and talking about especially when it comes to their narratives is trauma work right? I don't want to be the publication that says “Hey, we'd love to publish your work for free because it'll give you exposure,” or like “You can put this on your portfolio.” I've been in groups like that and at the end of the day having a portfolio is great, but I think digging into those old wounds is something that I need to provide compensation for because it feels exploitive otherwise. We'd love to do that. I think in the future through some of the interviews that we've been doing, or even having some co-hosts, I think we'd love to go in a podcast direction as well. Build out some merch and then if anything comes to happening, we might do an actual physical publication. Either that'll be a fall and spring issue or something like that. But we've got grand plans. I think we have to keep working on it and making that grind. And working with publicity as well.
Srihita: This morning I was on the website looking through some of the articles and I was reading the interview that you did with the comic Dylan Adler, and it was very interesting, and I feel like I have to now go check them out.
Ivy: Dylan is awesome!
Srihita: I enjoyed that. Our last question is kind of a podcast tradition. If you could turn back time and talk to your 13-year-old self what would you tell them?
Ivy: Oh, wow, my 13-year-old self! 13 would be the year right before I came out and came into my own identities and stuff. But yeah, I think the advice that I would give myself is to let things be. Whatever will happen is meant to happen. You only have one life so live that and allow yourself to feel everything that you can feel and it's okay to have emotions and feelings. Because I think for the longest time I was embarrassed to have emotions or feelings because it felt weak or vulnerable. But that's all part of the human experience. I think owning that is worth more than suppressing it.
Zarya: I think that is a very similar sentiment to what I used to say. It was my favorite catchphrase. Are you familiar with when Drake said you only live once? YOLO
Zarya: Sorry, I had to because Drake dropped a bunch of new photos yesterday. I can't say he's doing very well but my 13-year-old self used to love him. Yeah. But I agree, and I was reflecting on how our different guests answered this question. I feel like part of it is that when I think you have peace with where you are and you're embracing your identity, I think most people have been saying they wouldn't change anything and I love that. You've come to that point because our question is usually about, what would you say to your 20-year-old self but it's like… your perspective of us having been through high school together and seeing where you are. I'm so happy to see somebody else who I knew from high school, doing amazing work for the community and it's like in parallel to the work that we're trying to do with the podcast. I want to applaud you and say I'm so proud of you for the work that you've accomplished.
Ivy: Thank you so much. It's great to see both of us thriving and surrounded by good people. I think that the other thing is that you have to surround yourself with good people and if people are draining your energy, they're not worth the time of day.
Zarya: Yeah, I agree with that. On that note, is there anything else you want to add Srihita or Ivy?
Srihita: I did not know the both of you since high school but I'm glad I know you now.
Zarya: Before we head out Ivy, do you mind telling listeners where they can find and support Juxtapose?
Ivy: You can hit us up at Juxtaposemag.com. There is another Juxtapose magazine spelled differently. You can hit us up on Instagram and Twitter. That's juxtapose_mag. Feel free to submit content, and apply to be a writer, or graphic designer, all that fun stuff is listed on the website.
Zarya: Thank you so much Ivy for joining us.
Ivy: Thank you so much for having me. It was a lovely conversation.
Zarya: Thanks for listening. Please consider making a donation to the Queer Diagnosis Scholarship Fund to connect students with much-needed financial support as a means of guaranteeing their academic success, particularly those students who identify as members or advocates of the LGBTQ+ community. Read the transcript for this episode at QueerDiagnosis.com. Queer Diagnosis is
Srihita: Srihita Mediboina.
Katya: Katya Shemelyak
Jameson: Jameson Coleman.
Zarya: And me, Zarya Shaikh. Music is composed and provided by Cara Dugan and Adam Fredette. This podcast is supported by listeners like yourself. Our Patreon is patreon.com/QueerDiagnosis. Rate and subscribe to Queer Diagnosis wherever you like to listen.
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This transcript has been edited for clarity. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.