Zen’s Story · Staying Negative

Zen’s Story · Staying Negative:

Some excerpts:

I’m from the rainy city of Bogor, Indonesia which is a city near
Jakarta. I’m the eldest of four boys. Growing up, I was really skinny,
ugly and a bit of a bencong or sissy because I was a naturally quite a feminine child. Bencong is a local slang people used to describe guys who didn’t conform to the typical masculine male gender stereotype.

I got bulled a lot when I was younger, probably because I was seen as
a weak child. I was also a bit of a teacher’s pet which the other
students didn’t like. When I was about 11, I started to have these
feelings where I realised I may have been gay because I had a secret
crush on my male friend. I didn’t respond to it at all because it is
just not an option and I came from quite a religious Muslim family too.

In my daily praying, I remember asking God for death because I’d
rather that than face what I had to. I was gay, but I would be forced to
marry a woman and have children – I would be miserable in my entire
life. Perhaps I will end up getting divorced and ruin the life of the
people whom I was supposed to love.

I wished death upon myself and it got to a point where I really
wanted to kill myself, but as a Muslim, you cannot kill yourself.
Killing yourself will send your soul straight to hell.

I started my Masters in International Development because I wanted to
do something about the overpopulation in Indonesia and the issues that
come with that, but after working in many HIV and LGBTI NGOs, I decided
to change my focus to LGBTI rights and PLHIV. I ended up doing a project
about gay international students and HIV with Living Positive Victoria

I had to read a lot of research about gay international students and
reading their stories really got me down because it reminded me of
happens amongst many gay individuals in Indonesia.

A lot of them never came out, dealing with a lot of internalised
stigma, acquiring HIV and then AIDS and dying alone, too scared to have
sexual health check-up.

This was very hard to prove because they were hiding themselves and
not letting any services know about their identity, let alone
researching it. They were having unprotected sex because they never had
any sexual health education and also were too scared to expose their

From my research, a lot of these students were from South East Asian
or middle-Eastern countries and had mostly older, Caucasian men as
sexual partners in Australia who would pass on HIV to them – not the
other way round. I believe international students need to be targeted
with regards to of HIV awareness, because without any sexual health
knowledge and difficulties in accessing services, they are the most
vulnerable group in the gay scene in Melbourne.


letters-to-charles: There’s this thing that I do as soon as I get home. I toss whatever I’m…


There’s this thing that I do as soon as I get home. I toss whatever I’m carrying―backpack, grocery, the day’s work―and lay in bed. 

This past Friday.

My shoes still on and dangling from the end―I watched how the stars seemed to swirl on the ceiling. Dark purple and black splotched with pinpoints of whites. The tapestry I had pinned above sagged and threatened to collapse but I was content. There was more space in the room and I didn’t regret my decision. 

But―absorbed in my thoughts and the soft comfort of the pillows and covers. 

He texted me. 

Hey, you have free time?

I glanced at my phone. Bright in my hand from the new message. 

Yah, sure. 

Can I call you?

No, I can’t right now. 

Oh, okay. Well, I just want to tell you, next week I open a small restaurant. If you come back someday, you can eat for free. 

I didn’t realize it then but now I do. There’s this feeling, light and yet heavy. 

Thank you. I’m happy for you. 

The future of Asian American theater? East West Players’ new leader charts a course

The future of Asian American theater? East West Players’ new leader charts a course:

Throughout the season, Desai says, the nation’s longest-running professional theater of color will explore how to define its role at a time when identity and inclusion are hot issues in both the arts world and the ever-evolving Asian American community.

For starters, says Desai, “we remain committed to our founding missions — still necessary and relevant — of telling Asian American stories and providing visibility and opportunity for Asian American artists.”

Desai, the son of Indian immigrants, is continuing the efforts of his predecessor, Tim Dang, to “embrace the complexity of what it means to be Asian American. East West’s original focus was East Asian. Now, we include South Asians, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders and people of mixed ancestry.

“Next, we must reach out to other underrepresented people because we live in a city in which communities are not separate, they intersect.”

Portraying these intersections, he says, is one way that East West can be a role model for theaters seeking to diversify. Another is to recognize that many people no longer “check off just one box” to identify themselves.

Follower Friday: karlcalv

Follower Fridays is a series of profiles highlighting members of Gaysian Third Space to showcase the diversity of gaysians in the Community. This week’s featured member is @karlcalv.

Who are you?

Hi my name is Karl!  I’m 23, I like scary movies and mint mojitos.

Where are you from?

I’m originally from the Philippines.  My family moved to San Diego, CA when I was really young, and it’s become the place where I call home.  

What do you do?

I work at a restaurant in SD called Eclipse Chocolate Bar and Bistro.  We specialize in making different chocolates and confections, which we make and package by hand.  We also have a fully operational restaurant.  All this happens under one roof.  I’m the pastry lead here, and I’m in charge of managing the pastry staff, as well as producing baked goods, sauces, frozen desserts, custom cake orders, etc.  

For fun I like to read, watch movies, go to the beach, and go to different farmers markets in SD.  My friends and I like to go to escape rooms, and play board games.  I also collect enamel pins!  My collection has gotten kind of out of hand…haha!  #TreatYoSelf

What are you passionate about?

Food.  I like to cook but I love to bake.  

After high school I had no idea what to do.  I tried so many different things until one summer semester I took a cooking class.  I fell in love.  I went to culinary school to get a degree in the culinary arts.  One of the classes I was required to take was a baking class.  When I took the class, I realized how much I love baking.  So after I  graduated and got my degree in culinary arts, I went back to school and got another degree in baking and pastry.  Baking is where food meets art and science.  Cooking is fun, but baking feels so natural to me.  Without food, I don’t know what I’d be doing with my life.  

Also, fun fact:  if I didn’t pursue a career in baking, I was totally prepared to pursue butchery.  I wanted to be a butcher.  I was really good at it.  It’s really weird thinking about how I wanted to be a baker, filleting fish, breaking down animals, etc.  I traded in my cleaver and filet knife for a life of sugar, spice, and everything nice.  

What is your dream job (real or fantasy)?

When I was growing up, my favorite game was Harvest Moon.  It’s basically a farming simulation/RPG.  I loved it so much I wanted to be a farmer, haha!  Unfortunately I’m really bad with plants.

Now, in the future, I would love to own my own cafe or bakery.  It’s hard work but I’m ready for it.  I would love to create a comfortable space where people can come to relax, and eat all the desserts I love to make.  Something open late at night because I don’t think San Diego has many options for good food late at night.  Most importantly I just want to own a space where people can come and make memories, because I’ve made so many memories in this industry.  

If you could change the world with one idea, what would it be?

I don’t know about one idea changing the world, but there are a few that things I like to keep in mind in my life.  Take it easy, keep it positive, cut out negativity, and most importantly K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid)

Any personal plugs?

Follow me on instagram!  (karlcalv)

Are Asian-American churches in Orange County slowly shifting their stance on LGBTQ relationships?

Are Asian-American churches in Orange County slowly shifting their stance on LGBTQ relationships?:

Just a single street separates Epic Church and InChrist Community Church, both in the same Fullerton neighborhood and both led by Asian-American ministers.

But when it comes to their stance on same-sex relationships, the two churches feel miles apart. One welcomes the LGBTQ community, the other views homosexuality as an affront.

The difference isn’t trivial. In a newsletter written earlier this year, the leader of InChrist Community Church urged his congregation to aggressively fight homosexuality, describing the issue as nothing less than “spiritual warfare.”

But the Rev. Kevin Doi of Epic Church sees the world differently. He says congregants who are also part of the LGBTQ community are a “gift to our church.”

“They make our church better, richer… more compassionate,” the Reverend said.

But in the world of Asian-American Christianity, Epic Church is a rarity. If you are an Asian-American LGBTQ and Christian, it’s hard to find an ethnic church in Orange County that welcomes you.

There are more than 600,000 Asian-Americans in Orange County and, as a whole, many are becoming more supportive of LGBTQ identity and same-sex relationships. Taboos are turning to tolerance in Little Saigon and other Asian-dominated communities.

But that’s not showing up at church. There are an estimated 45 Christian churches in Orange County that welcome LGBTQ members, but fewer than half a dozen of those churches are led by Asian Americans, according to The God’s Agape Love (put) Into Practice Foundation, an organization that tracks LGBTQ-friendly churches in the country.

Epic Church in Fullerton is one of those half dozen.

But, according to Doi and others in the church, the evolution wasn’t easy. And it was a journey that began with Grace Lee.

App hierarchies.


On apps we search for people to chat with, people to hookup with, and perhaps even people to date. As we take the first step to view a profile, the “judgment” begins. When you choose who you want to view, there are many factors we all take into consideration: cuteness, age, body, ethnicity… the list goes on and on. Then when you message, the recipient does exactly the same thing to you before any sort of exchange can begin. It’s literally a meat market.

That said, it is what it is. It’s still fun to sift through profile after profile and see who’d talk to you. Sometimes you might be surprised, and other times disappointed. I wouldn’t take this too seriously and overthink it, it’s only the Internet. Let’s just say that someone saw me in person recently and then ran off. He probably he thought he was better than me. Then again I wasn’t into him that way.

So that is life.

Selected photographs from Michel Delsol and Haruku…

Apotheke’s lead singer, Shingo, on the lead float of the Rainbow Parade as it moves through the streets of Osaka.

Yoshiki, a gay Episcopal priest in the Ni-cho-me district of Tokyo.

Ai Haruna surrounded by fans in Harajuku, a street popular with teenagers in Tokyo.

Mandy, owner of a cabaret club in Tokyo, known for its drag shows.

Keiki, a trans male LGBTQ community activist, at a small nightclub in Yokohama.

Maika and Natsue on the subway on their way back from work.

Selected photographs from Michel Delsol and Haruku Shinozaki’s Edges of the Rainbow, as described in Huck Magazine.

Resistance to LGBT people in Japan is much more to do with the country’s socially conservative culture, and was never imposed or reproduced by harsh legislation. And it remains prescient today: equal marriage is still a distant dream, sexual orientation is not protected by national civil rights law.

It’s something that both Michel and his collaborator Haruku Shinozaki encountered over their two five-week visits to the Japanese islands when working on their latest project, Edges of the Rainbow, a photographic celebration of the queer community in Japan. It’s a book that carefully approaches the nuances in sexuality stigma and shame that are so often glossed over by those documenting Japan’s community of queers.

From the bustling streets of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ni-chome district to remote and tranquil villages, LGBT life is everywhere in Japan if you know where to look for it. These are just some of the people who they met along the way.