As we close in on the final days of 2023, allow us to take you through some of our favorite personal essays centered around identity. In the past year, we've covered topics ranging from the rising number of legislation targeting LGBTQIA+ rights to Jewish-Palestinian solidarity during the Gaza crisis.
By Tai-Ge Min
I never really got to spend time with large groups of other Asian people until my first year of college, when I joined a hip-hop dance team. (The fact that some collegiate hip-hop teams are Asian-dominated, especially in California, brings about some complicated feelings for me, but this is the truth.) In that space, I felt like the odd one out in some key ways that I hadn’t ever really experienced before. I was one of the only queer team members and the only trans person. I was also one of the only people pursuing a degree in social sciences, and especially who had any sort of interest or experience in activist work.
Before that, I had attended an arts charter school in Oakland, California with a pretty small Asian population — many of whom had parents who were artists or activists like my own, and a vast majority of whom were queer. So when I started to hear the sentiment from my college peers that, as Asian people, we tended to be pretty apolitical and unengaged in social issues, I was really surprised. I hadn’t encountered this as a true feeling held by fellow members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community before.
By X Vazquez
The alarming rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation this year, with over 75 bills signed into law, more than double that of 2022 (previously the worst year on record). As a result, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released an initiative this month and declared a “National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans”.
We are at a historic point where LGBTQIA+ people — more specifically trans, gender non-conforming and intersex (TGNCI) people — are most targeted by state laws in this country. LGBTQIA+ people have persisted through decades, even centuries, of struggle for rights and against persecution. But at this point, who can determine what's coming next?
By Jason Sanford
Being a person of color and attending an HBCU is an experience like no other. From the life-lasting friendships, memories and the training you receive, I could not have seen myself at a predominately white institute (PWI).
Higher education was something I was destined to pursue. My grandparents graduated from Clark College. And I always knew I wanted to attend an HBCU since I have been around them my whole life. My dad pushed me hard to go to his alma mater Morehouse College and my mother attended Spelman College. But I wanted to blaze my path. Instead of choosing Morehouse, I picked another school that felt like home. In August 2018, I enrolled in Clark Atlanta University.
By Mila Mincy
When I was 10 years old, my mother placed a book on my desk with a crimson jacket — “Persepolis,” it read, an autobiography by Marjane Satrapi. The young girl on the cover wore a dark hijab over her head, neck and shoulders. She sat — arms crossed, weary-eyed and lonely. I studied the portrayal, observing the girl, and wondered why she could possibly look so sullen. I had yet to learn how this girl and her family's story would make me question my own identity and reshape my entire cultural perspective.
Last weekend marked the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. Each night, as I light my menorah with family and friends, I reflect on the radical origins of this tradition that has allowed me to be celebrating here today. And each night, I pray for the liberation of all people — from mountain to coast, from river to sea.
Since Oct. 7, there hasn’t been a day in which I haven’t thought of the Palestinian people. Not since the Israeli government started bombing the Gaza Strip — killing thousands of Palestinians. Through this, I’ve seen friends, strangers, politicians and artists — people of all different backgrounds and nationalities — come together to condemn America’s military support of Israel and demand a permanent ceasefire.
As a member of the Jewish diaspora, it feels urgent that I hold any government accountable for actively participating in the mass killing of a group of people. I expect this to be a given for everyone, but especially for my fellow Jews.