Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee (he/him) is a bestselling author, essayist, and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. Born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, to a white American mother and Korean father, Chee’s journey is a tale woven with humor and wit. Describing his childhood self as a “financial crisis” due to being unplanned, he moved around the Pacific with his family’s fisheries business before settling in Maine, where he encountered racism from his peers.

It wasn’t until he moved to San Francisco in 1989 that he found a community. There, he not only met another gay Asian man for the first time, but also others who shared his mixed-race background. However, he was surprised to discover that even within this vibrant community, there were divisions; some gay bars excluded women, while others historically excluded Asian men.

Through his experiences, Chee emphasizes that political work extends beyond demonstrations and policy-making. It’s also about finding joy and connection in everyday moments like “going out dancing with friends, jumping on a stage for a favorite song, or just being goofy.” His journey underscores the importance of finding spaces where you belong, even within the complexities of identity and community.

K-Pod Finale

Say it isn’t so! After five seasons, we are wrapping up our podcast about Korean Americans in arts and culture. For the final episode of K-Pod, co-hosts Catherine Hong and Juliana Sohn look back on the series and recall some favorite moments, from creative director Ji Lee on the value of pursuing personal projects to interior designer Young Huh’s case for beauty in everyday life. They also reveal dream guests they wish they had gotten (Sandra Oh); the one episode Juliana’s son actually listened to (Michelle Zauner); and what’s next for KoreanAmericanStory.org in its mission to heal generational trauma through storytelling. Our deepest thanks to our supporters and everybody who listened to K-Pod. 감사합니다!

Vanilla Honey

Vanilla Honey (she/they) is a queer architect and community organizer based in New York. Growing up on Long Island, Honey was never taught Korean by their mother, but they connected with their family and other Koreans through humor and playfulness. Being biracial, Honey often felt out of place in certain spaces, but discovering their queer identity brought a familiar fluidity between their experiences with race and gender.

Queerness has been, and continues to be, a bridge connecting them to the larger Korean American community. Partnering with friends and other queer Koreans, they helped bring KQTx(@kqtxnetwork @kqtxnyc)—a national grassroots network aimed at uplifting Queer and Trans people of Korean descent—to New York City. Queer joy, for Honey, is a mix of warmth, smiles, and a sense of safety surrounded by loved ones. They remind us: “You’re not alone. Support is out there; you don’t have to rely on yourself.”

NAYA: Yon Yuh Zweibon

Welcome to the whimsical world of Beyond Costumes, owned and operated by Yon Yuh Zweibon for the past 20 years in Yonkers, NY. A Wharton MBA graduate and former accountant, how did this spunky woman end up owning one of the largest independent costume collections on the east coast? In this episode of NAYA, Yon takes us through infinite rows of costumes as she shares her story and the drive behind her passion for running this magical warehouse.

Our Mission

To capture, create, preserve and share
the stories of the Korean American experience
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Legacy Project

To capture, create, preserve and share the stories of the Korean American experience by supporting and promoting storytelling

Vanilla Honey

Vanilla Honey (she/they) is a queer architect and community organizer based in New York. Growing up on Long Island, Honey was never taught Korean by their mother, but they connected with their family and other Koreans through humor and playfulness. Being biracial, Honey often felt out of place in certain spaces, but discovering their queer identity brought a familiar fluidity between their experiences with race and gender.

Queerness has been, and continues to be, a bridge connecting them to the larger Korean American community. Partnering with friends and other queer Koreans, they helped bring KQTx(@kqtxnetwork @kqtxnyc)—a national grassroots network aimed at uplifting Queer and Trans people of Korean descent—to New York City. Queer joy, for Honey, is a mix of warmth, smiles, and a sense of safety surrounded by loved ones. They remind us: “You’re not alone. Support is out there; you don’t have to rely on yourself.”

Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee (he/him) is a bestselling author, essayist, and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. Born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, to a white American mother and Korean father, Chee’s journey is a tale woven with humor and wit. Describing his childhood self as a “financial crisis” due to being unplanned, he moved around the Pacific with his family’s fisheries business before settling in Maine, where he encountered racism from his peers.

It wasn’t until he moved to San Francisco in 1989 that he found a community. There, he not only met another gay Asian man for the first time, but also others who shared his mixed-race background. However, he was surprised to discover that even within this vibrant community, there were divisions; some gay bars excluded women, while others historically excluded Asian men.

Through his experiences, Chee emphasizes that political work extends beyond demonstrations and policy-making. It’s also about finding joy and connection in everyday moments like “going out dancing with friends, jumping on a stage for a favorite song, or just being goofy.” His journey underscores the importance of finding spaces where you belong, even within the complexities of identity and community.

Sulkiro Song

Sulkiro Song (she/they) is a queer, asexual, and aromantic pastor based in Virginia. Born in Seoul, Korea, to a family of ministers, their path seemed clear: carry on the family line and become a pastor. However, at age five, their grandfather declared, “women cannot be pastors!”—their first encounter with gender discrimination in ministry. Struggling to identify with the word “queer” and navigating their sexuality, Sulkiro felt misunderstood and out of place. They knew they were asexual since middle school but were often teased by peers. It wasn’t until much later, during a pride march, that they encountered the ace flag and finally felt like they belonged.

Despite the initial discouragement, Sulkiro attended seminary, not just to study religion academically, but also to help themselves through deep religious trauma—a process they describe as “ridiculously expensive therapy.” Although they didn’t take courses in preaching or pastoral care, they felt comfortable sharing what they were learning in seminary with their congregation. Today, serving as the pastor of HAN UMC, Sulkiro’s sermons encompass queer, feminist, and anti-imperialist themes, reflecting their commitment to inclusivity and justice.

Emmett Yoon

Emmett Yoon (he/him) is a trans rights activist based in Houston, serving as the Executive Director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT). Born in South Korea and adopted by a white family in the Midwest, Emmett often felt out of place and confused as a transracial adoptee. His mother reminded him that both he and the world were more expansive than he realized, instilling in him a strong sense of social responsibility and community through volunteering. As an adult living in San Antonio, Emmett noticed the lack of support and the targeted attacks toward the trans community. This compelled him to take action and start volunteering, eventually leading him to become the Executive Director of TENT in 2017. Faced with the absence of trans infrastructure in Texas and drawing on his unique experiences, Emmett continues to expand trans-focused educational policy, legislation, and community resources. It’s an enormous task, but he remains grounded by the family he has built and his belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. Emmett hopes that by creating inclusive spaces, the trans community can find their own strength to protect their joy and for the greater community to see each other in fullness to work collectively for a better future.

Ellie Kim

Ellie Kim (she/her), known as SuperKnova (@superknova), is a genderfluid trans singer and musician based in NYC. Her relationship with music began early when her parents—like many Korean parents—enrolled her in piano lessons as a child. She hated it. It wasn’t until she picked up her first guitar that she fell in love with music and started dreaming of becoming a musician. Due to the lack of Asian American musicians in the mainstream—and even fewer queer Asian American musicians—Ellie didn’t think being a musician was a possibility, so she chose the “safe route” and pursued medical school. Ellie completed school and earned a medical degree, but she is not a doctor. She is now living life fully as both Ellie and SuperKnova. Music became the vehicle for her to process emotions and her queer identity, as well as to find a community that embraces her for who she is. So what’s her advice for the next generation? “Don’t listen to me! I’m just excited for Gen Z and Gen A to come up with their ideas and make the world better.”

Legacy Project Queer Joy Editorial Cut

Queer and trans stories often go unheard within the Korean American community. By creating space and sharing these narratives, we can build bridges, learn from one another, and celebrate the diversity within our ever-evolving community. Last year, our team had the honor of interviewing nine incredible LGBTQIA+ Korean Americans across generations. In the coming weeks, we are excited to share a special edition of the Legacy Project: “Legacy Project: Queer Joy,” where we explore what queer joy means to them and their journey to finding it. A big thank you to our interviewees for being so open and allowing us to share your stories with our community and beyond 🩷

Funding for this project was made possible by Korean American Community Foundation @kacfny with support from the Reva and David Logan Foundation @revaanddavidloganfoundation

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