January 13th is Korean American Day because it marks the day the first Koreans immigrated to the US in 1903.My Korean American identity is one of the most important parts of me. I was once asked when I first remember knowing I was Korean, or of mixed race. I can’t remember not knowing. Race was so apparent in my household; my parents were so clearly of different backgrounds. All throughout my childhood, I was asked if I am “more Korean” or “more white.” My mother taught me stand firmly in my response: I am both. I am Korean. I am American. I am Korean American.Keep going to read about my Korean American story!
My mother is Korean. She and her immediate family moved to the US from South Korea in the late 1960s. My grandfather was a student in the US, and my grandmother wanted better for her kids than what she found in Korea.Both my grandparents were the first in their respective families to leave Korea. I grew up 5 minutes away from my Korean grandparents and great aunt.I learned Korean the same time as English and I was raised with kimchi at every meal. I even went to Korean school for years. Though I unfortunately lost much of my Korean in early adulthood, I have recently begun taking lessons to relearn it. I cry after almost every lesson, something deep tugging from within. There is both grief and healing in this process. Grief of not being more connected to where I come from, and healing of finally establishing the connections.
My Korean name is 미원. I was the first of my Korean family to be born in the United States. My Korean name is 미원, “Miwon.” The first syllable, 미, is the same as the first in the Korean name for the US: 미국, or “Miguk,” meaning beautiful country. The hanja (Chinese) character for this is 美, and it means “beautiful.” My name in its entirety means “Foundation of Beauty.”My Korean name is typically a girl’s name. It is considered a “pretty” name. Though my harabuhji (it is customary for grandfathers to name the children) has offered to give me a new name, I have not once considered changing it. I love my name, and I most especially love the deep significance it holds: a reminder of where and who I come from—a reminder of who I am.
My father is white. The family story is that my dad’s father’s ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Genetic testing would tell you that I am 50% Northwestern European; and to be precise, that would be 29.8% French and German, and 20.2% British and Irish.
I have spent my life feeling stuck in between... I was never white enough to be considered white with the white kids, and I was always too white to be included by Koreans or other Asians. As a kid, I remember craving Korean American connection. Though my parents, and my mom especially, tried very hard to make sure I had exposure to other Asians and Koreans (both in my life and in media I consumed), there was still such a dirth of mixed race people like me. I always felt like the odd one out. Sometimes I was explicitly excluded by other Asians because I wasn’t “full Asian.” I never felt “full” anything. And if you add that to my queer and trans identities, I spent a good amount of time never really feeling like I belonged anywhere.
So, if you’re also a mixed-race queer person, if you also struggle with finding your place, and/or if you just want to be around some other mixed race queer folks, come hangout at my newest meeting. If enough folks come and enjoy the space, I’ll make it a monthly group!Here are the details: