Tag Archives: bodies

MOONROOT: an exploration of asian womyn’s bodies

we did it, y’all!

MOONROOT is an ongoing collaborative project about race, gender, and bodies that was born/e out of gchat conversations, love, and pure genius.   it was released yesterday at the baltimore zine bazaar and presented by (most of) the baltimore crew.


big ups to these homies for making this process beautiful: Sine Hwang Jensen (creator of our lovely lotus root stencil), Amy Dewan, Sun Hashmi, Marilla Li, Jess Kealiihoalani Toshea Mease, jackie wang (layer-outer of the zine! and the one from whom i got the bulk of the content for this post <3), mai c. đoàn, linda nguyễn, and Bhanu Kapil.

do you..

– want to donate seed money for future issues?
– want a copy with a fancy spray-painted cover?
– want to distribute the zine?
– want to give us feedback?

talk to us at moonrootzine@gmail.com!

also! if you self-identify as an API womyn/woman, trans, or genderqueer person, WE WANT YOU WITH US. please submit and/or collaborate with us, because we need your voice/vision/wisdom/story.*

Sine and Amy posing with newly printed zines

moonroot production factory (it’s worker-owned, y’all)

*psst.. nonster, stacey, nisha, manasi, mandy, aileen, zena, claudia, and my sisters… i am looking at you. ❤


lessons re-learned

over a scrumptious ethiopian dinner, a new friend tells a story about the time a fly flew into her eye.  “it was bigger than a fruit fly and smaller than a horsefly.”  i recoil, trying to imagine something the size of a grain of rice lodged in my eyeball. “we tried blowing it out, flushing it with water, everything short of removing it with our fingers. no one wanted to touch my eye.” i imagine what an eyeball would feel like against my fingertip. peeled grapes? soapy marbles? the inside of a longan shell?  “the worst part is that i could feel it moving around.” she pauses to make room for our reactions–a symphony of gagging noises, expletives, and groans–before she finishes the story. “the next morning i woke up, and when i was washing my face, it just like, fell out of my eye. it came out in a clump, completely covered in eye juice, like a giant booger. my eye was completely fine.” i think of insects fossilizing in tree sap. more gagging gives way to intrigue and we stop being disgusted long enough to marvel at the way our bodies deal with foreign objects. i consider that boogers are just the crap in the air that didn’t make it past nasal security, and i stop being surprised at the way our bodies protect themselves.

one time when i was eleven, i got in big trouble. i probably couldn’t recount in satisfying detail what i did or what the repercussions were, but i know that it was the kind of trouble that left me marinating in my own guilt. i remember feeling helpless and anxious and what made it worse was that my dread was steeped in drowsiness. as the day inched along, i found myself on the verge of falling asleep at every turn–nodding off in class over passages of lord of the flies, while gripping my styrofoam tray in the lunch line, and at the handball courts in our fenced-in school yard. i was a narcoleptic delinquent pre-teen, threatening to pass out on you, but not before putting glue in your hair and writing mean things about you on my aol homepage.

later that day i got desperate and confided in a teacher about both sins and sleepiness and she said, you’re stressed out. sometimes, when we are out of tune emotionally, our bodies react by shutting down. this is its way of protecting you.

the summer that i turned eight i made an ill-timed turn while wearing ill-fitting shoes during a game of tag. i fell on a pile of glass. it was from a broken car window, one of those things that feels normal when you’ve only ever lived in new york city but realize later in life that actually, in many places people don’t often go around breaking into other people’s cars. after i got over the disappointment of being “it,” i started to pick myself up until i noticed that my left knee looked like mount vesuvius on a bad day–gaping hole, lava spewing haphazardly, a smattering of particles from the sidewalk like fallen ash on pompeii.

before i could react, a neighbor scooped me up and carried me into our second-story three-bedroom apartment, where my mother made sounds of dismay as she transformed the couch into a hospital bed with firefighter-like efficiency. she cleaned my knee with rubbing alcohol, sterilized a pair of tweezers, and dove in as if she was merely removing an ingrown hair. i felt the searing pain for a split second before i blacked out.

a few hours later, i woke up. the only evidence of the fall was my bandaged knee and the too big, blood-stained shoes placed in a corner of the room. i laid back down and asked my body, how did you know not to let me hurt anymore?


guest post by Stacey Michelle Liou.

It frustrates me SO MUCH that so many women misunderstand, are not familiar with or just don’t know about their own bodies.  I am grateful (nearly) every single day for WHR*, and it makes me sad that so many people are deliberately kept from accessing this information, or are given incorrect or biased information about their bodies.  It’s not even like, a human right that people should know about themselves, it’s a condition of life!  How do you survive and how do you love yourself if you don’t know yourself in the most basic way?  I mean, I listen to my mother and my sisters, pretty liberally educated (if liberal means sex is not as taboo…), relatively speaking, and like, there’s confusion about the uterus and the vulva/vagina and it’s not like I know that much but it makes me so MAD that this information isn’t readily accessible.  Or, that people don’t actively access it?  do you know what I mean?  I want to be active in reproductive/health education.

* editor’s note: Women, Health, and Reproduction, a biology-based course about women’s bodies.

genderqueer microaggressions.

this post is not meant to be antagonistic. these are true stories, but the you written may not necessarily be the same as the you experienced. this is an exercise in me trying to claim my voice. thank you in advance for listening.

  • please stop referring to me as a lesbian. it’s wholly unnecessary and totally unbecoming.
  • you do not need to make assumptions about my sexual practices, ever, based on my gender presentation or otherwise.
  • it makes me feel helpless when told, “why are you wearing that?” whether it was in regards to an ill-fitting dress shirt or too short shiny shorts. shopping trips used to be traumatic for me as an adolescent and i would try to avoid trips, much to the derision of my mother and sister. the unwilling participant begging, “can we go now?” there were times when i ended up crying at the mall, i was so overwhelmed and unsure about what. it has taken me a long time to feel somewhat confident about the sartorial adventures i am comfortable in taking, and i need you to be gentle with me in your criticisms.
  • there is a reason why my standard outfit is a uniform t-shirt and jeans. that does not mean i do not put thought into what i wear every day and that i do not go searching for different clothes that make me feel good in my body. the options are limited. hipster fashion helps, to a point.
  • i’m tired of being present at meetings for women’s organizations where people lament the lack of participation/inclusion of men without checking in about who’s in the room and who is excluded from that binary.
  • when i say that i am a woman of color, i mean it as a political identity, not as a biological matter of fact. there is privilege that comes with identifying with what society connects as gender to sex, but that does not imply that my personal narrative has been stable, nor finished at this point in my life.
  • i thought it was incredibly powerful for our organization, centered around api women, to have introductions include gender pronoun preferences. and it took a lot of courage from me to say gender-neutral or my name. so it hurt when you slipped and referred to me with something gender-specific, which i don’t mind in and of itself, but rather the neglect through which you uttered it. and that you didn’t notice when i was taken by surprise and couldn’t listen to anything else you had to say even though i wanted to hear what you had to share, it was i who asked to begin with. and i wanted to correct you, to say that what you just did makes it difficult for me to exist, small as it may seem. but it was the end of the weekend, and i didn’t want to interrupt the session and put a damper on the mood, everyone was feeling so emotional from how beautiful this experience was, to be together in a space for and by ourselves, the connections we were able to make and encouraged to keep. and i do want to continue to learn from and build with you, but i’m less certain how, to undo this experience and trust you again.

i’m still your fag.

the hard thing about creative non-fiction for me, and in having to create narrative that should probably include more characters than just a single narrator, was how to write other characters that are not me. i cannot imagine other lives outside my own body, and worry about the violence i might (and inevitably do) commit against their stories and experiences.

so i ended up mostly writing about myself, narcissist that i am. it was a liberating experience.

however, although i got the opportunity to write myself, it didn’t automatically mean that i got to choose how others read me. which proved to be a frustrating experience. there is still plenty that i need to work on in figuring out my sense of self (through writing and otherwise), and this work will continue to be constant throughout my life, i am sure (how could i have it any other way?)

that said, i never, have never, self-identified as what was referred to me in conference, what was written in the comments of my assignment.* not to say that i would not identify nor disidentify in that regard, but it makes me feel like i have (even) less control over who i am, want to be, can be, only be.

what is the point of me unwriting when you’ve already got me written?

i feel like i’m regressing to middle school when i thought i was a rebel and shunned labels that boxed me in. but there are some labels that i proudly bandy about, boxes that make me feel warm and comforted. do they not get to be mine if they do not fit into your logic?

this is difficult. these things get slippery.

anyway. here is more writing from that class (the first autobiography exercise; please be kind) because i never feel like i write enough for this blog and this is my terrible excuse at over-compensating.

I am woman, would-be fag, born and raised in California with a too-tall torso and cuffed jeans. I have my mother’s calves. She is a feminist, though I do not know if that word translates into Vietnamese, so I do not know if she could even agree. I doubt she would, but I do.

I live in Saint Paul and walk to school because my bike’s pedal broke. Her name is Antigone and she may be suicidal, but she is mine. Walking strains my calves sometimes.

I like developing habits and trying new things when I’m not tired and sleeping when my body needs to. I have been dreaming more in my new queen-size bed. I submit to consumer indulgences. I want to settle and domesticate. My dream job is to open a gay bed and breakfast. And by gay I mean queer.

I fell in love with a girl named Rachel in eighth grade, but she told me to get a dog for companionship instead. I have allergies, so I married the internet instead. The internet introduced me to riot grrrl and zines and voyeur-able obsessions. I am more of a curator than a creator, though I believe there is creation in curating. I am an assemblage assembler assembling.

*lesbian. there. i said it.

written on the body.

It’s cold enough weather outside that I’ve stopped wearing bras regularly, hoping all of the layers I pile on (five this morning) will deter anyone from noticing. As if it matters, but I don’t want my nipples to embarrass me in public.

There’s a new display at the library kiosk of busts that women made at a workshop sponsored by the Health and Wellness Center. Most come with captions that are ostensibly from their creator, and some speak of how their breasts (and their appreciation/acceptance of) relates to their sense of femininity. There’s a comment box at the front with slips of paper that ask passers-by “What do your breasts mean to you?”, and I’m not sure I know.

My breasts do not represent femininity to me. They do represent a sense of sexuality that I will take effort to highlight at times (i.e. wear bras to support and enhance girth). I haven’t always enjoyed this about my breasts, and it really wasn’t until the end of my first-year that I warmed up to them. I had put on more weight living at college, and the majority of this went to the external parts of my body that would identify me as a woman: breast, hips.

And though I’ve settled and am more than happy with my identity as woman, which is directly but not solely related to my physical body, I am cautious about how that term is sometimes prescribed to be coterminous with feminine, and that is not exclusively the case with my body.

It’s funny though, because in thinking about breasts and femininity, my mind did wander to the idea of breastfeeding (which these days is considered a terrorist act of sorts: “This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called.”) As much as I’ve thought about becoming a mother and having children, and even after taking Women, Health, and Reproduction, which was the first time I started desiring actually giving birth, I had never considered breastfeeding as applied to myself. Which may be to say, I’ve thought about bodies and I’ve thought about motherhood, but I’d never really thought about them together this way.

Pregnancy, in my mind, was conceived(!) of as a liminal act, one that had a determinate end. But now I have to reconsider, because my body will not just be my own, but my child(ren)’s, and not just when I give birth nor breastfeed, but all the time. Like when I run to my mother to be comforted, or am curious about the scars on her hands, or run my hands through her hair. They will want and need my body in a particular way that will not be the same as how I want my body, and I will have to learn and grow with how to live with that.