For Asian Heritage Month, Rev. Sun-Young “Sunny” Kim writes about the unique challenges of being queer, Asian, and Christian.
My name is Rev. Sun-Young Kim, but I usually go by Sunny because I am a huge fan of pet names. I grew up in South Korea in the Methodist Church. I studied theology at a Methodist university and was ordained as a Methodist minister. I was a proud Methodist. I still am but, back then, I was one of those obnoxiously proud Methodists who think they were better people for being Methodists. Leaving the Methodist Church was painful and difficult, but there was one darn good reason for doing so: LGBTQIA+ justice. It was exhaustingly frustrating seeing my people (in this context, Methodists) marginalize the members of the queer community. The first time I received Holy Communion in The United Church of Canada, I could not stop sobbing. I finally felt I could breathe.
Even before learning about sexual orientations, I felt oppressed for not conforming to my culture’s norm. My people (Koreans) are not famous for valuing diversity. Most Koreans reach out to each other and form a community abroad, but I have been avoiding Koreans out of self-preservation. They look like the people who marginalized me. That is why it was good for my mental well-being to discover Koreans who will not judge me and treat me like an outsider in the United Church. For the first time, I feel safe with my fellow Koreans.
The process of learning about my sexual orientation was not easy because access to information was a challenge. In my progressive theological school, I learned about bisexuality. Then fast forward 20 years or so, I learned about pansexuality. With more knowledge, I began to understand myself better. Coming out as a Korean is hard because we operate on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Being a bi/pansexual in a heterosexual relationship makes it even more difficult for me to come out because people just assume that I am heterosexual. There are those who don’t believe in bisexuality and the reputation of promiscuity. Furthermore, as a bi/pansexual who believes in monogamy, I get attacked by other bisexuals too. It is exhausting being an outsider everywhere! Then there are heterosexual couples looking for a third wheel, because Asian women are objects of desire and I am a bi/pansexual. I am exhausted at the scrutiny of the society.
Even though there are all these challenges, being an outsider enabled me to see everything and everyone outside the designated boxes. It helps me to be less judgemental and shocked by people who are drastically different from myself. This ability to be more understanding and welcoming is a great gift. What and who we are is a sacred gift. Knowing the challenges of being queer, Asian, and Christian, I hesitate in urging other queer Asians to come out. I do want everyone to live as their authentic self, but we should not let anyone pressure us. “Take time and be ready, in the knowledge that God made you beautifully.”
— Rev. Sun-Young "Sunny" Kim was ordained as a Methodist minister from Korea before transferring to The United Church of Canada. She is the minister of Sicamous United Church in Sicamous, B.C.
The views contained within these blogs are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of The United Church of Canada.