Tag Archives: Vancouver Biennale

I don’t hate the sinner, I hate the sin (poem)

16 Oct

Have you ever heard a Christian person mention,
“I don’t hate the sinner, I hate the sin”
Can I tell you how annoying that comment is?
And I grew up Christian.

(Michael Vidler)

(Michael Vidler)

I recently had the opportunity to film one of my poems, I Don’t Hate the Sinner, I Hate the Sin, in a Vancouver church. I’ve wanted to film one of my pieces about being gay and Christian in a church for several years, and I finally had the opportunity during my Vancouver Biennale artist residency over the summer.

It was an interesting experience to film in a place that has become foreign and scary to me. I had many thoughts and feelings of belonging (or lack thereof) while I was there.

It brought me back to the place in which I had written this poem. It brought me back to harmful comments that many Christians say to people who are LGBTQ without thinking twice.

It was a place of hurt, pain and shame.

One of the most common phrases is, “I don’t hate the sinner, I hate the sin.” Christians often say they don’t hate LGBTQ people, but their “lifestyle.” It’s a shame that same-sex love is somehow reduced to a lifestyle and not simply love.

But this poem reminds me that change can happen.

Since writing this piece, I’ve grown in loving myself and accepting my story. Others have also grown in listening and understanding my experiences. We may have different perspectives, but I know how much they love me and our hearts are softening.

It would mean a lot if you checked out this personal poem when you have a chance. Thank you to Michael Vidler for producing this video, and Canadian Memorial United Church for allowing us to film in their sanctuary.

Let’s keep chatting, breaking down walls, hearing each other’s stories and living in the grey.

Advertisements

“Do you have hope for the church?”

25 Jun
(Michael Vidler)

Leading a workshop at Heartwood Community Cafe. (Michael Vidler)

(Michael Vidler)

Some powerful reflections and dialogue. (Michael Vidler)

When I arrived in Vancouver a month ago, I wasn’t sure where my Vancouver Biennale project would take me. I’ve led numerous workshops, had a few performances and met some incredible people who have inspired, encouraged and challenged me. My mind and heart have been filled with thoughtful dialogue, as well as powerful stories and perspectives.

In my workshops and meetings, people have raised questions and comments that have caused me to reflect on my project and what it looks like to build bridges between LGBTQ, Christian and feminist communities:

  • “Is this pain worth it?”
  • “I think it comes out as hate, but a lot of the time it’s actually fear… People are just trying to protect themselves.”
  • “I want to step into community that understand me.”
  • “I feel really disoriented because I feel like I have to hide parts of myself from different people.”
  • “The healing part is figuring out in all the displacement, how we can find place and hold one another.”
  • “We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes… The shoes may feel uncomfortable.”
  • “Do you have hope for the church?”
(roaming-the-planet)

(roaming-the-planet)

(Jarrah Hodge)

What comes to mind when you think of feminists, Christians and LGBTQ people? (Jarrah Hodge)

When that person asked me if I had hope for the church and these communities, I told him I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t have hope. I have to believe that change is possible for these seemingly dissimilar communities. I’ve seen movement and transformation in these spaces, even if it’s slow and takes a long time.

Identity is complex and difficult, but I also believe that understanding and reconciliation can occur between LGBTQ, Christian and feminist communities. There’s a hunger for these conversations, and a strong desire to find community and belonging.

This project is also timely in Vancouver.

The Vancouver School Board recently passed a new policy that allows transgender students to be addressed by the name and pronoun that best represents their gender identity. The changes also discourage sex-segregated activities and allow transgender students to use whatever washroom they feel most comfortable.

Chinese and Christian parents have been represented as a homogenous group by the media, tying race and faith to homophobia and transphobia. For example, the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente recently wrote about the policy and said, “Many of the Chinese parents, like Ms. Chang, are Christians…” She didn’t check her facts because Cheryl Chang is actually white.

I recently chatted with Fiona Chen, a Chinese-Christian mother who defended the new policy and has been outspoken about supporting her transgender child. I admire her courage to tell her story, as well as the stereotypes she is breaking down and bridges she is building. You can hear more of her story in this CBC interview.

Fiona’s story and desire to fight for her son has encouraged me to keep fighting. 

This work is tough, but I know it’s worth it. It’s worth the risk, pain and messiness. Change occurs when we fight and are unwilling to accept the status quo – especially when that marginalizes individuals and tells them they are worthless.

I’m looking forward to my final event where I’ll bring together voices from my workshops and various conversations. There will be some spoken word poetry, storytelling and video this Saturday, June 28 at Our Town Cafe at 7pm. There’s a hunger here for these discussions and I hope my time here starts more conversations in Vancouver.

Check out some photos from my workshops at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House and Heartwood Community Cafe. Heartwood is a beautiful space that focuses on community building and social justice, so check it out if you have a chance!

Everyone loves an Asian girl, right? (poem)

12 Jun

Everyone Loves An Asian Girl was the first poem I wrote four and a half years ago. I was inspired after a poetry show and the words quickly flooded out of my pen.

Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. Those countless hours of writing, reflecting and performing have brought me to Vancouver as a Vancouver Biennale artist-in-residence.

Since that first poem, my work has continued to deal with who I am and the complexities of identity. Writing has helped me to negotiate, work through and come to terms with the various pieces of my story. It has also caused me to reflect and ask even more questions.

Since being in Vancouver, I’ve been thinking a lot about identity and my roots.

It’s uncomfortable to work through these difficult and complex parts of who we are, but it’s necessary for change and growth. We often don’t give ourselves the space to deal with these issues and questions.

Vancouver Poetry Slam

Performing at the Vancouver Poetry Slam. (Camila Ramos Bravo)

Last Monday, I did a mini feature at the Vancouver Poetry Slam. I performed two of my poems, Everyone Loves An Asian Girl and Minority. I hadn’t performed that piece since I wrote Everyone Loves A Jamasian Girl, a poem exploring my Chinese-Jamaican roots.

So when did liking Asian girls become a trend
When my friend asked me, “Jenna, why do guys like Asian girls?”
I let out a smirk and didn’t know what to say
It’s because we’re cute and petite and “exotic?”
Wait a minute! Why did I justify?
Offended because she reduced me to that
I was more than just an Asian girl
Who got all the stares at my –
Everyone loves an Asian girl t-shirt.

This poem was inspired by my t-shirt, Everyone loves an Asian girl, which I bought in high school. I thought it was cute and true, especially with so many people having “yellow fever.”

Everyone loves an Asian girl. (Kaite Burkholder)

Everyone loves an Asian girl, right? (Kaite Burkholder)

What’s this “yellow fever?” It’s a term used to describe people of non-Asian descent who have a strong interest, attraction and preference for Asian people and culture. I’ve been on the receiving end of this “fever,” particularly from men.

I used to think this obsession was funny, flattering or made me special in some strange way. However, I’ve come to resent this exoticization of my appearance and the assumptions associated with being an Asian woman.

It’s tiring to be objectified for how you look and having people constantly ask, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” Many people aren’t usually satisfied when I tell them I’m from Canada.

Check out my poem when you have a chance and thank you to the Vancouver Poetry Slam for filming it.

Let the Vancouver Biennale adventures begin!

9 Jun

It has been just over a week since I arrived in Vancouver, and I’ve already met some incredible people who are doing amazing work. I’m excited to be part of the Vancouver Biennale and for the opportunity to connect with other artists and community partners.

I’ve already learned a lot from those around me and it has been great spending time with other Biennale artists, including Andreas Strauss and my coordinator, Ken Lum.

(Andreas Strauss)

Meet Andreas, Ken and Camila. (Andreas Strauss)

Exploring a studio space. (Andreas Strauss)

Checking out one of the studio spaces. (Andreas Strauss)

I love new adventures and exploring new places. It has been refreshing creatively to be here, and I’ve enjoyed taking the time to dream big and appreciate my surroundings. It’s easy to move through life quickly, and forget to slow down and soak up the little moments.

A beautiful discovery on a hike with my friend. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

A beautiful discovery on a morning hike with my friend. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Meet my friend, Molly. (Amanda Watson)

Enjoying my time with Molly and the mountains. (Amanda Watson)

I’m drawn to passionate people who want to make a difference in their communities, and there’s definitely exciting work happening in Vancouver. I’ve connected with some movers and shakers here, and I’m thrilled to be part of fostering this dialogue.

This week, I’ll be starting my workshops and I have a few performances and interviews. Feel free to tune in and/or check out the workshops if you’re in Vancouver.

I’m excited to see what happens as people explore the complexities of identity, spirituality and sexuality. I hope participants will see the power of their voices and will mutually learn from one another through their stories.

The F Word interview
Date: Monday, June 9
Time: 12pm
Vancouver Co-op Radio (online) or CFRO 100.5FM (Vancouver)

Vancouver Poetry Slam performance
Date: Monday, June 9
Time: 8pm
Place: Café Deux Soleils (2096 Commercial Dr)

Spoken word workshop
Date: Wednesday, June 11
Time: 7pm
Place: Heartwood Community Café (317 E Broadway)
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504765246404418

Spoken word workshop
Date: Sunday, June 15
Time: 1pm
Place: Heartwood Community Cafe (317 E Broadway)
Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1504765246404418

I’ll be writing some blog posts for the Vancouver Biennale, so look out for more of my Vancouver adventures! I’ll also share how a random hug with a stranger three months ago got me here. Spoiler alert: that stranger happened to be the founder of the Vancouver Biennale, Barrie Mowatt.

I’m off to Vancouver: building bridges as a Vancouver Biennale artist-in-residence

22 May

I have some very exciting news to share with you. I’ll be taking part in the Vancouver Biennale’s artist-in-residence program in June!

The Vancouver Biennale is a non-profit organization that celebrates art in public space. Over the next two years, the group is inviting 92 artists from around the world to come to Vancouver to create public art and dialogue. Some of the incredible artists include, Ai Weiwei and Jonathan Borofsky.

The theme of this Biennale is Open Borders/Vancouver Crossroads, and the residency program is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, I Have A Dream speech.

I have many dreams for change, freedom and equality.

I’m planning to lead numerous creative and hands-on spoken word poetry workshops, which will culminate in a public event and dialogue at the end of the month. In particular, I’m focusing on bringing together voices from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ), Christian and feminist communities.

There is often a lack of dialogue and understanding between these groups, and I’m interested in helping foster conversations and peacebuilding through spoken word. There are many bridges and connections to be built.

My purpose is to create spaces in which people can openly and freely share their stories through poetry. I also hope the workshops and event help participants see ways they can use their voices as a tool for social change in their own lives and communities. We understand the world around us through stories, which helps us to grow, learn and be challenged.

Let's bring these issues out of the shadows. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

Let’s talk and bring these issues out of the shadows. (Jenna Tenn-Yuk)

I also want people to sit in the complexities, messiness and ask questions.

This dialogue is not about finding the answers, but living the questions and mutually learning from one another. Change takes time, but I believe it begins when we listen to one another and come to recognize our similarities and common humanity. I really hope participants will be open to having these important conversations.

Change is happening and it’s exciting to be part of the movement and dialogue. 

Last month, I spoke to high school students at the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s first gay-straight alliance (GSA) conference. When I was a student at a Catholic high school, I could’ve never imagined having a GSA or attending one of these conferences. It was amazing to see these students step out in courageous ways, and create safe and open spaces for LGBTQ people.

I’m excited to see what’s happening in Vancouver and to hear people’s stories. If you are in Vancouver and would like to be part of this dialogue, please be in touch at jenna.tennyuk@gmail.com. I hope we can build some connections and bridges together.

“ I have a dream that one day… we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

%d bloggers like this: