HyeJohn is a member of the queer API group hotpot! I’m a part of. I’ve been to her house twice for the annual hotpot! hotpot event, getting to witness her beautiful family of four! I talked to HyeJohn about her thoughts on parenting as a Queer Asian woman and more. Enjoy!
Who? name, age, what you identify as (or not)
HyeJohn Chung, 37. I identify as queer, dyke, lesbian.
What? what do you do for a living or things you would like to do?
I work for a bank but really, I would love to build/design financial products that benefits people of low to low-middle income households. Why aren’t there more financial services/products out there for low-income households that is profitable and yet doesn’t gouge the consumer? There has to be a happy middle where companies can self-sustain yet not charge low-income households usury interest rates/fees.
How long had you been with your partner when you decided to bring kids into the picture and can you tell us a bit about the conversations you were having/emotions you were feeling?
I had been with my partner, Christian, for about 5 years when we seriously started considering having children. Initially, it was more her idea than mine. I never envisioned being a mom, even though I loved spending time with kids. She really wanted to have a baby, and I was 85% there but 15% unsure. When Julian was born, I was expecting this magical experience where all my doubts about being a parent would go away, but it didn’t. But as Julian got older and I got to know the little guy, those doubts slowly went away.
Did you always want children? When did you come out to yourself/to your parents and did that affect this desire (if you said yes to the first question)?
Not really – I though to myself, I would be perfectly fine not being a parent. And even now, after having kids, I think I would have forged a good life for myself and my partner even if we were childless. However, now that I do have kids, I can’t imagine life without them, and life has become richer in different ways.
I understand that your two sons have the same father (we call him the donor dad). Can you explain your thought process behind this, especially in the context of ultimately having one multiracial child and one not?
Yup, both boys have the same donor dad. Christian had our first son, and I had the second one. When it was time for me to get pregnant, we went back and forth on who to pick for the donor. Do we go with a white donor, so they would be both bi-racial? Do we go with our original Korean donor? If we had one bi-racial child and one full blooded one, what would their experience growing up be like? Julian, who’s bi-racial, would have a hard time blending into Korean society, but then for Miles, he may appear Korean but have a very different background/experience from other Koreans, so would he feel accepted? Neither of us are bi-racial and neither of us grew up with gay parents, so we were initially worried about whether they would suffer from identity issues growing up. But then again, I am queer Korean who grew up in Papua New Guinea/Korea, and while I speak fluent Korean and love my Korean heritage, I will never be fully accepted by Korean society. That had been a source of angst growing up, but now, I accept it for what it is and feel lucky that I can move in and out of different cultures, even though I am not 100% accepted or part of any one culture. Identity is complicated, and very few people escape from it, even if you’re a Korean growing up in Korea. The best thing we can do for our kids is to give them love and support, teach them to be proud of who they are and help them recognize the gift they bring to the world through their different experiences and perspectives.
What are some difficulties you have experienced being a lesbian (is this how you identify?) mother and an Asian lesbian mother?
The main challenge I have is finding a space that satisfies all my major identities – Mom, queer, Asian. I find Mom spaces to be too suffocating because all they talk about is being a Mom and their kids. I find lesbian Mom spaces a little alienating because they tend to be VERY white with the exception of handful of POC parents sprinkled here and there. I find queer Asian spaces a nice welcome change but often times the people in those circles to be younger and childless, so I feel I don’t quite belong in that space as well. I don’t want to be identified by any one thing too strongly – I’m not just a Mom, I’m not just queer, I’m not just Asian. It’s difficult to find a space that allows me to express all sides without feeling a bit self-conscious or out of place.
Can you tell us about a rewarding experience about being a mom?
Through my own experience as a parent, I definitely developed a deeper understanding and sympathy for my own parents. I question them less on the decisions they made while we were growing up. Now, I just look at them with marvel and ask them how did you do this with three kids? How did you have faith that we’d turn out all right moving back and forth between Korea and Papua New Guinea almost every other year? My parents had guts – they took risks, they made sacrifices. You begin to understand the depth of their sacrifice being a parent yourself.
Do you plan to talk to your kids about LGBT issues? Why or why not? On a related note, do you have any children’s books/movies that are about queer families?
Yes, absolutely. We tell Julian and Miles all the time that we have a special family: we have two moms and two boys. They’re too young to talk about hard hitting LGBT issues but we make it clear that there are different families all around us: gay, straight, single parents, grandparents, etc. I think they’re too young to understand what discrimination is and how that impacts people and communities but when they’re old enough, we plan on talking to them about these things.
Julian and Miles both love to read and we read a wide range but our favorite LGBT family children’s book is And Tango Makes Three – everyone’s favorite! We do need to get them more books that addresses LGBT families and issues. Although my wish would be is to find children’s books where they talk about LGBT family in a very matter of fact way. Not like, Bobby has two moms, but more like, Bobby waived bye to his moms before he set off on his adventure.
Do you have any advice for queer Asians who are thinking of having kids?
Some people are lucky and they get pregnant on their first or second try; others, not so lucky. It can be an emotional roller coaster, more so than you’ll ever imagine. Be prepared for a long journey – before, during and after the baby is born.