Josephine Zhao, an ally for the LGBTQ community and agent to bring immigrant community forward

Just saw this on Facebook from my friend Mandy Lee, who is the Board President of a statewide LGBTQ organization. I am thankful for Mandy for a teachable moment on #NationalComingOutDay⁠, and am committed to be an ally of LGBTQ community as well as an agent to bring the immigrant community forward.

From Mandy’s Facebook:

“On the eve of National Coming Out Day, I wanted to share this opinion piece that I wrote as a coming out of sorts with the rest of the world that I may not be out to, namely my family. Whether you are first generation or fifth, Chinese or African American, catholic or muslim, democrat but especially republican, too many of us struggle with the process of coming out. I know I did and continue to.

When you talk about transgender rights, marriage equality and HIV decriminalization, these fights are lightyears ahead of those of us from these communities that struggle with the very basics of being loved and accepted by our loved ones. This is the reason I started my LGBTQ activism with Equality California many years ago - to bridge these two communities.

I met someone named Josephine Zhao who helped me through an immensely difficult time in my life when my parents and I were on the outs because of my sexuality. She listened and sprang to action and today, my relationship with my parents is better (but not perfect) because of her intervention. And while I've come to terms that my coming out process will likely be a lifelong one, I am forever grateful for friends like her that have stepped up and stepped in in the way that she has to make a difference.

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The LGBTQ Cultural Divide: A Teachable Moment in the Josephine Zhao Controversy

As a gay Chinese woman, and a daughter of first generation immigrants, my journey coming out has been a struggle, complicated by social and cultural misalignment between my parents and myself. The recent controversy with Josephine Zhao, where both the Chinese and LGBTQ communities came seemingly to a crash, crossed an intersection that is all too familiar.  Unfortunately, the conversations surrounding Josephine’s withdrawal from her school board race did not take into consideration the social context of what she and I both know – that many in the Chinese and broader immigrant community still have a long way to go to accept people who love like me. The things she’s said are wrong but we should use this opportunity to bridge this gap rather than further alienating immigrant communities.

I have dedicated my life to LGBTQ activism but I’m not yet out to my entire family. Having my family’s love and acceptance has been a challenge because my coming out is a coming out for them as well. This is further underscored by the difficulty I’ve experienced reconciling being gay while still honoring my family name. Knowing this pain, however, drives my activism and my focus on bridging these two communities that I belong to – LGBTQ and immigrant – whose views and values can be so disparate.

When I met Josephine, we found common ground in our cultural backgrounds. My parents and I were not speaking at the time because of my sexuality. She devised a plan to guide my parents toward full acceptance. Due to her efforts and some helpful intervention from my grandmother, my relationship with my parents today has improved immensely. Instead of resenting them for struggling with my sexuality, I realized that loving my parents means giving them the time and space to progress in their beliefs. Others deserve our patience too.

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Josephine Zhao, an advocate for San Francisco students, parents and immigrant families

After careful consideration, I have decided to withdraw from the race for school board.

While I strongly believe that my positions on a variety of issues have been twisted, misrepresented and used to tear me down personally, I also believe that there are more important issues at play.

I strongly believe that the issue of transgender rights and dignity is larger than any single person’s candidacy for office, including my own. Therefore, I would rather step aside and work for the greater good than allow my candidacy to be a tool of division.

There can be no mixed messages when it comes to transgender rights in our schools.

We must send a message to transgender people, especially transgender children, that is absolutely clear and unequivocal: We support you!

I will step aside at this time to work on the issues that I care about, including this one.

First and foremost, I am an advocate for children, parents, immigrant families and people who struggle to find a voice in our educational system. That is my passion, that is what I do. And rather than let a divisive campaign jeopardize my work or, worse, further divide our communities, I will redouble my efforts to advocate for our families, and our kids, on the front lines.

I will not be used as a tool of division. Some things are more important than a campaign, or a seat on a board.










Josephine Zhao - Public School Mom for SF Families

First, I want to make it crystal clear: I support all gender bathrooms. I support the rights of transgender people, as I support all people.  Second, I want to apologize for my own part in making this more complicated than it needs to be. I have not always been as clear as I need to be on this issue, and my opponents are seizing on that. But make no mistake: I support transgender rights, and I support all gender bathrooms.  Third, as a school advocate, I have always supported all gender restrooms, and the right of transgender people, of all ages, to use the restrooms they are most comfortable using. Fourth, my opponents are attempting to exploit two things: the meanings and contexts that get confused in translation between Chinese and English; and the confusion among many in my community between “all gender/gender-neutral” restrooms(全性別/中性別的洗手間) and “communal” restrooms(同廁同浴 - everyone goes into the same restrooms).

It’s bad enough that my opponents would exploit a sensitive issue on which we actually agree. The real damage is that the communities I am advocating for are exactly those that need the most outreach, information and inclusion.

I am committed to bridging any divide — and I will support the transgender community with all my heart and energy!

I am a parent, advocate, para-educator and advocate for immigrant families, and I will not be bullied by those who seek to tear me down by dividing us. 

首先,我想說清楚:我支持全性別/中性別的洗手間(all gender/gender-neutral bathrooms)。我支持跨性者的權利,因為我支持所有人。其次,我想為自己把事情变得复杂化道歉。我有时说得不够清楚,我的對手因此抓住這個問題不放。但不要搞錯:我支持跨性別者的權利,我支持 “全性別/中性別的洗手間”(all gender/gender-neutral bathrooms)。第三,作為學校的倡導者,我一直支持全性別/中性別的洗手間,以及所有年齡段的跨性別者使用他們最習慣使用的洗手間的權利。

第四,我的對手試圖利用兩件事:在中英文翻譯中混淆的意義和背景,以及許多我的社區的人在 “全性別/中性別” 洗手間(all gender/gender-neutral bathrooms)和 “同廁同浴” (“communal” restrooms)之間的混淆。我的對手試圖通過利用我們大家都同意的敏感問題,這已經夠糟糕了。真正的伤害是,我所倡導的社區正是那些需要最多外展,信息和包容的社區。

我致力於彌合任何分歧 - 我將全心全意地支持跨性別社區!



Josephine Zhao on School Assignment & Enrollment

Do you believe that SFUSD’s school assignment system needs reform? If not, why? If so, how would you change it?

It is a hard act to balance the need for neighborhood schools and racial diversity in school assignment.

There are advantages to both the neighborhood school assignment model and the diversity-oriented lottery assignment model. Historically, SFUSD had tried both models and neither was a full success.  And now, it has rested in a compromise in which neighborhood assignment for kindergarten/elementary schools, and the feeder pattern for the middle schools - where a few nearby neighborhood schools are fed into a middle school to achieve diversity are the norms.

There are advantages for neighborhood school assignment - it provides a sense of community...

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An immigrant’s path for progressive leadership

[This OpEd was originally published in San Francisco Examiner.]

I am a public school mom of two daughters, a longtime parent advocate, an immigrant who grew up very poor in mainland China, and an experienced paraeducator/family liaison in the San Francisco Unified School District. As a progressive leader in the immigrant community, I am running for school board in order to ensure all children, including LGBTQ students, have the opportunity to succeed in our city. I support equal rights and access for ALL students. My values drive me to advocate that every student, of all background and needs, reach their fullest potential.

My family moved to the City ten years ago because my older daughter Genevieve had kidney failure at the age of 4. While we were fighting for her life, we also had to find housing and schools for my daughters. It was so heart rending. We were implicitly denied housing, and unable to enroll Genevieve at a school near our home or hospital. After Genevieve got a transplant and recovered, I became a citizen so I could find answers for why it is so hard for a family to get by in the City.

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