Code-Switching to Survive


Have you ever heard of the term code-switching?

It was originally utilized in linguistics for when an individual mixes or alternates between two languages in spoken or written word. Later, it expanded to sociolinguistics, referring to switching between dialects, terms, phrases etc. based on audience. Most recently it has been used in the behavioral sciences for when one modifies one’s behavior and/or image, so that they can meet various sociocultural norms.

Why do I bring this up? Because…

I code-switch. And it’s how I survive. 

Code-switching is not identity confusion or an inability to understand my own identities (I absolutely do struggle with those but code-switching is neither). It is me recognizing my identities I hold at that time and being able to measurably understand them and how they add or take away from the conversation and even be welcomed into the community at present.

And because of my layers of identities I code-switch frequently:

As a gay male, I can “FAAAAABULOUS” it up with the best of them. But when I’m around primarily straight males, I “butch” it up because part of it is to make them more comfortable and part is for my own safety.

Whether right or wrong the Asian identity is neither prominent nor invisible. It’s just there. And because of that, when dialogues of race arise, I find myself being “ASIAN”. But I code this for two different reasons. Amongst non-white friends and colleague I do this because many times, I want to be considered a “legit” racial minority. When I’m surrounded by white people, I do this because I feel a need to represent my racial identity.

And when I’m in a space with both, I code-switch to being an adopted South Korean raised by white parents, because for me, I have an ability to look into both sides and make connections. Unfortunately because of our limited human capabilities, that is not always a welcomed perspective or stance. Last week in the #SAChat I refered to this as being tape:

As an adopted South Korean, when I’m with my parents and brother and family, I am their son, brother, nephew, cousin, etc. When we’re out in public with strangers, we all code-switch to me being the “adopted son” or the “adopted son of John and Char”, because there’s a look in people’s eyes when they look at my white parents and me, we know they are wondering how we became a family and so we code-switch to adding “adopted” to my familial titles.

As a mid-level, gay, Asian, male in Student Affairs, I code switch on an hourly basis:

When I’m in meetings with only males I code-switch my language to meet the sociocultural norms of ubber-masculinity in order to “correct” my more natural feminine tendencies.

When I’m in spaces with non-white identity colleagues and friends my language is more relaxed and blunt because they’ll understand the impact of race on a life; and I code-switch to much more reserved and cautious language when I’m in a room of only white colleagues and friends..

When I’m in meetings with elders in the field I switch to more “refined” vocabulary and mature conversations as opposed to when I’m working with colleagues my age or my students, my vocabulary is filled with colloquialisms and “text talk”.

Let’s be honest, my full 100% perspective is not welcomed, embraced or able to be comprehended by most. And that’s why I code switch. I know people code-switch for me, and I for them, because as one of millions of human flaws, we will never be able to fully accept anyone’s entire perspective. I mean, there are very few people in this world that this applies to:


And let it be known that each and every one of us code-switches. In my opinion, not a single person can say they don’t code-switch. We each code-switch for different reasons. And perhaps it’s because we all code-switch that we find ourselves where we normally do in hard conversations and how spaces like Facebook have found us struggling.

Now, I’ll be honest, I won’t stop code-switching. I need to survive. For some, I code-switch so they can understand. For others, I code switch for my safety. For still others, I code-switch in order to preserve my “legitimacy”. And for now, for me, until we figure out a way to accept and embrace person wholly and who they are and their perspectives we’ll forever code-switch and continue, what can end up being a vicious circle.

Just a small part of what my reflecting on conversations of late have perculated. I suppose the next step in my processing is how to break this code-switching cycle…if it can ever be broken.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my musing and processing!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Strength in Uncertainty

There’s so much going on in the world that scares me:

President-Elect Trump and his daily Cabinet appointments and transition into the White House

Ohio State University stabbing

A ramp up of hate speech and leaders of anti-LGBT and white supremacy

There’s so much going on in my life that I’m working through:

Struggling to balance goals and expectations as an Administrator versus goals and expectations as a Student Affairs Professional

Preparing for my future with Michael

Balancing the expectations of being a leader in my fraternity

How and if my personality, perspectives and who I am fits into Student Affairs and in the long run how it effects my future ambitions

I’m having so many ponderings and musings about a plethora of topics:

The sense that we are moving towards a world, like in The Giver, that has no diversity and where precision of language supersedes human emotion

Whether it’s right or wrong that I still accept and respect friends who voted for Trump even though I’m being told not to and to remove them from my life because as a gay, Asian, adopted, immigrant, nationalized US citizen they subconsciously hate me

Whether drive and hard work prevents someone from building relationships

kapur-quoteHowever, despite all my fears, struggles and ponderings, I think I’d rather be here in this space of unknown certainty, learning, thinking, struggling and growing than in a space of certainty.

For me, certainty is a wall that prevents development, dialogue and growth. It gives individuals a sense of false superiority and expert status and an inability to hear other perspectives. It makes someone quick to answer and be the expert or be the one to call someone out. And from my experiences, lately, more often than not, people who are certain have done more harm than good.

Over time, I have come to realize that I have learned so much from others even though I was “certain”. And because of those experiences, I think that’s why certainty has become something more fluid and less needed in my life.

Now it’s probably because of this perspective I have, is the reason for being bulldozed over pretty easily. But since Grad School I have consciously tried to not be certain; to put my life experiences and knowledge in a context of it being me and my journey and offering those up to others as options and possibilities, rather than answers.

I have learned that I struggle with working with individuals who are “certain” and “know best”.

It has opened my eyes to the struggles of balancing administrator expectations and development expectations.

These new lessons have given me pause to wonder if I will ever be able to be a higher administrator because of his perspective.

It has forced me to keep those who do claim certainty and expertise at arms length. Because certainty is unwavering and uncompromising.

In some ways I truly believe that the only things certain in life is death and taxes. And even than, you can still evade taxes.

There were originally several different blog posts but reading and editing them over the last few days this seems to have been an underlying theme and foundation.

Now, I’m not perfect at sitting in uncertain spaces. Sometimes old habits die hard and a need to be certain comes rushing to the forefront, but the more I learn to sit in spaces of unknown certainty, the more I have learn of the people and world around me.


I’m still pondering and musing over this but thought I’d share with you what’s been bubbling in my life and ponderings. Thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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Chul Ho Shin & Language

Something random happened last week that has been on my mind…and it doesn’t have anything to do with the 2016 Election!

Last week during a training on pronouns we were asked to introduce ourselves with the name given to us at birth and what if any was the significance and meaning of those names.

I thought it was a really interesting way to introduce ourselves and it was such a great way to learn more about each other.

The awkward thing for me was that I don’t have a name that was given to me at birth. Additionally, I didn’t keep my Korean name, and was re-named when I was adopted.

My Story

brian-2I was left on the steps of a South Korean orphanage in Seoul without a name. My Korean name, Chul Ho Shin, was given to me by the orphanage days later and the meaning is lost to me. I’ve done research on what it means but I can only guess as to whether there was purposeful thought behind it or if it was just the next name on the list.

Once I was adopted, my adopted parents decided to give me American names, and selected Brian David. They selected these for me because both are names are connected with strength. While over in South Korea, before I traveled to the United States, I had pneumonia, which delayed my adoption and traveling. So being the spiritual humans that my parents are they dubbed me with those two names to put positivity and support out into the universe for me even though I was hundred of thousands of miles away from their embrace.

The Reflection

As we went around the room, I began thinking about my names and how I was given them and realized that I was marginalized by that one extremely common phrase that we all use. Who would ever think that there are individuals who don’t have a “name given at birth”? Thankfully, I was one of the last to go, so I had lots of time to contemplate how I was going to introduce myself. I decided to just tell my story and be upfront that I didn’t have a name given to me at birth.

After the training (which was aaaamazing) I realized that while that one phrase had marginalized me, I wasn’t upset or hurt by it. I was marginalized, yes, but not maliciously nor was it done intentionally. I mulled over other potential inclusive versions of it and after this weekend, came to the decision that there was no better alternative. In most of them it would end up defeating the work that would be done or it would marginalize me in a different way.

Over the weekend, I think I came to realize that language itself will always marginalize us. Language, like everything else including us humans, has its limitations and constraints. And it’s the power of the marginalized to decided how to handle it and use it.

For me, I acknowledged that I was probably 1% of 1% of 1% of individuals on this planet in that situation. To make it into a big issue and claim a social justice disservice would have, in my opinion, actually hindered and harmed the conversation at hand. For me, I decided to point it out as part of my journey, but not make it a cause.

I think because language is flawed that we will never be perfect with phrases, terminology, etc. especially when it deals with social justice, diversity and inclusive work.

This incident really put into perspective for me, that maybe the best way to have conversations and bringing awareness to some of these marginalizations is to tell your story with all it’s limitations, marginalizations etc., and be open to the possibility that that may be the best we can do; to simply bring awareness of the limitation. Sometimes there will be no “better way to say it” or “better word to use”.

I think I’m coming to an understanding that sometimes there is no answer, but rather the intent and respect that you use language.

Just some Monday morning musings.🙂


Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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This is Why

Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States of America.

There I acknowledged it.

It’s always been a struggle for the loosing party accept the results. I’ve been a member of both parties over periods of time over the past 14 years and have been on both wining and losing sides. We invest such a large amount of times, energy and heart into elections, it only makes sense it takes time to accept the results.

Every election has had the losing party voice their concern and dismay at the victor. Every election has had a dip in the markets after Election Day. Every election has had dirty politics and secrets revealed. Every election has played mind games. And ultimately after every election the country eventually comes together to move forward.

But the 2016 election changed not only U.S. politics and leadership. It changed approach. It became personal.

“Grab them by the pussy”


“Nasty woman”

“Look at that face”

“They’re rapists”

It took the essence of an individual, their identity, their views and their life journeys became what we debated this election within the context of domestic and global issues.

The worth of an immigrant. The value of women. The legitimacy of LGBTQ people. The experiences of sexual assault victims. The cost of colored lives. The lives for those with difference priorities. The knowledge of college vs non-college educated people. The beliefs of those with different perspectives. The morals of people different than yourself.

This is why the hurt is deep. This is why there is fear. This is why BOTH sides have dug in their heels. This is why there are protests. This is why it hurts even more that the Electoral College superceeded the Popular Vote.

There are many reasons being put out there why President-Elect Trump shouldn’t be President and why Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders should be.

But at the end of the day, you can learn to be President. You can learn to run a country. You can learn politics. You can learn leadership. You can learn everything to become President of the United States to keep us moving. You can work to fix the party system. You can work to fix or abolish the Electoral College.

What you can’t learn is how to erase the hurt and harm we ALL have done to each other. You can’t learn how to put the veil back over the divide that has been revealed about the people of this nation. You can’t re-hide the ugliness and hatred that has become evident of the American people.

This is why we still cry. This is why we still hurt. This is why we still fear, days after the election.

Just some thoughts as I continue to process the past 72 hours.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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#CSAM: Because of Them

As we all know this has been #CSAM (Careers in Student Affairs Month), and the recruiting for SAGrad Programs has been ramped up tenfold.

I joined some friends in participating in the #ACPAWhatsYourWhy about why I work and remain in Student Affairs which was great to reflect and share my why.

But it got me thinking…how did I start in Student Affairs? My why back then wasn’t the same.

Honestly reflecting on it, while the circumstances and situations may have triggered my actions, it was the people who truly got me started and helped me continue along my journey. So to close out #CSAM2016 I wanted to give a few shout outs to those who have been key in getting me into Student Affairs and supporting me throughout.

hurseJessie L. Hurse, currently serving as the Assistant Dean of Students, Oakland University

Jessie was my first Student Affairs connection. He was my first advisor I had when I really began to develop into a leader as an undergraduate student. He also had the fortunate (or unfortunate) privilege of being my first Student Affairs Supervisor as a professional. We had our moments where I thought one of us would pick the other up and thrown them across the room out of frustration (insert hilarious laugh here for those of you who have seen the two of us side-by-side), but I’ll be honest, we probably made the best team UM-Flint has ever seen. He was the supervisor who dealt with my transition out of undergrad, who dealt with my coming out, and who showed me the true meaning of student centeredness.

sekelskyDr. Mary Jo Sekelsky, currently serving as the Executive Director for Alumni Relations, University of Michigan-Flint

Mary Jo was the first administrator I ever worked closely with who really introduced the concept of Student Affairs to me. While not from a traditional Student Affairs background, her true passion was undeniably the students. She was the one who really showed me that its not which degree you have but what you do with your degree(s) and the love, time and patience you put into your work. Of course there were times of frustration and even points of anger that always comes with being in the Student Affairs field stuck between administration and students, but her calm and focused demeanor was a true example of how I believe administrators should be like and what I hope to one day be.

broughtonDr. Elizabeth Broughton, currently serving as Professor for Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University

“Dr. B” was not my first grad school professor nor was she my assigned faculty advisor. But she was the faculty member who took me under her wing and really supported my efforts in exploring my place in Student Affairs. Our one-on-one coffee chats helped put me on a path for success and exploration and her support of technology in Student Affairs really gave me something to sink my teeth into, and still today do so. I also loved that she was herself. Unique, passionate, quirky, fun, dedicated, and always willing to learn, teach and share. If I ever venture into a faculty position, I hope that I am as open to learning, teaching and mentoring as Dr. B has exampled.

These are just a few of the amazing and influential individuals who have impacted my journey in Student Affairs and who because of them, I get to have a why I am in Student Affairs.

Now I can’t close this post without a shout out to my fellow EMU HESA cohort for being the best community to find support from and of course the students, past and present that I’ve had the privilege to work with!

So, Happy #CSAM Everyone!

(Oh and for those of you interested in Student Affairs, always feel free to reach out to chat about it!🙂 )

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!


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#TWD…Another One Down


I’m about to reveal scenes from the season premier episode of The Walking Dead, Season 7

Le sigh…another one down.

One less Asian in pop culture.

Watching The Walking Dead is Michael, my partner, and my Sunday evening ritual. This past Sunday was no different for the Season 7 Premier. And boy was it a doozey of an episode!

But the most significant scene for me was when they killed Glen. I had physical, mental and emotional reactions.

I literally jumped and yelled at my inanimate television when Glen was hit the first time.

But after my initial reaction, my very second thought was: “well shit…another Asian gone.” 

Isn’t that a sad second thought?

Thinking about it, I remembered an article I read over the summer by the New York Times: Asian American Actors Are Fighting For Visibility. They Will Not Be Ignored.


Photo courtesy of The New York Times

I agree that, America has whitewashed the Asian-American presence from many areas is American society including pop culture. Asian-American role models are few and far between in pop culture, for many reasons, including racism, stereotyping, race-priority, and simple lack of opportunity. When it does enter, 99% of the time, it is for short-lived arcs in film and television, and other than K-Pop, J-Pop etc, I don’t really see Asians in the music industry. And as mentioned in the New York Times article, Asian roles are going to other identities in order to give them space and a platform. Unfortunately its beingdone at the expense of the Asian community.

Now, instead of just complaining about this, it’s up to me to help and take an active role in making change. Like everything else, I have a right to complain but also a responsibility to help change it.

So, I start with this post in acknowledging the issue. I will continue to promote Asian-American individuals in pop culture. I will continue calling out whitewashing the Asian identity from stories, film and music. I myself will work to overcome the desensitization of the lack of Asian-Americans in pop culture. And whatever else I can to bring awareness and move this forward.

In other words, I’ve #ATTI80 and reached the 3rd Stage in Kim’s Asian-American Identity Development Model of Awakening to Social Political Consciousness.🙂


Photo courtesy of

Thanks for reading my musings today!

And Glen, you’ll forever be my favorite Walking Dead Hero!

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!


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Unfriending of Dissonance

An interesting phenomenon has taken root on my social media platforms.

Unfriending of dissonance. 

For the past year or so, the frequency of friends laying claim to unfriending or unfollowing individuals due to their different opinions has increased ten fold.

And I’ll be honest, it’s unsettling to me.

I have many friends on my platforms that are staunch conservatives who believe that Christian values must guide policy. I have friends who are Log Cabin Republicans who say the LGBT identity is fine but same-sex marriage is wrong. I have friends who are broad Libertarians who are fighting for their candidate to even get recognized. I have people who are very much liberal and are fighting for gun control in fear for their loved one’s lives.

At some points I’ve felt that at times my liberal friends, who I align with most, are so liberal they become exclusive, elitist and conservatively liberal (meaning if someone doesn’t agree with their liberal views then they are not valid citizens or even human beings and treat them as such). And other times, I’ve witnessed conservative friends who are more liberal in certain situations or issues be tossed out and told to go Democrat or Third-Party because they don’t fit the “mold” of the Conservative Party.

Through all this, I don’t see how we learn, grow or develop if we cannot be challenged or be able to sit in uncomfortable space. At what point do we become so entrenched in our views and opinions that we can’t respect a differing opinion or view? That we can’t stand someone sharing their views just as much as we are on social media platforms? We don’t have to like the view or opinion. We can support our issues and positions without degrading others who are different than us in thought.

I just find it absolutely baffling that we get so entrenched in “being right” and making “everyone agree and believe the same thing as me” that we can no longer sit in community with those who are different than us.

The answer is not to rid your platforms of dissonance. The answer is not dismissing and ignoring the uncomfortable conversations or view or opinions.

The answer is to work to understand them. To get to their “why”. It is to talk about them. It is to respect one another as human beings who have different views. It is to learn, grow and develop. And ultimately to allow one another to be who we are and to learn to live together despite our differences.

As Student Affairs Professionals, I believe that we are in a unique position to example this type of work. From our education, our work and our frames of mind, we have everything we need to example this.

As Student Affairs Professionals we are failing at this challenge set before us.

So as the political season begins to ramp up and even after with all the other issues we handle on an everyday basis, how are you going to example having your own thoughts and perspectives that are different from those around you without dismissing or deleting them from your life?  How are you going to work to understand their views; to not dismiss their perspectives, because their passion is just as high as your own with your shares, likes and posts on social media? How are you going to example community building in times of dissonance and not just unfriend or unfollow them because they have different opinions, views and beliefs?

If we keep isolating ourselves in communities that only think the same way as we do, then we won’t grow, we won’t learn, we won’t develop and we won’t be able to make progress or make the world a better place.

I’ve learned and grown a lot from those on my platforms who push back on my views, opinions and perspectives. It forces me to not only look at my own views and why, but theirs as well. We normally end up agreeing to disagree and respect our perspectives but I think each time we leave the conversation with a more well rounded Large Picture View.

I’m proud that I’ve never unfriended or unfollowed someone for their stances, socially, politically etc. Only once have I unfriended someone from my platform, and that was when they came after me personally and began to threaten my life.

But I accredit my ability of understanding and tolerance to the amount of learning and developing I’ve done because I have such a vast array or views and perspectives in my life and on my platforms.

So I challenge you to not “purify” your platforms but rather take advantage of the differences to learn, grow and develop.

Just what’s on my mind this morning after the last week’s Presidential Debate, last night’s VP Debate and the aftermath of my social media after each.

And if I may have a moment of fun and to end my post on a lighter note…I think my favorite GIF from my tweets last night was this:


Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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