J. Kyon, Director of Community Impact at YWCA Kalamazoo, spent over three years as a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Big Pride program, a program in partnership with OutFront Kalamazoo.
Kyon is a passionate advocate for gender equity and a leading Kalamazoo voice in the fight against racism.
BEING THE MISSING PIECE
Kyon, a second-generation Burmese-Chinese American, grew up in New York City. Raised by their family- including their cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors- they were surrounded by a community that cared deeply for them. However, this community was missing one piece: a queer/LGBT elder.
This missing piece led Kyon to one day become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
IGNITING POWER AND PROMISE
Kyon was matched with their Little, Dylan, for just over three years in the Big Pride program. In this program, LGBTQIATS+ mentors are matched with LGBTQIATS+ youth (aged 12-16). Together, they form a supportive friendship to help the mentee realize and own their potential.
Kyon and Dylan were matched because they shared an interest in learning about things outside of the norm, such as blacksmithing and fencing. While they were matched, they enjoyed making art together and trying new things, like cooking Thai food and trying Mediterranean cuisine. The pair remains in contact today.
LEARNING TO APOLOGIZE & OTHER INSPIRATION
“So many people have graciously mentored me,” Kyon explains. First, Kyon points out Jo Ann Mundy from ERACCE (Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equality). They share, “Jo Ann was the first adult in my life to say, ‘Sorry,’ to me.”
Kyon goes on to explain that Mundy also taught them how to apologize meaningfully.
Second, Kyon explains that Mia Henry from Freedom Lifted “…was the first adult who sat me down and said I deserve happiness and mental wellness when we do social justice work.”
They go on to share, “Both of them have informed how I take care of myself and others.”
LIVING YOUR TRUTH
Kyon shares, “I engage in self-care by walking my dogs, tending to my garden, and spending quality time with people I love and admire.”
They go on to explain, “These days I live my truth by not obsessing over categorizing every aspect of who I am … I can be trans and queer and the rest is nobody else’s business. I also live my truth by creating a beautiful life with my partner and chosen family, often sharing meals and going on trips together.”
TAKING CARE AND MUTUAL AID
J. Kyon gives back by taking care of their chosen family. Through sharing food, watching movies, and spending time with them, Kyon is able to take a collective breath with the people they love.
They go on to explain that they also “put money where my mouth is. I have a percentage of my monthly income specifically for mutual aid requests.”
Kyon offers, “I hope that my impact helps folks show up as who they are.“