31 Days of APIDAs: Isis Yeung Piccillo

In honor of May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Pacific Ties and Asian Pacific Coalition (APC) are teaming up to featuring Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Bruins. We’ll be posting one interview per day. If you’d like to share your story, fill out this form here.

Isis Yeung Piccillo is a third-year Human Biology and Society major and Gender Studies minor, who identifies as Mexican-Italian and Chinese.

What are you passionate about and why?

Broadly, social justice issues, but if you get to the more superficial things, I love soccer, reading, and cooking! Hanging out with my friends and listening to music, but the bigger things that get me going is social justice and making the world better.

Is this passion related to your major/minor?

It relates to both my major and my minor. I want to be a nurse–a public health nurse in particular just because I feel the people that are served by public health are the people in most need, and bringing my gender studies minor to it will enable a better understanding of the different issues that people are facing. In addition, I want to work with the LGBTQ+ community so gender studies will give me a good lens to that as well.

Are you a part of any student groups on campus?

I am in Lavender Health Alliance, which is a UCLA student group focused on LGBTQ+ health for allies and members of the community alike. We provide a space for people who are interested in health in any sort of form. We talk about LGBTQ+ issues because it is a topic that isn’t covered a lot in med school and other places where they teach you about different underserved communities but it is something that is still up and coming in academia.

I also play women’s club soccer! We compete with other schools and it’s a great place to make good friends, get good exercise and relieve stress. I’m also in Act for Equality, which is really how I got into this social justice movement here at UCLA. They’re a club here on campus that works for the LA LGBT center to empower students to take action fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. They do a lot of talking to voters about issues–especially right now with the “bathroom bills” that have been going around nationally. We’ve been having face-to-face conversations to reduce prejudice towards the trans community since I started in my freshman year, so that’s really awesome.

What’s your favorite part of your culture?

I don’t have a favorite part, just because I come from a multicultural household, so to pick one seems a little unfair. But I definitely enjoy the multicultural aspect of my family as a whole, because I feel so lucky to be able to experience so many different ways of living in the world in just one house. I have to say the food is pretty good because my family is Mexican-Italian and Chinese so I get a lot of good food at home.

Do you want to talk more about your mixed identity?

I went to a high school that was mostly self-segregated. For me, that was an awkward period of time because I didn’t feel like I fit into just one group. I became a floater who just went from group to group and became friends with everybody. In terms of identifying as one cultural group, I have trouble with, because I don’t speak any language other than English. My parents don’t speak any languages in common except English, so that’s what I grew up with. It’s hard for me to feel really connected to groups that are together based solely on their racial and ethnic identity, but at the same time I feel being at the intersection of cultures gives me a unique perspective on a lot of the racial debates and controversies and I definitely appreciate having that point of view.

What is your greatest challenge right now? And what is your favorite memory of UCLA?

My greatest challenge right now is graduating because I’m walking this spring and graduating after fall, so I’m facing this feeling of whether I’ve done enough and gotten the full experience here at UCLA. Since I wasn’t planning to graduate earlier, I expected myself to have another two quarters to wrap things up and get the most out of UCLA, but now I’m jamming everything together. This is one of the bigger challenges: reflecting on my whole time here and remembering the events and organizations that I’ve been involved in. I just need to remind myself that I did do things and that I didn’t waste my time here.

Do you want to add anything else?

One of the best parts of UCLA for me has been getting away from my hometown and my family and being able to start fresh. The past couple of years have definitely been a powerful experience for me in finding out who is really supportive and affirming that my family is not as conservative as I thought they were. I came out as bisexual in my freshmen year and within the past year I went through a gender journey (as my mentor would say) and came out as genderqueer this year. Now a lot of them are coming to Lavender Graduation so I’m really excited! Just being able to be authentically myself just made me much more confident and comfortable, as well as a better leader and overall person that can empathize and be with other people!

Responses have been edited for clarity and length

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