Jireh Deng, Salgu Wissmath and Jenny Kwon on Identity, Queer Coverage and Upcoming Projects

AAJA members explore how their queerness informs their work

AAJA National
AAJA Defined

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By Hayden Park, AAJA Programs and Communications Intern

As Pride Month concludes, AAJA Defined is featuring some of our rising members who focus on LGBTQ+ topics in their reporting. We talked to them about their intersecting AAPI and queer identities and how they influence, inspire and impact their work.

Jireh Deng (she/they)

How does your LGBTQ+ identity inform or affect your work as a journalist?

Being queer and non-binary has been a grounding ethic in the way that I think about the stories that are untold in my community. I specifically look to center those whose work reaches to serve those marginalized and I try to look at interesting new angles to cover topics. I’m also invested in the stories that aren’t just about LGBTQ communities suffering, but also about us thriving and creating spaces for ourselves.

What current project have you been working on and how has the process been?

Most of my full length projects are unrelated to journalism, but I’ve been working on a poetry book for a while now that sits at the intersections of science and poetics. I was also an associate producer at CapRadio for a project called “Mid Pacific,” which is about Asian American identity and will hopefully come out this fall!

Learn more about Jireh here.

Salgu Wissmath (they/them)

How does your LGBTQ+ identity inform or affect your work as a journalist?

I am a queer and nonbinary photographer. My LGBTQ+ identity informs a lot of my personal documentary photography projects, which often highlight the queer community. One of the things I’m most proud of is when I get messages from people who have seen my work and they let me know that it has really moved them or they really related to a particular image or felt seen by a particular story. My work is ultimately for the queer community, for us to have positive representation and affirming stories of ourselves so we see ourselves reflected back to us in the media and in art. When I get messages like that, I feel like I’m on the right track.

What current project have you been working on and how has the process been?

My project, “Documenting Dysphoria” is currently exhibiting at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento, California through the end of June (closes July 2)! Inspired by my own journey as a nonbinary person, “Documenting Dysphoria is a series of portraits that explore what gender dysphoria feels like. These images are intended to affirm and offer visibility to the trans and nonbinary experience from a queer lens. This process of sharing other people’s journeys with gender dysphoria has been very affirming for myself, especially when I get to hear about experiences that I can also relate to.

Learn more about Salgu here.

Jenny Kwon (they/them)

How does your LGBTQ+ identity inform or affect your work as a journalist?

Being queer both informs and affects the work I do and want to pursue. Using they/them pronouns, for example, has allowed me to be even more vigilant when asking for pronouns of the people I work with and the people I interview. By going by these pronouns, however, I’m accustomed to having to regularly correct people, or in more uncomfortable situations, staying silent when I’m misgendered, no matter where I work.

What current project have you been working on and how has the process been?

I’m working on a few projects right now related to evictions and housing complaints (and [people] who are involved in these cases). They’re in the beginning stages but I’m always excited to tackle projects that involve FOIAs and sifting through large datasets. While these projects aren’t queer/trans+ focused, I hope to do projects in the future that not only focus on issues that affect qt+ communities but also highlight queer and trans love and joy.

Learn more about Jenny here.

If you want to join the queer AAJA discourse, join the recently developed AAJA-Gay Slack channel here. Keep an eye out as the community evolves.

Liked this piece? Share it on social media and follow AAJA Defined as we continue to chat with AAPI journalists and share their stories.

Hayden Park is a Programs and Communications Intern at AAJA and a rising senior at UNC Chapel Hill. She is based in North Carolina. Connect with them on LinkedIn.

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AAJA National
AAJA Defined

Empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in journalism, encouraging news diversity.