Gia Ichikawa, known as Gia Gunn, came to Cal Poly Pomona Thursday to talk about self-love and self-acceptance.
The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars” alum was invited by CPP’s Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Student Centers to share her story as a drag queen, trans woman activist.
Gunn’s appearance was organized by the coordinators of the Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Student Centers, Bri Serrano, who uses they/them pronouns, and Kayla Kosaki, who uses she/her pronouns.
The appearance was brought together because students of both centers requested more LGBTQ Asian/Pacific Islander representation on campus, Serrano said.
Kosaki added that having Gunn appear with the centers shows students a “possibility model,” an idea introduced by actress and trans activist Laverne Cox in a 2014 interview with Katie Couric.
The idea of a “possibility model” allows audiences to see a celebrity, not as someone to model their life after, but as motivation to achieve their own goals, similar to the celebrity.
Gunn’s appearance was broken into three different segments: the keynote, a panel and an audience question-and -answer session.
Gunn’s keynote focused on her journey of self-acceptance throughout her 29 years of life. She broke her discussion into three different segments highlighting three different moments in her life that she needed to accept herself.
She began with her first battle with self-acceptance: realizing that she was identifying as a gay man. Her second battle was accepting that she was a drag queen. Gunn’s most recent battle with self-acceptance was about realizing that she is a trans woman.
The keynote oscillated between providing her firsthand experience with depression and self-love, and providing wisdom to the audience on how they can develop their own sense of self-actualization.
“(It’s) an amazing feeling when the world can accept you for who you are,” Gunn said. “Or at least who you think you are.”
The next section of the event was the panel. The panel consisted of Gunn and two social justice leaders from the Pride Center, Dana Recio, a fourth-year liberal studies student that uses she/her and they/them pronouns, and Alisha McFarland, a fifth-year biology student who also uses she/her and they/them pronouns.
Recio and McFarland took turns asking Gunn questions about her personal journey and her keynote.
Some of the questions allowed Gunn to discuss some fun topics, such as her astrological sign and what it means, as well as some more serious topics such as discrimination.
“I’m an Asian American trans woman and I have a lot of privilege,” Gunn said. “That doesn’t erase that plenty of women and men of color are not getting the respect they deserve.”
Some of Gunn’s answers discussed the many trans women who are killed in the U.S. every year and how it’s important to discuss the harm that is done to the LGBTQ community.
Gunn ultimately outlined her purpose for beginning her career in activism.
“At the end of the day, I’m here to make a legacy; I’m here to educate,” she said.
The last section of the event was an audience Q&A, where Serrano and Kosaki took turns asking Gunn questions that audience members wrote on note cards. After a few of these, the audience was welcomed to meet Gunn in a meet and greet.
Jane Sagaser, a first-year animal science and pre-veterinary student, found Gunn’s discussion eyeopening.
“Hearing Gia talk about her confidence and, even though she feels like at some point she was living a fairy tale, it’s not her real life,” Sagaser said. “I feel like from an outside perspective, it looks like, ‘Wow, this person is confident and loving themselves and able to live this life that seems so glamorous.’ But they have their own struggles as well.”
Gunn’s appearance on campus and discussion about self-acceptance and self-love has the ability to help students view themselves and each other in a more positive light.
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