If you’re exceptionally curious about where I come from, the TMI is below.
Where did Sharon come from?
My (second-generation Chinese-American) mother and (fourth-generation Polish-American) father met in their hometown of Chicago (Waukegan), Illinois and were married in the campus chapel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was born in 1969 in a hospital in Boston, where the staff chose to write “Race: White” on my birth certificate, mystifying me and setting the stage for a lifelong curiosity about racial and cultural identity in society. I was an M.I.T. baby, steeped in Dungeons & Dragons, early computers, and science fiction conventions. Another young M.I.T. couple across the hall raised their family with ours, adding to my mix a lifelong affection for Jewish culture and progressive politics.
I attended a Montessori school from preschool through the fifth grade. My early years were shaped by the Montessori environment of peace, intelligence, and profound respect for children as self-determining persons. At the age of ten, my parents divorced. My Montessori schooling ended and I entered the local public middle school system, where I promptly became a target of ceaseless harassment and social denigration. I attended the public schools in Framingham, Massachusetts for four years, during which time my soul was kept alive by the high school Science Fiction Club, the local Unitarian Universalist church, a rambunctious Irish-American neighbor family, and the latchkey freedom I had to roam the streets and woods and library at will after school. I also, somewhat randomly, taught myself the language Esperanto while working my newspaper delivery route.
In 1984 my mother remarried. We moved thirty minutes away, from our wetlands in Framingham to a hilltop in Sudbury, causing an abrupt change in my economic and social world. The new high school was technically still a public school, but its culture was both private-school elite and self-consciously liberal. During the 1960s, efforts had been made to liberate the students from the prisonlike school structures to which I had become accustomed, to prepare them for a seamless transition to life as self-governing university students on graduation. For the first several weeks I went hungry there, unable to remember to eat my lunch without a bell to tell me when to do so. I was enrolled in classes in subjects like Russian Language, History of the Sixties, and Advanced Expository Writing (modeled on articles in The New Yorker magazine). I traveled to Germany for the World Esperanto Conference, snuck into Boston for the Gay and Lesbian Youth group meetings, and led my friends on pilgrimages to New Words, the feminist women’s bookstore in Cambridge. I was electrified by Starhawk’s book Dreaming the Dark, which seemed to me to explain and give meaning to everything. I spent the first semester of my senior year abroad at a Catholic school in southern France, and my last semester teaching myself the Motherpeace Tarot in the school library. On graduation from high school, feeling exhausted by my adventures, I enrolled in the nearest university to offer me a spot.
I lived at Brown University in Providence, RI for four semesters, took classes for two, and received academic credit for one. I was naively unprepared for the bewildering race, class, and gender dynamics of the school, but found comfort and meaning in the freshman outreach programs of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Student Association. In the second year I applied for a position in the Office of Lesbian and Gay Concerns at the Unitarian Universalist Association national headquarters in Boston, accepted an alternate position in its Department for Social Justice, and gradually moved from Providence into a household of M.I.T. students in Cambridge. During the day I organized UUA file cabinets and mailed out packets on an A-Z of progressive social issues, and in the evenings I read The Courage to Heal and participated in radical feminist groups of women in recovery from incest and abuse. I took classes at U. Mass. Boston’s College of Public and Community Service. It was 1989, and I was twenty years old.
By 1990, I was feeling lost in the whiteness of the Boston/Cambridge women’s groups, and noticed I could find no out Asian American lesbian poets anywhere around me. I packed up my little red car and my little black rabbit and moved to Berkeley, California, where my younger sister was attending college, and where all the books I was reading were being published.
I was being published too, voicing my struggles with identity politics in the groundbreaking bisexual feminist anthology Bi Any Other Name. From 1993-2000, I lived in San Francisco’s Mission District with two fellow authors from that anthology.
San Diego, 1991
In 1991, my dear friend Nvwtohiyada Idehesdi Sequoyah, a Cherokee Esperantist I had met at an international conference in 1985, went on trial for his life in San Diego. I joined with those who knew he was innocent and were attempting to halt his execution. We failed. He was condemned, and in 1992 I began visiting him on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison. I visited weekly for a year, but finally could no longer endure so close a witness to the horror of his situation. I continue to correspond with and support my friend as best I can, which is less than he deserves.
San Francisco/Mission District, 1992-2000
I had first learned Neo-Pagan values and rituals as a youth at First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Framingham, and Starhawk’s Dreaming the Dark had shaped my life. When I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I joined the local UU congregation (BFUU), but also sought out Reclaiming, the San Francisco Neo-Pagan community in which Starhawk was a leader, promoting ecofeminist spirituality and public ritual as action for social change. I was immersed in the Reclaiming Community from 1990-1997 in various roles, ranging from website designer to member of the Multicultural Ritual Planning Group. I worked in advertising and desktop publishing, did trainings and communications for a small startup ISP (internet service provider), and took two years of classes at City College of San Francisco (1998-2000) preparing for a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In San Francisco I eventually met members of the national Unitarian Universalist Young Adult (18-35) Network (C*UUYAN), and experienced a joyful spiritual homecoming to the church of my childhood. I spent three years as an activist for UUYAN, and met my future husband Jeffrey Melcher at a district UUYAN conference in 1997. He was a member and later president of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, a lay-led congregation with a strong social activist tradition. I finally completed my undergraduate degree, in Humanities with a focus on Multiculturalism and Religious Education at New College of California in 2001, at the age of 32. In 2004 Jeff and I were married in BFUU’s Fellowship Hall, and left to go to seminary.
From 2004-2008 we lived, worked, studied, and ate at Pacific School of Religion, a progressive ecumenical seminary in the Berkeley hills. I served on the staff of PSR’s PANA Institute, a leadership development center for Asian American progressive Christians and friends. Our daughter was born and spent her babyhood in the warmth and shelter of the PANA and PSR community. Jef graduated with a Masters in Divinity in May of 2008; I continued to work for PANA until shortly after the retirement of its founding executive director, Dr. Fumitaka Matsuoka, in 2009.
West Berkeley, 2008-
My little family is now settling into our new home in a lovely small housing cooperative in Berkeley’s International Marketplace District, attending the San Francisco UU congregation. Jef is working for the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, and our five-year-old daughter is a happy homeschooler. Myself, I am sorting through boxes and cleaning out my old files, serving on the board of our housing cooperative, and considering a career as a professional eccentric.
Last updated 2009