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KOIN 6 News

Feeling seen: Celebrating Asian climbers, their heritage

By Kelley BayernTim Steele,


EDITOR’S NOTE: During Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, KOIN 6 News is highlighting some of the people and stories in our community.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At Movement Portland in the Pearl District, climbers of all abilities try their hands (and feet) scaling walls that reach 55 feet high.

KOIN 6 Meterologist Kelley Bayern climbed and talked with Carrie Hsia . As a chiropractor by day, she works for a clinic called Hey Doc where they offer care to queer, trans and the BIPOC community. She is currently learning how to treat climbing injuries.

They spoke at Movement Portland about climbing, their shared Asian heritage and what it all means.

Kelley Bayern: “So this is all a part of AAPI Heritage Month. What meaning does that have to you?”

Carrie: “Honestly, if you had to ask me that a few years ago, it would have just been another month. I’m Asian and that’s fine. I was more focused on my career-side then. But what I realized in this last 2 months since planning this event — No, I’m Chinese. I’m proud to be Chinese. That’s who I am.”

Carrie: “My whole life, I’m considered a big framed Chinese female, and my whole life I’ve been told I need to lose weight, I need to eat differently. I need to dress ‘girlier’ and grow my hair out. I need to not act like a tomboy.”

Carrie: “But embracing that, really, I think is being proud of it and caring about what other people think. People look at me like you’re not a typical feminine Asian. No, I’m not. Right now I have a buzzed head. I don’t wear makeup.”

Carrie: “I’ve been more proud of my Chinese side than ever.”

About climbing

Carrie: “Here at the gym, when people have projects, when they come in and they point to a climb, or if I’m doing my walk and I see that they did this really hard move that they’ve been working on, you celebrate with them. … I have no idea what your name is, I don’t know what you do for a living. But I know you just did that really awesome move.”

KB: “Exactly! So many cheers to complete strangers and you don’t really know them. There’s so much camaraderie to climbing, which is why I love this sport, too.”

Carrie: “When you’re climbing, it’s really intimidating to just interrupt and be like, ‘Hey, you’re Asian! Let’s be friends…’ Like that’s kind of awkward. You’re working a project, you’re focused. But working at the front desk and climbing about here, I have a different dynamic…”

Carrie: “ My goal is to talk to every Asian that walks in the door.”

Their shared heritage

KB: “I don’t know how to understand it. But when I meet a stranger and they’re Asian, I instantly feel more comfortable. I feel more connected and I can more openly talk to them. And it’s strange to me since I don’t really look Asian. I’m half (Chinese), but that shocks a lot of people. And I’m very ‘white passing.’ So, I feel like I’m in this spot that’s inbetween, that I am a white person but I want so badly to be welcoming to the Asian community but I don’t look the part. So that is my struggle going into these communities and trying to build a connection with people.”

Carrie: “Just like anything else, there is such a big spectrum. Or just because you don’t have the typical dark brown eyes and dark brown hair doesn’t mean you aren’t Asian…”

Carrie: “I do have a lot of friends that don’t present as Asian but I want them to know that I see you. I see you’re Filipino, you’re Korean. And it doesn’t matter what percentage you are. You are. You identify as that and you look into your roots… and you identify as that. You are. …

Carrie: Supporting each other also helps us in validating. I don’t need that validation. But it feels nice to be seen.”

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