Born on the Edge of Race and Gender
A Voice for Cultural Competency
by Willy Wilkinson
Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency is a multi-genre memoir by Willy Wilkinson, a mixed heritage, Asian American trans man and social movement leader who has been advocating for marginalized populations since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Poetic, humorous, and profoundly provocative, this compelling memoir explores the ambiguity and complexity of Willy’s intersectional experience with race, gender, sexuality, disability, class, and parenthood—within a larger cultural competency, public health, and policy advocacy framework.
Willy was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1960s, assigned female at birth, the fourth child of a Chinese woman and Caucasian man, whose interracial marriage sparked controversy in 1950s American society. Scrutinized for his racially layered appearance and transgender expression, Willy emerged into a culture and society that sought to silence him because of his differences. His identification with people on the edges led him to develop street-based interventions for sex workers and drug users, and organize Asian lesbians and transmasculine people of color for self-reflection, visibility, and empowerment. Ultimately he found his voice as a public health consultant who helps community health organizations, businesses, and educational institutions improve access for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.
Willy's story is a historical journey through queer and trans social and public health movements, and speaks to the inner workings and motivation of pioneers who lay tracks where none exist. At the same time, it is an individual story of belonging and not belonging, and a tribute to embracing life's challenges without regret. This well-crafted blend of personal storytelling with lessons from the field reflects the intimacy behind policy, the societal shift that demands greater cultural competency, a call to community engagement and institutional leadership. Innovative, moving, and accessible, this multifaceted memoir explores the liberation of finding one's voice in a world that prescribes silence, and offers a fresh look at ways to systemically affirm diversity throughout society.