Summer Luk, 22, who comes from a religious and conservative Christian family from Hong Kong and lives in New York, just finished her internship at GLAAD and later this month will join A Wider Bridge’s 2016 LGBT Leadership Mission to Israel.
“I’ve always had an interest in traveling to Israel, since I was raised Christian listening to stories about Jerusalem and Israel,” Summer Luk tells us in an exclusive pre-Mission interview. “Also, being a trans woman myself, I am always interested in accelerating acceptance and equality and so in the way this trip was presented to me I saw an opportunity to expand myself and meet LGBTQ people from a different culture and understand the issues that they face.”
In August, Luk attended A Wider Bridge’s reception with Ma’avarim, a transgender Israeli organization, and met Elisha Alexander, the Executive Director of the organization, along with three trans kids he brought along. “It was very humbling to see these kids, younger than me, advocating for trans-rights and talking about the importance of safe space, equality and raising awareness about the realities that trans people in Israel face,” Luk says. “It was very inspiring that I got to meet Elisha, a man who dedicates his life to improving the lives of many trans people in Israel. I can’t wait to meet him again when I go there.”
“I’m sure that my experience in Israel and interacting with the trans community there will broaden my knowledge of what trans people experience world wide and I can’t wait to bring back what I learned there to the States,” she adds.
Summer was born into one of the most prominent and respectable families in Hong Kong. Her first college experience in the U.S. was at a Christian school, where biblical studies was a compulsory minor. “I had to go to church about 36 times per semester,” she told Refinery 29 in an interview earlier this year. “We even had to sign a contract that says that we weren’t allowed to party, drink, have sex, or engage in LGBTI behavior. I was there for two years before I transferred to NYU, but it was during my time at the Christian school that I started interning at GLAAD.”
In a personal story in the Huffington Post, Summer says her journey of discovery began when she was 14, when she first started (secretly) dating gay boys. The first time she ever wore heels in public was at 16. “I walked into a local all-boys public school and introduced myself: ‘My name is Summer, and I was born a boy, but I identify as a woman. Any questions?'”
Her family started getting suspicious when she was 17. With no girlfriend in sight and a feminine personality, they feared that she would like boys (“Little did they know that I am a straight woman,” she says.)
In a last effort to “straighten” her out, Summer’s parents told her that they would pay for her college only if she went to Biola University, a small, conservative, Christian school in Los Angeles. Frustrated but determined to study, she agreed to go to Biola, but with a conscious effort to work and start saving up for a time when she’d come out to her parents and probably have to provide for herself.
Summer reached out to friends back in Hong Kong, and they suggested that she should contact L.A.’s Gay and Lesbian Center. “One of the first people that the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center put me in contact with was Terell,” she says. “Terell is a gay alumnus of Biola, and he introduced me to Biola’s unofficial, unsanctioned LGBTQ group, Biola Queer Underground.”
Summer ended up becoming a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights at Biola, and found herself among Christian friends who supported her for who she is. Finally, after two years at Biola, she transferred to NYU, “school of her dreams.”
At NYU, she was able to continue developing her music, and to write about her real feelings. Earlier this year, Summer released a video to her song “I Am A Girl,” which went viral on social media and got the attention of the greater LGBTQ community. “As a musician, I would think, what would the 14-year-old Summer wish she had heard? I am a girl, always have been, always will be. I will defy, I will break free,” she tells Refinery 29. “It articulates internal turmoil, but at the same time, recognizes that she has power in reclaiming her narrative and identity.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I’m a musician and performer and I hope that five years from now, I’ll be able to fully sustain myself as a performer connecting with audiences worldwide.”