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Anne Guzman on Exploring Careers Post-Military & Staying True to Herself

Anne Guzman is a first-generation Lesbian/Gay Filipino-American. She was born and raised in the Philippines and migrated to the United States with her siblings at the age of 14. She settled in El Sobrante, CA, currently residing in Vacaville, CA and plans to move to New Orleans, LA in January for school. She served in the US Marine Corps from 2010 to 2019.

Photo of Anne by the Bay: "Being by bodies of water calm me". (All photos by Faye Saechao)

Anne talks to us about her past and future career pursuits, losing her parents at a young age, the issues she sees Filipinos face to achieve ridiculous western standards, and gives advice on staying true to oneself. Read her story below.

 

1. Tell us about yourself.


I’m currently in school studying mechanical engineering and a possible minor in environmental or material science. I’m passionate about the environment and hoping that tacking on a minor in environmental health could open doors to doing what I can to combat environmental crises such as climate change. I was recently accepted into the University of New Orleans, LA and will be moving there next year.

I also have a military background. I joined the marine corps in 2021 because I felt like I needed more discipline in my life. I currently work at Under Armour and a busser at Backdoor Bistro in Vacaville. After the military, I worked as a trained EMT for about 5 years and covered 6 counties in the Bay Area providing service. I enjoyed the job and saw it as a way into the healthcare field. I was inspired to take the route of one of my mentors in the military who initially worked as an EMT, he worked as a paramedic after and then became a firefighter. As much as I enjoyed the job and found it fulfilling, it was hard to commit to the EMT work schedule while taking classes. I wanted to invest more time into my studies. It was taxing because I worked a lot of odd hours, sometimes doing 10, 12, or 24-hour shifts and occasionally overtime or double time. Being an EMT taught me to be vigilant of my surroundings and to be more patient because every person you meet is possibly fighting a hard battle. So you learn to just let the bad times roll off your shoulders and keep moving forward. Although I loved the job, it was not lining up to what my end goal was either, which is to be an engineer.

"I consider my identity as Lesbian and came out at the age of 10 - I’ve slept with men, yes, but I’ve only felt deep romantic connections with women. "

2. How do you identify yourself (ethnically or culturally)? And what intersections do you consider you have with your identity?

I identify myself as a proud Filipino and a naturalized American. I consider my identity as Lesbian and came out at the age of 10 - I’ve slept with men, yes, but I’ve only felt deep romantic connections with women. With men, it’s mostly friendship.

For me, accepting being a lesbian was easy because my family were so accepting and regardless of what my parents believed in, they accepted me and appreciated me. I had aunts and uncles who were considered gay. My dad was always proud of me and would joke around and say that he has three sons instead of two sons and two daughters. He found out I was gay when I had a small picture frame once with a photo of my girlfriend in it. All he did was look at me and said, “Hmm, ok - good job”.


In school though, we were reprimanded for being gay. I remember I really liked my dad’s cologne once and I wore it to school and I was shamed for it. My teacher shamed me in front of the class and asked me why I had it on because cologne was for men. She was upset because I was a girl wearing men’s cologne.


"Sometimes, I reflect on moments when a joke is said about women in uniform and I regret not shutting it down because I did not want to feel like I was not one of them. I know it’s habit forming and overall I just feel that I should’ve done better."

As a gay woman in the military, I’ve been pretty lucky that the people I’ve associated with has protected me from the stories of sexual assault or harassment on women in the military. One person that I can say that really helped me out was Diego Castro, a 6’5 Mexican guy. He was my backbone. I think it also helped to be aware of my surroundings. Diego and plenty of my friends and leadership helped me feel like I belong in that community and they helped me grow to achieve my best self. Although majority of my experience in the military was great, I just knew that there were parts that I did not agree with. Sometimes, I reflect on moments when a joke is said about women in uniform and I regret not shutting it down because I did not want to feel like I was not one of them. I know it’s habit forming and overall I just feel that I should’ve done better.

3. What causes or issues in the US / world affecting the Southeast Asian community are you passionate about, would like to see change or more advocacy in?


I feel that some Filipinos have issues with their physical selves in trying to be as pale as they can be or as European or western in their features as they can be. The natural characteristics are kinky hair, flat noses, and brown skin - that is the real Filipino color. I see a lot of Filipinos that try to reach that western standard and it’s heartbreaking to see it because they can actually be themselves and be successful but they get persuaded by the culture that surrounds them. They’re losing their own. I can rant for days about how Filipinos are perfect the way they are but it’s so sad - I just want Filipinos to be proud of who they are - people who are hospitable, welcoming, and family-oriented. My mom was brown, had a flat nose, and curly hair and she was the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.

4. What social, economic/financial or cultural barriers did you encounter? And how did you overcome them (if at all)?

I think I’ve been lucky to have a really good foundation of family - my dad always entrusted my siblings and I with being responsible for our own stuff. For example, in the 5th grade, he trusted us to be independent like taking public transportation to get to and from school. Growing up - we were rich with love and substance even though money was short.

"I was questioning why the teachers didn’t just hit the kids with rulers like they did to us in the Philippines. It was definitely a different culture than I had imagined from movies of the US. "

My siblings and I moved to the United States in 2003 when I was 14. Our mother died in 1998 and then in 2003, my dad died as well. Without my parents being around when I migrated here, I didn’t know how I could survive in the US without any financial support. Culturally, moving to the US was different. In the Philippines, I attended an all girls Catholic school so everything was regulated - like the way we dressed, the way we spoke, or acted. When I moved out here to El Sobrante, CA, kids in my class were acting up and yelling at the teachers and I was confused at the disrespect. I was questioning why the teachers didn’t just hit the kids with rulers like they did to us in the Philippines. It was definitely a different culture than I had imagined from movies of the US.


Anne's tattoo in memory of her parents.

5. What are your thoughts on mental health? How do you perform self-care? What has helped you?

I didn’t have a foundation to fall back on when experiencing difficult times or situations and I think it comes from my parents dying when I was at a young age. What has really helped is reaching out to other family members, especially my sister, Mae Guzman. I was never really great at reaching out to anyone and would just pile it on internally and deal with it that way. Even in the military, I would hold in my emotions and frustrations and eventually, it would overflow and I would just get mad randomly and explode over the smallest things. I think addressing and getting in touch with my thoughts and actually accepting anxiety and depression and forgiving myself has been helpful - and it has been relaxing.

"I’ve been reading a lot of teachings by Thich Nhat Hahn and that has really helped me learn how to be mindful and manage my emotions as well."

My girlfriend, Avery, exposed me to dharma talks. That opened my mind to what it really means to accept my own fallacies and how impermanence is not a way to give in to apathy but rather I learned to enjoy every moment I get to spend with the people I love. I’ve been reading a lot of teachings by Thich Nhat Hahn and that has really helped me learn how to be mindful and manage my emotions as well. I recommend watching the Ultimate Dimension as a starting point to learning more about his teachings.


Playing music has also helped me stay sane. It’s been a huge part of my growth since my brother taught me how to play the guitar at the age of 12. Music, especially blues and jazz, feeds my soul.

6. What resources or role models/ representation did you wish you had growing up?

For the longest time, the thing I wish I had were my parents being around because I feel like I didn’t have much guidance. After a while, getting out of my teenage angst, I was thankful that my sister was around to be my role model. Her resilience and will to keep thriving during hard times after we lost our parents helped shape me to the person I am today. My sister worked two jobs while finishing her degree in Mechanical Aerospace Engineering in UC Davis. She currently works as project engineer for Collins Aerospace.

7. What would you like to say to young SEAAs that you wish you heard growing up?


Life will throw so many things at you and your environment will sometimes try to break you but do not ever lose yourself. It’s simple enough if you think about it, but when shit hits the fan it’s definitely easier said than done. So start cultivating that mindset now.

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