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|Wednesday, June 27th, 2012|
Wow, it's been almost a year since I've posted anything, but I found an old essay of mine that I wanted to save for posterity. Ignore the age (I'm very much not 22) and the references to other authors (it was a reading assignment).Identity Politics: Sexuality, Race, Etc.
The In-between People“My China is not mine, because I now know enough to never feel comfortable claiming to be Chinese without adding the hyphenation ‘-American’. I am comfortable enough in my young skin, though, hovering as an in-between person. I know and feel the coming of another step, but hover here.”
The above is an excerpt from a poem entitled “My China” which I wrote after a trip that I took with my family to China. To give you some background, I am a first generation Chinese American gay male, age 22. I like to consider myself of the one-and-a-half generation because my parents immigrated when they were very young and americanized a long time ago. I also like to consider myself what I call an in-between person. What I mean by that is that I hover ambiguously between many of the identities that I claim and that claim me.
To my friends whose families have lived in America for generations my smattering of Cantonese, my propensity for taking my shoes off in the house, and my penchant for dim sum on the weekends is something delightfully exotic. To my grandparents, my inability to understand Cantonese beyond the level of a five year old and my strange hairstyles are all a sign of how many bad habits I’ve picked up from my American friends. Not to mention the reaction they would have if they found out that I prefer men. I imagine this would be a bad reaction, though I don’t have the courage to defy cultural norms as strong as these by coming out to them. I do not feel comfortable claiming to be Chinese, as I said in my poem, because I don’t share enough experiences with those people in China to really be a part of their culture. I feel more comfortable claiming my American culture, but I can’t don that mantle in full comfort either because of the implied whiteness. I am neither one nor the other and always carry the hyphenation around with me.
I am twenty-two years old and a student at a university which, in this age of 20-somethings that still live at home with their parents, means that I am still in the fold of adolescence. I still depend on my parents for my tuition and living expenses, but I don’t live under their roof or their rules. This amount of independence is just enough to bring into sharp relief how much I actually depend on my parents. I am half way between childhood and independence.
My sexuality and gender are a story too amorphous to be able to fit into neat dichotomies. The interactions between them and my other identities are complex and hard to map. In certain settings my Asian-ness and my gender are predominant, while in others my age and sexuality are noticed first. I claim certain identities in certain situations, tacitly deny other identities in other situations, and I am claimed by some of my identities in some situations. This interplay of identities can be somewhat confusing and can even be hurtful when various identities pull me in conflicting directions. This doesn’t even take into account other identities that, while probably not having the same impact on my life as the rest, I regard as just as important facts about me. I am left handed, I am a purveyor of role-playing games, and I love to sing. The point of all this is that, to everyone I meet, I bring a new perspective. As a person who does not quite fall into any one identity or another, I have the opportunity to educate people about a world that may be slightly or vastly different from their own.
In Gloria Anzaldua’s terms, I have the opportunity to be an activist. Like Anzaldua I am an activist of color, someone who attends conferences with an almost perpetual wince at the marginalization that happens at events geared toward inclusion. I understand the point that Anzaldua makes about the queer community’s low prioritization of racism as an issue because I too have attended conferences where racism was treated as an issue of the past.
I find that her metaphor of an activist as various types of bridges is very apt and have myself had to decide whether or not to be a bridge and open myself up to educate people about my experiences, to be an island and shut myself off from ignorance and hostility, or to be a sandbar and selectively choose the time and place to pursue activism. The complications arise, however, when one considers the sheer number of perspectives which an in-between person like myself has. I cannot consider my own experiences to be a simple island when they more resemble a whole chain of islands and a tropical reef. Within the confines of one dialogue I can find myself cycling between all the different types of activism that Anzaldua posits. While speaking with a group of gay rights activists I may be a bridge about my gay experiences, a drawbridge about my experiences as a man, and an island about my experiences as an Asian-American. In a conversation with my family, on the other hand, I may be a bridge about my Asian-American experiences and an island about my experiences as a gay man. The discomfort that Gloria Anzaldua feels as a lesbian of color is the discomfort of an in-between person, someone who cannot be fully one identity or another. This is something that can only be relieved by being in a room full of people that have the same exact set of differences that one has oneself. The only problem is that this room will only ever have one person in it.
Riki Wilchins brings up many of these same points in her essay, “Why Identity Politics . . Sucks” where she points out the fallacy of identities. If people continue to pare down the types of people that can claim certain labels with more and more specific restrictions about who cannot be called certain things it very quickly becomes apparent that all attempts to claim identities or to categorize people is an exercise in arbitrariness. The experience that Wilchins had with being excluded from a women’s conference because of her transgender identity echoes Anzaldua’s feeling of exclusion when the issues she thought were important were marginalized. Wilchins comments about the instability of identities also speaks to the experiences of in-between people, to whom identities are shed and donned from moment to moment, place to place. Wilchins’ list of victims of violence toward people who don’t quite fit into accepted gender roles is an extreme example of the discomfort that in-between people experience.
Wilchins does seem to have a broader range of identities which she uses to demonstrate her point that Anzaldua. She even reaches into the experiences of what most would consider examples of mainstream normality to prove the destructiveness of identity politics. Her examples of the anorexic Midwestern cheerleader and forty-six year old “Joe Six-Pack” are poignant demonstrations of how false identification with stereotypes can lead to unhealthy and unrealistic self images.
All these examples basically go to show that nobody ever really fits neatly into all the roles that are ascribed them. Everyone has aspects of themselves that don’t fit into the role that is expected of them. Everyone is an in-between person. The truth of people is that they cannot be easily categorized. The tragedy is that people desire to categorize and to be categorized and will react with fear and violence when deep-seated categorizations are challenged. If only the realization could be made that any sort of identification with any single identity is a false identification. Only then can people truly be open-minded about others and themselves, not prejudging them based on ascribed characteristics and revel in the truly indefinable nature of humanity. Unfortunately people seem to have a need to categorize the world and a world without boundaries would frighten people. Until a time when society can surpass this fear, I suppose the in-between people will have to learn to be comfortable in our ambiguous places in society.
|Thursday, April 29th, 2010|
|Writer's Block: Tolerance 101?
If you could create/select a new subject that had to be taught in high school, what would it be, and why?
I think I would put in a mandatory "Philosophy of Education" class so that kids learn to consciously think about WHY they're in school. Generally people tend to try harder at something when they are aware of the reasons for doing it and agree that there are benefits to it. I think I might also add a "How To Be a Nice Person" class, but I think that should be in the curriculum from Preschool onwards.
|Thursday, April 15th, 2010|
|"Screw Destiny, Right in the Face."
You guys catch tonight's Supernatural? The tension, the love, the pain. I love this show!
I was honestly expecting them to bring John Winchester back, not the half brother they used in one show. It would be kinda cool to add a third Winchester brother to the emotional mix, though. Kinda like when they added the new Halliwell sister.
|Wednesday, March 31st, 2010|
I wonder what it says about me that the gems of satori
that I clearly remember having were about: Beauty, Sorrow, and Sacrifice.
|Thursday, March 11th, 2010|
|Friday, January 15th, 2010|
So I've been anxiously following the Perry v Schwarzenegger case since Monday. Too bad the SCOTUS (that always sounds dirty to me) blocked videotaping of the trial, but the people at Prop8TrialTracker.com have done a good job covering the case
|Monday, December 14th, 2009|
So on Friday I arranged to have a sushi dinner outing with my friends tonight. Then on Saturday I remembered that it was my birthday.
|Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009|
FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK, c'mon Maine, don't vote for inequality!!
|Thursday, October 1st, 2009|
|As long as everyone else is talking about their dreams ...
I dreamed that my younger sibs and cousins decided to try an experiment. They piled a whole bunch of metal implements: pots, pans, toaster, phone plugged into the wall charger; into the sink, ran water over the bunch, and tried to light up something electrical at the other end with the voltage.
I woke myself up yelling at them for being bad children.
|Friday, September 25th, 2009|
The sky this morning, for less than a minute, was detailed in beautiful roseate colors in a pattern that reminded me of mother-of-pearl. What a gorgeous sunrise.
|Wednesday, August 26th, 2009|
|Was it me?
So an employee just gave two weeks notice. Was it me? Am I a bad boss? Can I replace this person? I don't know. :(
|Tuesday, July 28th, 2009|
Wrote a Contract for Changeling: the Lost.Contracts of Ink
Writing has been the predominant means of long distance communications between people since its creation. Besides its utilitarian purpose, though, the written word has allowed mankind to explore its dreams and ambitions, as well as manipulate opinion and change the face of the world. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, and the fae have long had dealings with this fascinating concept.( Click for nerdishnessCollapse ) Current Mood: nerdy ^_^
|Thursday, July 23rd, 2009|
|Awake very early
Went to sleep with Toto early because he was sick, woke up at 3am, can't go back to sleep, long day ahead.
|Thursday, July 9th, 2009|
|Felt creative ...
So I wrote a new character for an online game I might play in, for kicks. It's a Mage the Awakening character:Shadow Name:
Free Council( Read more...Collapse )
|Monday, July 6th, 2009|
|Saturday, June 27th, 2009|
A year ago today, we took vows and said aloud what our hearts had already been saying to one another.
I promise to love
and to care for you
To put up with you
like you put up with me ;)
Til there are no more beats
Left in my heart Current Mood: loved
|Wednesday, June 24th, 2009|
|How we change because of the people we love.
When people fantasize about their dream relationship, I often hear that they want someone who will let them be exactly who they are right now and not change them. In a lot of ways I think that's a pipe dream, unrealistic. I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but I'm pretty sure that's not how relationships work.
I don't claim to be an expert, I'm just working on observations I've made about people and being in any kind of relationship with someone requires that one make space and time for a person in their lives. Whether that's mental space and minimal time or literal living space and a bigger investment of time, being with someone takes work.
Just speaking from personal experience with my marriage, I literally wouldn't be the person I am now if Toto hadn't been in my life. It's partially from things I learned from him and about myself, partially from just having to accommodate having a person in my life, and even partially from changes I made for
him. I know it's not a very popular idea, changing yourself or trying to change your partner to fit you, and I certainly don't think it's something one should try
to do, but realistically it just ends up happening.
I think one of the gauges of the worth of a relationship is looking at the changes happening and taking stock of whether they are good healthy changes or not.
Random thoughts of today. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Tuesday, June 9th, 2009|
|Social internetworking is interesting
So I started using Facebook recently and I had Facebook drama already! I got a Facebook divorce on my second day! *cry*
It's alright, though, we got remarried. It's official because it's on Facebook.
|Monday, June 1st, 2009|
|Wednesday, May 20th, 2009|
Why is it that I can't stand print comics because an issue is too short, but I faithfully read webcomics, whose issues are even shorter? Current Mood: amused