TJ is a writer living in Portland, OR.

What kind of Asian am I?

What kind of Asian am I?

When I was college one of my poetry professors, who was Latino, asked me why I did not write poetry about being a person of color. The simple answer to that was that I didn't really feel like one, even though it is probably one of my most salient physical characteristics. There are a few different reasons for that which I will get into briefly:
  • I did not grow up in a community of Filipino people, I don’t have an understanding of how being Filipino is different from being white besides a few culinary dishes growing up.
  • I am half white and it was easy to identify with being white even though I do not look ‘white’. In college I actually had trouble relating to Filipino students from the Ethnic Student Center on campus. I did not feel ‘Filipino enough’.
  • I felt that I was more defined by my sexuality, by the time I was in college I already identified as gay for many years and had actually experienced homophobia first hand.
  • I did not recall a time when the fact that I was half-Filipino caused people to treat me differently in anyway (or at least that’s how I remember growing up).

College made me aware of my ethnicity, but I don’t think about it very much. Describing my ethnic identity would require a whole other entry, suffice to say, I identify as mostly white. Like most people I find it difficult to talk about race and ethnicity because it’s complex and weird and heavy and I can only tell you about what I think, and I am afraid that people will think what I think is incorrect.

Recently I saw this video by Ken Tanaka starring Stella Choe and Scott Beehner:

laughed watching it, and I realized something: That actually happens to me, it has happened to me a lot. I have been asked ‘where are you from?’ hundreds of times in my life or have heard ‘I thought so’ when I reveal that I am half-Filipino. Just to be clear, everyone asks me this question, not just white people, though non-Filipinos tend to offer up their experiences with Filipino culture shortly after. “I have a Filipino friend,” or “I love lumpia,” are pretty common. Cool, I like lumpia too? Being mixed race gives me a kind of ‘mysteriously ethnic look’ and I’ve come to expect the question, but when Choe turns the table on Beehner in the video and asks him where he is from I realized something obvious, that this is not something that happens to white people (unless they have an accent probably) and I come butting up against my own ethnic identity. I am not really white, white people don’t get asked that question.

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my ethnicity, but maybe I should be more interested in it, because it seems like lot’s of other people are.

My lifestyle has already been designed

My lifestyle has already been designed

The Parable of the Tapeworm

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