Before You, Me

A Letter to My Younger Self

Before I can get in depth with the current climate of race, gender, and sexuality I feel it is important that I address and look at my own self. Thinking of your position in society, the biases or prejudices you may have, things you want to work on, thoughts you may be unaware of, are all productive actions to destabilize social norms and constructs. So here I write to my younger self, making sense of what thoughts I need to break down and what has shaped me to be the person I am today.

Dear Chris,

I will try to keep this short and simple. Growing up as a Chinese-Canadian is an interesting thing, don’t you think? We have grown up in a “westernized” household and culture, but our racial identity and appearance is not of westernized ideals. We are Asian, yet at times we do not see ourselves as so. I know you have grown up thinking you wanted to be white, wanting to not be “different” – but what are we basing our self against? What is the norm that we want to be? There are some reasons behind this that we should try to understand and make sense of. I know you are a curious individual, always looking through ads upon ads, watching television shows, but these media outlets project very normalized environments – white, cisgendered, and heterosexual. We need to break these down.

Sit and think, why is that we wanted to be something we are not? Why did you want to be white? Straight? Don’t feel alarmed, because many have thought this before. Take yourself to task and ask why these thoughts arise and why they have such a strong hold on your mentality. From a young age you never quite thought about race, but going into high school I know you did not want to be Asian. You separated yourself from your cultural identity, wanting to only be friends with white peers, trying to “dress white”, doing things that are not “Asian” so you weren’t seen as “nerdy”, and feeling almost proud that you did not know how to speak Chinese. If you stop and think, what were the reasons behind these thoughts? Is it something you’ve seen on television? Movies? To tell you the truth, the stereotypes of Asians, the need to assimilate into western culture in order to be seen as “normal” and accepted, all these images and beliefs are everywhere.

As you get older you’ll come to terms with your sexuality and realize yet again, that seeing yourself as Asian will become an issue for yourself – let alone a queer Asian. The community you will become close with will seem inviting, but there will be feelings of isolation as even whiteness and masculinity takes a hold of the LGBTQ+ community. How can you feel accepted if you don’t even feel like you are wanted in the community? If you are, you just become fetishized? White, masculine traits that are so often accepted outside the community are projected into the queer community. These are things you must think about, things you must come to terms with to destabilize the norms established and the problematic thoughts you have.

The point of my letter to you, Chris, is not to bring out the negative thoughts that you have had growing up. It is not to make life seem like an endless pit of despair with only a dead end. My letter to you is to inform you that your thoughts are not something out of the blue, but stems from a long history of social constructions that many have become used to. As you get older you will deconstruct these and see the problematics behind them. You will go under some negotiation of the self and take your prejudice and biases to task – you will learn to be productive as a global citizen.

Moving into the future, Chris, continue to seek out and listen to diverse stories of other people and be proactive in consuming media that has a multitude of representations. Understand that you have prejudice – everyone does – and learn to make sense of why these are established and how to work around them. Don’t guilt yourself, but learn from your mistakes. As you get older you will continue to discover more about yourself and will keep continuing to do so. The experiences that you will have and the knowledge that you will gain will shape you to become a person that you are today – the person writing this letter to you now.

Maybe I will write to you again soon, but for now, take care.

Chris

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