In Between Rocks and Hard Places

In defining Asian American, we often begin with common experiences– physical colonization, economic imperialism, discriminatory immigration policies, overlap of cultural values like strong familial obligations, racialization as the foreign/exotic, etc. (leave a comment if any of those sound interesting)– and then move towards the mind boggling diversity of experiences within the community.

In unraveling this diversity of experiences, it’s helpful to talk about something called intersectionality. Intersectionality is when multiple parts of a person’s or community’s identity combine to create a new experience. For example, the experience of Asian American women is not just a combination of the experiences of Asian American men and nonAsian American women. The experiences of Asian American women are unique to Asian American women, even though they do have similarities. To take this one step further, the experiences of queer Asian American women are more complicated than taking the experiences of Asian American women and tacking on some lesbian issues, or taking LGBTQ issues and expecting Asian American women to fit into them.

Identity is more than a collage or spreadsheet of movable parts. Intersectionality means that identity is like a very complicated color wheel, where every new combination creates a new complicated shade of issues.

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2 thoughts on “In Between Rocks and Hard Places

  1. Fascinating. Our identity is colored by our experiences, but how we are perceived is also colored as well.

    I’ve always found the strong familial obligations (though not particularly unique) different in Asian cultures. Sure, other cultures encourage taking care of your parents and being tied to the community, but I do not think it is quite like with Asian cultures. Then, if you’re going to tackle queer Asians in general. How can you fathom a queer asian trying to still be there for the family whilst establishing their own without betraying the traditional face value of “family”?

    Of course, my opinions are incredibly biased and personal, ha.

  2. So true! Being honest with your family, especially about issues that can disturb the peace, can be at odds with upholding familial obligations. Coming out in an Asian (American) family is very different than coming out in other families, from the stories that I’ve heard (I’ve never had to come out in any kind of family).

    And that’s why intersectionality is so important, right? To recognize that new issues emerge at the crossroads of multiple identities. Otherwise you can have queer Asian Americans who are members of Asian American organizations and GLBTQ organizations, but never feeling like their issues are addressed in either space.

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