A few years ago, I was on a date. It was 11pm; we were in the city and walking back to his place. My date, who later became my boyfriend, is a charming and intelligent African Australian, deeply attuned to his own racial identity — as you would have to be growing up brown in Australia.
I am an Asian-Australian woman. It was our third date. We were on Lonsdale Chinese girl white man when a group of loud, drunk white men stumbled in front of us.
How did you get an Asian girl? Outside his apartment, he turned to me and asked: When people call me the n-word on the street, there are certain words I want to hear from my friends.
Is there anything I can do? Would you like to get coffee with Chinese girl white man and I can show you? This time, I was in a bookstore. I was in primary school and had discovered that I loved reading. As I grew older, I realised that ten-year-old me Chinese girl white man wanted to be Claudia Kishi because she was the only character whose family looked like mine, who stuck out like a sore thumb in the whiteness of her fictional town Stonybrook.
Out of all the books I borrowed from the library and the books I begged my mother to buy, she was the only character who looked like me. The man in the bookstore started asking questions, but his first one was: When I was thirteen and fourteen, and old enough to take public transport by myself, I was sexually assaulted on the train. You are so beautiful. The first time, I froze as he began touching me and pressing me against the carriage wall.
My mother had always told me that bad things would happen to bad girls. I resented my parents for their foreignness, for not learning English well enough, for embarrassing me in public when they spoke Chinese.
The second time was worse because no one did anything and no one said anything.
Not the other passengers who watched from their train seats, and definitely not my mother. By the time I was fifteen, I wanted nothing to do with my race. I went to bed every night wishing I could just wake up white. I stopped speaking my language. My father told me that Chinese girl white man when I was much older.
I was the only Asian child in my very white primary school, a school with a veggie patch and a trout farm sequestered in the beachy south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
The children around me would pull their eyes into slanted slits and ask questions about my squishy nose. They asked if I ate dog, and ran away from the dumplings that my mother had made the night before, rolling out the dough, carefully filling each pocket, sealing the dumpling shut. By the time I was twelve, I stopped eating the lunch my mother packed, and I Chinese girl white man researching plastic surgeons that could turn my flat Chinese nose into a beautiful white nose, my small Asian eyes into round double-lidded eyes.
I developed body dysmorphia. Every time I stepped outside, I had this crippling fear of being racially and sexually assaulted.
Nah, he was Asian. I have hated my appearance for nearly all my life, and this hatred has defined attractiveness as always white and never Asian. Because it was my appearance that marked me as different, a body that never belonged in this country, a target for middle-aged white men.
I empathise with my friends who say they only date white boys. Did they grow up like me, thinking I could never be beautiful because of my Asian-ness, my small eyes, flat face and flat nose? Chinese girl white man they spend their childhood and early teenage years comparing themselves to white women? I started healing in university. I discovered Franz Fanon and Homi Bhabha, Ien Ang and Alice Pung, and they gifted me the vocabulary to express the confusion and hatred I had felt for the past 20 years.
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I read and read and read, and through my reading, I found comfort in these scholars who had experienced what I had: For the first time, I could articulate my isolation and loneliness, how my appearance excludes me from the white Australian imaginary, Chinese girl white man how I am doubly alienated whenever I visit my family in China. I grew up in the west, surrounded by white people with white values, eating white food, not speaking Chinese; I am silent in conversations with my grandparents, with shopkeepers and waiters.
They think I am mute, mentally stunted. I fell into Gender Studies, critical race studies and took classes called, Genders and Desires in Asia, Race and Asian American Literature, a history subject that traced the patterns of migration in Australia. Slowly, I began to fit my own story into an unimaginably long history, a Chinese girl white man made up of others like me.
I found the theory that explained the fraught relationship with my mother and the gap that had widened over the years from things left unsaid, from the language I had lost, and my refusal to visit China and return to my ancestral homeland.
I realised why my mother never comforted me when I cried about those men and what they did to me many, many years ago.
Now, at the age of twenty-one, I have more or less come to terms with being both Chinese and a woman. I no longer harbour an intense hatred for an appearance Chinese girl white man a culture I never asked for, but I regret all the nasty words I screamed at my parents, the years I missed speaking Chinese, the mooncakes, pork bao and century egg soup I never ate.
Are you really from Australia? There are so many things I wish my younger self knew. To be kind to yourself. You are not alone. If I knew, maybe I would still be able to speak two languages.
Maybe I could have seen myself as beautiful. It happened years ago. Let's talk about sex - what Chinese girl white man wish I knew as an Asian-Australian teen I had to undo all the unconscious conditioning my parents had instilled in me as a child and a teenager, to give myself permission to not be ashamed about sex.
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