So, what are you?

I know that I have taken quite the hiatus from writing, I’ll explain why another time, but I’m back! Due to recent events, I wanted to share a short narrative I wrote for a class that was centered around inclusivity and diversity. This narrative is meant to answer the question: what has been your experience(s) with discrimination?

When I was around 7 years old, I was in the car with my mom when we drove past a protest; the red-faced, shouting people carried signs with phrases such as: “ Love is love”, “ Marriages for all”, and “Legalize gay marriage”. I turned to my mom and asked what it was they were protesting and she calmly explained that boys can love boys, girls can love girls and so forth, however, some people believed that loving people of the same sex was wrong, so they didn’t allow these people to get married. As I turned back to the window, I remember thinking how mean it was to not allow people to marry who they want just because someone else didn’t approve of it. “People can love who they want, it’s America, we’re the land of the free”. Little did I know just how “free” we are.

I recently realized I am pansexual. I have always been curious about women and other genders but pushed it away because I used to date an extremely conservative man. This changed last year when I felt I was in a place where I could truly accept who I am. I have never had a type which confuses a lot of people but I am confused how one type can transcend all genders. If I like a person, I like them, it’s as simple as that. 

Funnily enough, porn helped me realize my sexuality. As I scrolled through the endless videos and tried out a few, I started realizing that I preferred videos that focused primarily on female pleasure; all the generic, heterosexual videos did not appeal to me.  Rather than go further into the details, I’ll just say that I learned that I had a desire to do some of the things I saw, to other women. I mean, I had always been attracted to other women and had simply chalked it up to an appreciation of beauty, but I suddenly realized otherwise.

I initially identified as bisexual but then found myself pining for people who identified as non-binary, so I discerned that pansexual would be a better term to encompass all the people I was attracted to. Unfortunately, I still sometimes tell people that I am bi because it can be tiring to constantly be asked to explain the difference between being bisexual and pansexual. This is not to say that I am ashamed of my sexuality, but more so that I am tired of trying to help other people understand it. 

The only people who know about my sexuality are my partner, some coworkers, my sister, and my mom. I haven’t told my best friend. I know she would more than likely be supportive but part of me is so scared that she will revert to her religious upbringing and tell me that it is wrong, or become really uncomfortable and unwilling to listen, or tell me that this is a phase. I hate hiding this from her, best friends are supposed to tell each other everything, right? Then why is it so damn hard to share this part of me?

I hate how, when I say I am pansexual, so many people ask for a laundry list of the people I have slept with or even liked; I shouldn’t have to prove my sexuality to anyone, just because I haven’t slept with a woman does not invalidate my sexuality.  No, it isn’t a phase, no it isn’t the same thing as being bisexual, having a male partner does not make me more straight or any less pansexual, and no I don’t want to have a threesome. My sexuality is not your kink and it is not yours to debate. 

My sexuality is, unfortunately, not the only identity I have had people question or be rude about. As a Filipina, I have had my fair share of racism and rude remarks. 

I grew up in Southern California so I was quite tan, and whenever my family went out in public, strangers would attempt to speak to me in Spanish and then proceed to get angry when I didn’t understand them. Most of my elementary school friends assumed that I was Mexican but at least I had the support of some other Filipino kids who had experienced the same comments. It always felt more safe talking to them because we knew the same Filipino bakeries, we grew up with the same family traditions, we had a culture in common.

When I moved to Wisconsin, all of that shared culture disappeared. The Filipino bakeries disappeared and were replaced with 2 items on the “Ethnic Foods” shelf. I didn’t know a single Filipino person outside of my family and began to feel more alone and different when people asked if I was “Puerto Rican or something”. When we had Culture Day in 6th grade where students brought a dish to pass, I brought lumpia and everyone looks and says, “You brought egg rolls! I didn’t know you were Chinese” despite me having just explained they are a traditional Filipino dish. The longer I live in Wisconsin, the more I feel like I need to cling to those memories of sharing my experiences with others. Sure, I can talk about it with other mixed people who’ve had similar experiences, but they don’t completely understand.

I recently attended an alumni dinner held at what was then called the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center; I considered it to be a potential networking opportunity and despite my doubts, went anyways. The vast majority of attendees were, obviously, Oshkosh alums and to no surprise, predominantly white. I was seated with a wealthy family who were so proud of their alum, they needed 4 tables. They were all nice enough and made small talk as the event began. Everything was going well until the woman next to me eyes my nametag and says, “Wastradowski, huh? You don’t look Polish at all. What exactly are you?”  Slightly annoyed, I informed her that I was primarily Filipina but had my father’s last name whom was white. Ignoring my irritation, she replies with, “I knew you weren’t white! Oh you mixed kids are so lucky, you get all the good genes and end up being so attractive!”. I was shocked at how she could possibly think her remark was a compliment and felt too uncomfortable to say anything besides a meek “Oh, yeah”. The rest of the night was filled with her invasive questions and insensitive comments, asking how much financial aid I got for being a minority, how all Asians are the same to her and how she can’t be racist because her husband is Chinese, and how unfortunate it is to come from a “mixed” home (meaning my mom remarried a man who already had a child). 

That was one of the longest nights of my life and it took all I had to not slip out while dishes were being cleared after appetizers. I still cannot fathom how someone could be so ignorant, and apparently everyone else at the table was just as ignorant considering they didn’t refute anything she said. I was grateful when the banquet finally ended and trudged home with feelings of regret and anger. I had never thought that I so obviously looked something other than white but I guess my “otherness” was glaringly obvious to the people at dinner that night. 

My ethnic identity has always been a sore spot for me. My mom raised me saying I was Filipina, a Pacific Islander, yet when filling out forms asking for including my demographics, she always said to check Caucasian because I’m “mixed”. As I grew up I would tell people I was Filipina but continued to check that Caucasian box and it always felt wrong to me. When I got to college, I made the decision to embrace my heritage and began checking the Pacific Islander box. I was proud to be Filipina but every time I checked the box, I doubted myself. Am I even Filipina enough to be checking that box? I didn’t feel white but worried that I didn’t qualify as a “real” Filipina. This worry intensified when I met another Filipina who told me that I don’t even look Filipino because I had so much white blood in me. She meant it as a joke (I think) considering how much she laughed about it but I couldn’t help but believe her and think that I wasn’t truly a Filipina.

 Not white enough to be white but not Filipino enough to be Filipina; I felt and sometimes still feel like I’m in an ethnic limbo, not quite one thing but also not the other. I doubt my identity often and while I still identify as Filipina, I always have that nagging worry that I somehow need to prove myself in order to truly be accepted.

I want to be accepted. I cannot understand why it is so goddamn hard for people to accept and respect those who are different than them. Honestly, why do you give a shit? People are trying to live their life and your racist, homophobic, and xenophobic comments are unwanted. You do not have a say in other people’s lives so please back up, and get out of them.

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