By Jen Chan
Embracing my queerness on its own, devoid of intersections, was never a huge struggle for me. It was never the thing that got me incessantly questioning myself and the world around me. Accepting the lightbulb that went off once I thought back to all the older girls and female teachers I’d trailed behind in countless school hallways like a gay little puppy wasn’t the difficult part.
The difficult part was navigating my queerness, specifically in romantic and sexual relationships, through and around and under and over a huge, gigantic reminder that says, “RACE.” The difficult part was in refusing to linger on thoughts of whether someone finds me attractive because they’re fetishizing me based on my race, or whether they find me attractive despite my race. The difficult part was reading comments online where white girls talked about how they resent Asian girls because, apparently, we monopolize the attention of all those straight boys they liked. I’ve wondered if that resentment extends to white queer girls, too.
White queer girls are everywhere, and that’s a problem for me (this is something I’m working on, okay?). White queer girls are all over all the dating apps, and they’re at Back to Church, and they’re at Crews and Tangos, and they’re at Cherry Bomb, and sometimes I even find them at Yes Yes Y’all — a largely Black/people of colour queer dance jam. There used to be over 50 screenshots in my phone in a folder called, “white girls on Tinder.” When I ran out of phone storage, I had to delete them all so I could keep Tinder and OKCupid and Bumble and Happn and Coffee Meets Bagel and Seeking Arrangement and, er, wait, what?
Attraction is just as politicized as anything else. There’s a reason I grew up hating the way my eyes looked, or the way my house smelled when people came over after school. There’s a reason I simultaneously idolized the literal handful of characters I saw on TV who looked like me just for existing, while simultaneously rejecting them because they weren’t as pretty or as smart or as likeable as the white main characters.
There’s a reason I refused to learn Chinese, took pride in how thoroughly “Canadian” I sound when I talk and thought I was cool for having white friends. I grew up with so much pride and ego warring with self-hate and insecurity, as do so many other kids of colour, and it’s still something I feel childish and impatient with myself for — for still having all of this be something that I need to work through.
“You can have your preferences,” I tell people, “But you should really examine the racist undertones informing them.” Still, I turn right around and struggle with continuing to do the exact same thing.
“So many of us are so rad and so informed,” I say, talking about the queer community, “But everywhere you look, white voices are elevated above the rest.”
I trip and fall all over myself when a pretty white girl smiles at me.
And then what?
Then this happens:
“I just, I love this contrast between your pale skin and your dark hair,” they say, in the heat of the moment, and it doesn’t register with me until we’re lying there later.
“I like squinty eyes, though,” they say, ostensibly sticking up for me when the drag king at Zipperz asks if I’m one of those Asian girls who gets red-faced and wasted off of one beer.
“You know she’s slept with every queer Asian girl we know, right? Including you, now,” my friends tell me, about my ex, tossing in just one more thing for me to consider when contemplating queerness, racialization, relationships, white girls, and me.