“More Than Enough: Embracing Multiple Identities” By Alanna Aiko Moore

On the surface, my “normal” looks just like a lot of the population. I have a job, a home, am happily married, and I am expecting my first child in February.  However, my “normal” also includes the fact that my spouse is a woman, I got married in a state that no longer allows people like me to get married, and that my wife and I did not get pregnant in what most think of as the “traditional” (heterosexual) fashion.

Contradictions like these have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up knowing I was “hapa”—a term used in Hawaii to describe a person of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander heritage. My mother is third generation Japanese, and my father is a quarter Native American and white. My parents instilled pride in my mixed heritage, yet, growing up, I never felt like I was “enough.” When we went to visit Dad’s relatives in rural Missouri, I stuck out like a sore thumb among all the fair skinned, light haired cousins. At the annual Obon Festivals at the Buddhist temple, I envied the girls with the thick, straight, jet black hair who looked so perfect and tiny dancing around the yagura. I wasn’t “white enough,” never “Native American enough” and I wasn’t “Asian enough” to feel comfortable in either world.

Years later, when I realized that I was attracted to women in college, I found myself in the same dilemma, although this time it was about sexual orientation and not race and ethnicity. I knew I was not straight/heterosexual, yet naming myself a lesbian didn’t feel right either. Since I was attracted to both men and women, I was convinced I was bisexual, but was unsure about coming out as such, since there was (and still is) a lot of prejudice and misinformation about bisexuality. Mainstream society as well as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community often pressure people to choose one or the other—gay or straight—and commonly dismiss bisexuality as a stage or phase. Again, I experienced that familiar feeling of not being “enough.”  Not gay enough. Not straight enough. Not a lesbian.

We live in a world of Western thought and Universalist thinking, where, when two things conflict or oppose, only one can be true.[1] This creates barriers in our communities and forces people to only acknowledge part of their identities in order to feel included and not isolated. People with multiple identities often feel like they are straddling two worlds, with their feet never fully planted in either one. In Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities, there has been a history of exclusion and prejudice against people of mixed race. Our API communities have also demonstrated homophobia and have not always been welcoming to those who identify as part of the LGBT community. Conversely, racism is alive and well in many LGBT circles. In both API and LGBT communities, difference is conspicuous and sameness is rewarded. In both communities, there is an unacknowledged intersection of marginalization, where race meets sexual identity.

I now embrace my many identities and wear them with pride. I espouse an Eastern way of thought known as Dialectical thinking[2], which states that when two things conflict or oppose both can be true.  I reject “either/or” paradigms and honor my Asian/white/Native American heritages and my bisexuality, as all of these identities are part of who I am and make me whole.

What does our community look like?  What intersecting identities are present? Do we welcome difference or encourage homogeneity and conformity? Do we dialogue about the diversity of identities in our community or do we pass judgments based on appearances? While you may not be multi-racial or bisexual, we all carry multiple identities. What are yours? By acknowledging all facets of our identities, we build a richer, deeper API community and a stronger movement for social change and equality for all.

 

Alanna Aiko Moore

Interim Assistant Department Head for Information Services and User Education and
Librarian for Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies for the Social Science and Humanities Library
University of California, San Diego

 


[1] Peng, K., Nisbett, R. E. (1999). Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction. American Psychologist, 54(4), 741-754.

[2] Ibid.

Alanna Aiko Moore on the right with wife Jan Estrellado on the left.

Alanna Aiko Moore on the right with wife Jan Estrellado on the left.

 


 Resources

Bisexuality: Books

Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out
By Loraine Hutchins

Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Second Edition
By Robyn Ochs

Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics By Jennifer Baumgardner

 Bisexuality: Magazines and Journals

bimagazine.org

Online magazine featuring articles on bisexuality.

Journal Of Bisexuality

The Journal of Bisexuality is the first quarterly to publish both professional articles and serious essays on bisexuality.

Bisexuality: Organizations

Bisexual Resource Center

www.biresource.net
The Bisexual Resource Center envisions a world where love is celebrated, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression.

Bisexual | Human Rights Campaign

www.hrc.org/issues/pages/bisexual
This site from HRC addresses how people who are attracted to both men and women face specific challenges during the coming out process.

The American Institute Of Bisexuality

www.bisexual.org/home.html
The American Institute of Bisexuality encourages, supports and assists research and education about bisexuality.

Bisexuality: Dispelling Myths

GLAAD Dispels Common Myths

www.glaad.org/…/celebrate-bisexuality-glaad-dispels-common-myths…
Bisexual people often encounter unique myths and stereotypes that other members of the lesbian, gay, and transgender communities do not.

9 Stupid Myths About Bisexuals

www.alternet.org/…/9_stupid_myths_about_bisexuals_that_will_mak…
This article sheds some light on a sexual identity that is often shrugged off and misunderstood.

Multi-racial: Books

Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural  By Claudine C. O’Hearn

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience By Chandra Prasad and Rebecca Walker

‘Mixed Race’ Studies: A Reader By Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe

The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier By Maria P.P. Root

Part Asian, 100% Hapa By Kip Fulbeck

What Are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People By Pearl Fuyo Gaskins

Multi-racial: Magazines and Journals

Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies [eScholarship]

escholarship.org/uc/ucsb_soc_jcmrs
The Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (JCMRS) is a peer-reviewed online interdisciplinary journal dedicated to Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS)

Multi-racial Organizations

2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference

las.depaul.edu/aas/About/CMRSConference/index.asp
Critical Mixed Race Studies is the transracial, transdisciplinary, and transnational critical analysis of the institutionalization of social, cultural, and political orders based on dominant conceptions of race. The CMRS conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines nationwide.

Loving Day

www.lovingday.org
Loving Day celebrations are held on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws.

MAVIN Foundation … the Mixed Race Experience

www.mavinfoundation.org/news/media.html
Mavin is the nation’s leading organization that helps build healthier communities by raising awareness about mixed heritage people and families.

 

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