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Hey APC! My name is Lara Bateman, I’m 16 years old from Hong Kong. Here to write to you about my experience in finding my identity, or my journey so far.
With a Filipina mother and an English father growing up in Hong Kong, my identity wasn’t the easiest code to crack, and it didn’t help that I liked girls too. I am a Filipina girl with light skin and freckles, I am an English girl with Asian features and dark hair—well right now, it’s pink. Being accepted in both of my cultures was/is really difficult for me and I have always felt very distant from my heritage. I was always “too white” to be Asian but “too Asian” to be white so a lot of my childhood consisted of me crying in my room wanting to be just ONE thing. I became really insecure about how I was presented to people and how I was recognized. It’s already enough pressure to live up to one cultural expectation, let alone two. I was lucky enough to grow up in an international school surrounded by others like me, but with that came a lot of competition I felt. Who’s the whiter one? Who’s more Asian? Her skin is tanner; she’s more Filipino! You can’t speak Tagalog as well as them you’re more white. All these types of comments I have been hearing since childhood taught me the difference between being Asian and being white. I never understood what it meant when people tell me I “act white”. What does that mean? How am I supposed to react to that? How do I “act more Asian”? Maybe if I were to be more shy and quiet and ate rice for every meal people would think I’m was more Filipino. That being said, some people don’t even recognize Filipinos as “real Asians”.
To add to the identity crisis I’ve been having since the age of 10, I also happen to like girls! I had a history of “flings” with different guys since I was 11 but it wasn’t until I was 12-13 years old that I came out to my friends as bisexual, which is what I thought I was at the time. Kids being kids, they gossip and word gets out, followed by lovely comments such as “she’s doing it for attention”, “she’s only saying that because guys like it”, which as a pre-teen girl, wasn’t the most comforting to hear. Since then, I tried to suppress my feelings and continued to date guys; the relationships never really went anywhere. I sort of learned to persuade myself to be straight, as weird as that sounds. After moving highschools, I tried this new thing where I did my best to be myself. I came off as “straight presenting” which was really unhelpful when I liked girls or it was a shock to people when I revealed my sexuality. It wasn’t until I started dating my girlfriend when all of that changed and suddenly “I’m gay” and people started treating me differently compared to when they thought I was straight or bisexual. It was really frustrating and I didn’t understand it, especially the reputation of being a lesbian, and stereotypically, a social justice warrior. It was then I decided that enough was enough and I had no more ounce of care for what people saw me as.
I don’t care if you see me as white, if you see me as gay, if you think I’m too opinionated, or if I’m too self-confident. What you see me as has nothing to do with me. The validation that we all seek shouldn’t come from other people, it should always come from you. Right now I identify myself as queer, I’m still figuring everything out, still experimenting, and that’s okay. For some people, I come off as confusing or indecisive when it comes to my sexuality. You’d be surprised how many shocked looks I receive when people find out I am a girl who is dating a girl but I’m not a lesbian or bi, it’s really quite amusing.
I guess the message I’m trying to get across is DO YOU. We hear this all the time yet it’s one of the most difficult things to do. Don’t feel obliged to fit into other people’s labels or check their little boxes. It may feel like something you have to do but this is YOUR LIFE live it the way you want to. It may take a while, it took me a very long time to realize that I didn’t need validation from other people who didn’t know me. I used to think that my race and my sexuality defined me, and to an extent it does, but it shouldn’t be the things that make me interesting. It’s just a part of who I am. I am a queer English Filipina girl, but that’s not all. I also love art, from performing arts to visual arts; I am a very creative person. I spend almost all my time pursuing my passion for theatre and drawing any chance I get; it was my only way of expressing myself for a long time. I’ve learned to become proud of who I am, no matter if I’m too white or Asian. I, from now on, will only live up to my own expectations. Although I don’t see myself as an admirable character, I know how comforting it feels to hear someone share their similar experiences, to relate to them, and to know you’re not the only one.
I hope that someone out there reads this and knows they’re not alone. If you’re looking for a sign, here it is.
Follow me on Insta! @Lara_bato