I'm An Ethnic Chameleon

I'm An Ethnic Chameleon

"A person of many ethnicities."

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I'm an ethnic chameleon. Okay, so that doesn't sound very clear but let me explain. I'm a person of many ethnicities, or at least I look like. Most people who see me will always guess on what I am or what background I come from. Most times, it's negated and I'm given a title without any consideration of how I feel and how I will respond to the poorly guessed responses. This sounds like a small problem but for me, it's a bittersweet hassle.

I'm Puerto Rican, with native Taino heritage and African descent, so I consider myself Afro-Taino. However, I don't necessarily look Afro-Taino nor do I necessarily look Puerto Rican. Ever since the magnificent miracle that is puberty(that's sarcasm), which was at the age of 14, I was always confused for an ethnicity other than my actual ethnic. Over the years it became rather annoying until I became a senior in high school, my Theater teacher was interested in what my background was. When I told her, she was in shock(just like everyone else who'd ask), and told me that I was an "ethnic chameleon." I was confused by the term the minute I heard it but she explained. According to her, I'm a man of many ethnicities, and according to I portray any form ethnicity(in the realm of brown people, now that I think about it) and it would be believable.

I took it lightly, but then as I thought about it, she was right. So as an experiment, I'd ask most underclassmen or most of my co-workers what they thought my ethnic was and it was very surprising. I'd get guesses like Indian, Filipino, Arabic, Palestinian, Columbian, Chilean, Dominican, Native American and plenty more. And within those guesses, not one is usually Puerto Rican. To be honest, I'm perfectly fine with it too. Being guessed on is fun, but then again it also has its flaws. The main flaw is, I don't necessarily look like my ethnicity and that causes controversial arguments with strangers who pre-assume before meeting me. Because I mostly look Indian, it's not that uncommon that most people who are Indian or Middle Eastern would come up to me and speak in their language. Trust me, this happens way too often. And because of this, I don't know what most of these strangers are saying to me, and due to that- people get often offended by me because I'm apparently "disowning my own race." Back then I used to use Tinder and OkCupid to find dates (don't judge, you probably have a Tinder account too), and because I usually don't think my ethnicity is a big portrayal of who I am, I never put it in my bio. It seemed unnecessary because I wouldn't want someone to like me and swipe on me just because of my facial features and assuming I'm a certain race. And unfortunately it happens, and due to the adding Instagram feature on Tinder, I had many women go on to my profile and message me in their language. Although I'd be flattered, I'd deny their request and apologize for not speaking their language and that I'm not actually of their ethnicity. Most occasions, these strangers would catch an attitude or become upset.

It's not unusual but it happens. I had a woman go on to my Instagram page directly from Tinder and picked a fight with me for not being Bengali. When I explained to her that I'm Puerto Rican, she claimed that I'm racist and that I'm a catfish! All because I told her, "Sorry, but I don't know what you're saying, I don't speak that language." In which she responded, "But you look Bengali, you should know the language!"

Me: Sorry I don't, I'm actually Puerto Rican.

Her: That's not believable! That's very disrespectful, don't denounce where you're from you a**hole.

Me: Why am I an a**hole? Because I'm not a race that someone is claiming I am? Well, that's messed up to label me.

Her: (rambled on about me being a racist and claiming to be a catfish)

And according to her, I should put my ethnicity on my bio. Although I hesitated, I eventually ended up doing that for a while. I became insecure until I realized, "Screw that! If I'm an ethnic chameleon, then I'm a freakin' chameleon." So I eventually took it off my bio and lived life the same way I usually do, getting guessed on till this day. It's a fun burden to bare but hey, it's always a fun story to tell.

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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!
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This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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'The Farewell' Brings An Asian-American Narrative To Hollywood

I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.

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The trailer for Lulu Wang's "The Farewell" was recently released. The film, based on Wang's own experience, stars Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who travels to China after learning her grandmother has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. "The Farewell" initially debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in January, and currently holds a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Farewell" is an exciting film for members of the Asian-American community, as it encompasses many of our own experiences in having family overseas. Having this Asian-American narrative portrayed in Hollywood is especially groundbreaking and important to the community. "Crazy Rich Asians" has received much well-deserved acclaim for its leap in Asian representation, but the film did not necessarily depict a completely relatable experience and was only one story out of many in the Asian-American community. There were aspects of the characters' cultures that allowed the Asian-American audience to connect with much of the film, but the upper-class narrative wasn't quite as accessible to everyone.

While "Crazy Rich Asians" portrays Asians in a way that is very much uncommon in Hollywood and American media in general and had a hand in helping to break stereotypes, "The Farewell" introduces a nearly universal first-generation American or immigrant narrative to Hollywood. In doing so, the film allows many members of the Asian-American community to truly see their own experiences and their own stories on the screen.

For me, the trailer alone was enough to make me tear up, and I've seen many other Asian Americans share a similar experience in seeing the trailer. The film reminds us of our own families, whether it's our grandparents or any other family living overseas. I've never imagined that a story like this would make its way to Hollywood, and it's definitely a welcome change.

"The Farewell," which is scheduled for release on July 12, 2019, depicts a family dynamic in the Asian-American experience that hits home for many, including myself. The initial critical response, especially towards Awkwafina's performance, is certainly promising and will hopefully motivate more Asian-American and other minority filmmakers to bring their own stories to Hollywood.

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