I am open with everyone about being a born and raised Brazilian, but it’s not something that everyone realizes right away — me being white, having an anglicized nickname, and an almost perfect American accent definitely “disguise” me. It comes with both privilege and erasure. Sometimes I’m caught having to prove parts of my identity because they don’t fit within people’s expectations. It doesn’t always feel worth it to fully call out a microaggression like “Your English is so good!” when the person is otherwise well-meaning. But I’ve tried to be upfront about it and say something like, “Yeah, it is,” and let them figure out on their own that it’s an awkward thing to say.
As a as a first-generation Iranian-American female Shia Muslim, there are so many labels tied to my identity that are sometimes a burden to embrace, given the socio-political climate we live in today. Growing up, I sometimes felt like hiding parts of myself, fearful of the hatred that exists and the constant need to defend the different parts. Over time, I’ve learned that the labels don’t dictate who I am and I needed to destroy every stereotypical box I’ve been placed in. I’ve started to fully embrace who I am as a person by openly sharing every part of myself in the way I define it and not by others’ expectations and being mindful that we all come in different shapes and forms. It is the diversity of the human experience that enables us to understand who we are, how we live, and why we do what we do.
I’m a naturalized Chinese-American. I was born in China and moved to NYC when I was 7, so while I connect with many American-born Chinese Americans, my early years give me an expanded perspective and it’s something that makes me feel grateful to be a citizen of a country that values human rights (even though they are being currently assailed). Growing up, I either felt too Asian or not Asian enough, depending on which room I was in. Before and even during parts of college, I didn’t prioritize understanding my own culture very much but it’s now something I’m actively working on.