Intersectionality, Invisibility, and Authenticity

“The fiction of our lives–how we conceive our histories by heart–can sometimes provide a truth far greater than any telling of a tale frozen to the facts” (4). –Cherrie Moraga

I thought I would attempt to channel Moraga’s style this week and try to write a more personal blog post. “The personal is political” is a feminist anthem strongly endorsed by Moraga and is evident in her writing, so I thought I would give it a try!

—-

Fact. I am a first-generation college student that comes from a working-class family background. This facet of my identity is mostly hidden, as it’s mostly invisible to others. This part of my identity is the most threatened at Stanford, where most of my peers come from middle-class families whose parents went to college. When I tell (Stanford) students what my parents do, sometimes they literally don’t understand. For example, one time I was explaining to someone that my father works on cameras, and they responded “Oh so it’s not like he’s actually doing any of the work he just tells people what to do?” I was embarrassed, and just answered yes, but I deeply regret this. They had automatically assumed my father had some leadership position when he in fact is a technician. Hiding my identity out of embarrassment is inexcusable–as Moraga suggests, it is important to not only recognize all facets of our identity but also be proud of them.

Fact. I am Mexican-American. This identity is also invisible, but not as much as my class. My name is Mexican, and while I think I do look Mexican, many people constantly mistake me for being white. This mistake has been illuminated by countless times when people make racist jokes in front of me, assuming that I am white. Like Moraga, “my racial identity has always been more ambiguous [than my sexual identity]” (12). I have never really “felt” Mexican. I don’t speak Spanish, and my immediate family is far removed from our extended family (who are all very close and live near each other). This part of my identity has been extremely frustrating because people of all backgrounds have questioned my authenticity as a Mexican-American. White people have said things like “oh well you’re not really Mexican” and “you don’t look Mexican at all.” Spanish-speaking people also challenge my authenticity because I don’t speak Spanish fluently. A few weeks ago at the bank, the Spanish teller saw my last name and smiled and asked if I spoke Spanish. When I said no, she frowned and was visibly disappointed. Because of ambiguity, I have never felt apart of the Chicano community on campus. I feel out of place because I’m not dark enough, because I don’t speak Spanish well enough, because I lived a mostly white childhood. My parents adopted an assimilationist attitude/approach, because they felt that this would give my brother and I more opportunities. I believe it worked, but I worry that it also estranged me from my Chicac@ brothers and sisters.

Fact. I am a gay man. Unlike Moraga, I have found the most comfort in the gay community. This does not mean that I do not acknowledge all of the problems in the gay community. However, my “gayness” is never questioned like how my “Mexicanness” is in the Chicano community, which makes me feel fully apart of something bigger, a community. My interests are “stereotypically” gay and I fit in well with the gay community. I enjoy and embrace my gay identity and spend the majority of my time around gay/queer people. I respect Moraga’s disappointment with the gay mainstream community for alienating people of color, but because I have not yet fully learned how to embrace my Mexican-American identity I don’t feel personally left out.

Like the other facets of my identity, my “gayness” is also invisible, illustrated by the various times people assume I am heterosexual. If they are strangers, I often pretend like I am, only out of laziness. However, I feel guilty about this and I am highly motivated from a new “consciousness” from Moraga’s writing that I should avoid hiding facets my identity as much as possible, from others and from myself.

-Ripley

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Filed under Week 9: Cherrie Moraga and Alison Bechdel

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