What are you looking at?
A conversation about same-sex interracial dating.
Here’s the deal: I’m a bisexual white woman in a relationship with a Filipino/Chinese lesbian. We’ve been going out for two years now, and knew each other as friends for a while before that. Here, we sit down with a glass of cheap Merlot each, and discuss.
Me: The first thing that comes to mind for me, regarding us being interracial, is a joke we had back when we first started dating. I wasn’t out to my mother yet and, as happens with these things, we had discussed it at length. You said, like, “Can you imagine if your mum was totally cool with you dating a woman, but she kicked you out of the house for dating an Asian?”.
Gf: (Laughs), yeah.
It was never serious, like a complete farce, but I think it was the first time I even had the thought like, oh, this is interracial. Not to be all ‘colour blind’ but I hadn’t even thought about it much, which is for sure a result of my white blindness.
Yeah, yeah. And I also present very Caucasian.
Which is very deliberate.
I think as anyone ‘non-white’, particularly as an immigrant, you understand you’re growing up in a white world and a white culture, and you assimilate. At least in some ways.
Right. And for me the experience has been totally different in that I’ve always had my race presented to me as the default.
Yeah. So, because I’ve grown up knowing white culture, I felt very prepared to come into your world, in terms of meeting your parents, going out to dinner with them, how to conduct myself at a dinner table, etc. That’s something you learn as an immigrant. But I think for you, it would have been coming into something very different.
Right, I hadn’t been going through the training my whole life.
I remember we were driving around Herne Bay, looking at mansions, and I was saying how nice it would be live there, and you were like “pretty white”.
And I was like ‘oh yeah’. Herne Bay isn’t the best example because its whiteness is so apparent, but there have definitely been times when you’ve pointed out that you’re the only non-white person in the room, and it’s totally taken me aback. For instance, The Basement Theatre, which is a wonderful place that we both love — but we’ve been there and you’ve been like ‘hey, I’m the only coloured here’.
And sometimes I have this weird knee-jerk reaction to that, like, ‘no you’re not! There’s someone over…there, maybe?’ Like I’m defending myself.
You’ve gotten better at that though, where you’re recognising your own reactions, and being like ‘whoa, I don’t know why I got so defensive over that, you’re right.’
So, we were friends for a long time before we started dating. We knew each other in high school.
I think what I liked about you, just as friends, was how similar we were in our pop-cultural references. We liked the same music and films. It’s like, in every bloody indie film how they bond over loving The Smiths.
So, in that way, I thought we were extremely similar, and that totally blinded me to our cultural differences too.
There are clear gaps though, particularly in what we grew up on. I remember you were shocked I hadn’t seen The Sound of Music, which you grew up on. Whereas I basically grew up on anime.
What anime did you grow up on?
Dragonball Z, Ghost Fight, Gundam Wing…
We all grew up on Dragonball Z, dude.
Yeah, I always say that first too, because I know white people will know it.
(Laughs). So, we get stared at, right?
Yeah. We get a second glance.
I remember you used to notice it way more than I did, particularly with Asian people looking at our clasped hands.
Yeah, and I also present pretty androgynous, and some people read me as male, so they’re like ‘what’s this Chinese boy doing with this tall blonde lady?’
That’s the other thing; you don’t know what that second look is for, it’s all projection, right? Like you can make an educated guess, but it’s like; is it the same-sex thing, is it the race thing, is it the height difference?
Do you remember the best one we got?
Oh yeah, you had gone to the bathroom and this Indian guy came up to me and said, ‘way to get a Green Card bro’.
(Laughs), you honestly laughed about that for the next three hours.
There have been more sinister incidents too though, like when that old man yelled at us in that Waiheke Island café. That was freaky, he literally screamed, ‘What are you doing?!’ at us because we were holding hands.
And we had quite different instant reactions to that. You thought he was racist, and I thought he probably had dementia or something like that.
I don’t think you saw the look in his eyes, because you were embarrassed and you looked away, but it was pure hate.
We discussed that for a long time after, because we were so shaken up, trying to figure out what it was about us that he had reacted to.
Yeah, and he just got to go on with his day.
Yeah, but he has to live as a hateful person, and we get to be in love.
Life goes on, eh.