The Peculiar Kind Episode Three: Where I’m From…

Never interested in treading lightly around the big conversations, “The Peculiar Kind” dropped its third episode yesterday, this time discussing how queer sexuality is viewed in respective ethnic cultures. The spread is pretty solid on this one. In addition to the already-familiar faces, this episode features a new cast member, Adrien, as well as a conversation between eight younger queers from various ethnic backgrounds. One of them is me! But that’s not why you should watch this.

The episode, titled “Where I’m From…” reminded me of the age-old question, “Hey girl, where you from? No like, where you from? Like, where you from-from?” Answering these inquiries has probably become part of the conversational repertoire for anyone who is any shade of off-white. And although this question is usually totally offensive, often eliciting responses like “New York,” “Brooklyn,” “Oh, where am I froooom? My mother’s uterus,” it’s interesting to think that it can actually mean something. We’re shaped by the experiences of our lives, but we’re also shaped by forces that we never chose to participate in, like culture. And as POC, that culture is often generationally very close to us. Often we don’t have to trace immigration back to Ellis Island or the Mayflower – our grandparents and parents are the immigrants we grew up with. They’re the ones who taught us about our culture; sometimes they’re the ones who didn’t teach us about our culture in hopes that we could be that much more American.

Whatever the situation, POC often have to navigate the murky waters of connecting to a cultural identity while also reconciling the fact that doing so often means being othered in the environment where we grow up. Add a little (or a lot) of queerness to the mix, and you’ve got a whole lifetime of confusion, alienation, and feelings to deal with.

Taking part in this conversation reminded me of the A-Camp Queer Women of Color panel, which was probably one of the most valuable and gratifying experiences of my life as a queer lady of color. I’m not friends with many Asian-Americans. I’m friends with even fewer queer Asian-Americans. The lack of those kinds of relationships can really get you feeling like you don’t exist. Witnessing and being a part of projects like this confirms the opposite. Your feelings are valid, your experience is relatable, and you exist.

Sidenote: While we’ve got your attention, don’t forget to check out Episode 2.5, “For Hire,” which discusses employment and discrimination, and features Brooklyn Boihood’s own Ryann. What a big gay internet family we all are.

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Katrina is a 23-year-old grrrl splitting her time between her great homeland of New York City and Washington DC. She loves activism and hates sleep, which is convenient because neither of those things really allows for the other anyway. She thinks that slang is rad. As a math equation (with words, because she is bad at math), Katrina would go as such: writer + riot grrrl = wrioter grrrl. When not manifesting itself as a mathematical equation, Katrina’s life usually reads out like a lesbian coming-of-age novel, though sometimes she wishes it were more like a bad 1950s lesbian pulp fiction story. Also, she really, really, truly believes that the revolution is upon us. Come read her rantings about it on her twitter and blog!

Contact: katrina[at]autostraddle.com

katrina has written 64 articles for us.

29 Comments

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    I love The Peculiar Kind and it’s fantastic when they bring out a new episode. I think its great that you took part and were able to speak about your experiences- always a powerful and brave thing to do.

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      exactly. this is also why i love the internet (and autostraddle especially), because it reminds me that i am not the only queer nigerian-american ever, even if the “real world” tries to make me feel like it most of the time.

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    I really like The Peculiar Kind and it keeps getting better. Awesome comment, Katrina, about the conditions of family love. So true, and heart-breaking. The QWOC panel at camp affected me a lot, and I’m grateful that these conversations are happening.

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    Katrina, thank you for your profound insights. I respect everything you said in this episode, especially your comment about guilt. As a queer Filipina myself, it is all too familiar. Keep it fierce grrrl.

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    I’m not a person of color, but I am queer and a first generation immigrant (I use this to mean that I was born here while my parents were not), and it’s so nice to hear these issues getting discussed. The juxtaposition of wanting to be proud of one’s culture while still trying to claim one’s queer identity (which, at times, may seem like a uniquely American concept) in spite of it is quite fascinating indeed.

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    I <3 The Peculiar Kind, I just kinda wish that when they announce an episode is going up on a specific date they follow through. Other than that, I love this episode because a lot of people don't talk about these issues at least where I'm from. It's very hard to come out to a family that is from another country where being gay is illegal and/or also punishable by death.

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    I cannot express how happy I am that a show like The Peculiar Kind exists. You all made such good points, especially the point you made about feeling guilty and the conditions of love Katrina. It’s awesome to hear other queer POC saying things that I feel all the time. I’m not alone. <3

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    I enjoyed this article and can relate, especially with some of the things said to me in my workplace and just with life in general. It’s refreshing to see experiences I can personally relate to and to know that you are not the only “magnet” for other people’s ignorant projections toward your physical make-up. I’m sure there could be tons of books written on this specific topic alone, it runs the gamut and is never-ending.

    I couldn’t help but laugh as well, due to the fact that I felt like I wanted to chime in and say, “Ooooh yeah, I’ve received that type of comment too and what about this one… have you ever received that?!” It’s a fine line between laughing your ass off due to the stupidity of people’s ignorance, then coming down off that laughter, getting annoyed as fuck because people are so god damn ignorant. It’s like doing a double take… Did I really just hear what I think I did? Wait? No? I’m hearing things, that must be it. Holy shit! This person really did say that, hahaha, wow, really? Really? Fuck, I hate people. *facepalms* That’s usually my reaction to these experiences and most thing in general. Ironically, humor is a good observation tool when it comes to uncovering people’s real thoughts and motives because you are able to read between the lines.

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    This is fantastic, thank you for sharing! As an Ashkenazi Jew and an Israeli-American, I just wanted to point out some misinformation about Jewish identities in this video – Sephardic Jews do not in fact come from Morocco or Israel or anywhere in that region, the term refers to Jews of Spanish origin.

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      To add to this — Orthodox Judaism typically condemns homosexuality, but the Israeli Branch of Conservative Judaism recently began accepting gay and lesbian candidates for ordination – which is huge! Also, Reform Judaism (which is more progressive) is very accepting of homosexuals – in fact, the rabbi at my mom’s temple is a lesbian!

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    I look forward to the peculiar kind every month. The women, their intelligence, strength and beauty. The topics of discussion, the cinematography, hearing about experiences in the greater queer community.

    Everything, love, love, love it!

    Btw, love your hair Kristina.

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        This may be a naive, or stupid question, however…

        Following on from the “where you from?” Thing, is there any way to politely word that, or is it always redundant/offensive? I usually ask people what their ethnic background is, but I dunno if I’ve been unintentionally offending people , and they’ve just been too polite to say anything….

        I usually only ask if I’m guessing that someone is of a certain background and I have some knowledge of that culture…like “let me cook you up some tocino girl….” :p. I find it to be a good icebreaker

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          As someone who gets this question ALL THE TIME: there are two particular situations where it becomes loathsome:

          * When it’s drive-by – it’s the first question you ask, and the only question, and you’re not really interested in me otherwise

          * When you dispute my answer. Seriously, 99% of the time I get told “no, that can’t be right, you don’t look X”. BECAUSE YOU KNOW BETTER THAN I WHERE I COME FROM, OF COURSE.

          In both situations it becomes less about the person and more about confirming a stereotype.

          I would suggest that if you want to know, offer your answer first (so at least we know what you mean by “from” – heritage? hometown? current address? previous location?), accept whatever answer you get even if it sounds strange to you, and build a conversation around more than that.

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          YES to the suggestion to clarify what you mean when asking someone “Where are you from?” As someone who’s moved around a bit, I never know how to answer this question right off the bat.

          And I’ve actually had a couple of occasions when I experienced a sort of weird tangent of Creatrix’s situation when answering someone’s question regarding where I was born, e.g. “…You’re sure that’s it’s own country? It’s not really part of nation X?” Um, yes. My geography skills may not be what they used to be, but I’m pretty damn sure I’d know whether or not the place I was naming as where I was born was a country or not.

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