Identity development is cyclic, contextual, and complex. It is never set or static, and facets of identity can be salient at different times, in a variety of places, and triggered by certain events.
Over the past two months, my family and I have navigated personal, professional, and political transition from California to Minnesota. For those folks who know me, my life is in a constant state of transition, which causes perpetual reflection, interrogation, and processing what it means to navigate daily tasks with the identities I hold. Just when I thought I had a firm grasp on my race, gender, ability, class, sexuality, and the intricate intersections of my narrative, I have found myself humbly re-learning and exploring my politic as a queer, cisgender, mostly-able bodied, Multiracial, Asian, womxn of color.
Transition is nothing to joke about.
As I continue to contemplate my positionality in my new community and workplace, the intersections of my identities, and how to make impact, I am challenged to recognize the ways that the personal continues to be political. As a racially ambiguous mid-level administrator at a predominantly White institution, I’m thinking all the time about how to tactfully address microaggressions in my role. Whether it’s “you’re intense,” being mistaken as a Latina or Chicana, or being positioned as a “model minority,” I’m finding myself having to pick and choose how to address these assertions, while also understanding that racial equity and campus climate are not solely placed on my shoulders. All this, while I’m navigating the cyclic nature of racial identity development, immersion, and finding affinity and community in my new home.
I find myself wondering- how do I pick and choose how to address the many subversive forms of racism. Do I address it head on? Use some good ol’ passive aggressive comments? Do I make a funny comment? Do I wait and talk to people ‘offline?’ Use all these moments as educational with colleagues, supervisees, and/or students? Do I remain silent until I have more capital? The answer really is- I don’t know. I’m not really sure. I’m relying on friends, mentors, accomplices to help me navigate the challenges of being a small, younger, brown, Multiracial, cisgender womxn in my current context. It’s complicated. Transition is complicated. Transition is especially complicated when moving from a feminist, holistically caring, trauma-informed, intersectional work environment, to a much more uncharted context. Even in my experience navigating, I just don’t really know.
So this blog post, albeit short, is a shout out to those new and mid-level professionals navigating new spaces and contexts. Who are navigating transition. Who are struggling, searching, and hoping to find solidarity and support in racialized, gendered, sexualized spaces that are White supremacist. The microaggressions are real. What you are perceiving is real. You are real. And precious, and deserve to take care of yourself and your community. You will find your way to navigate, and master those oppositional tactics, but just know- you are not alone. You matter. You are not alone. And you have the capacity to be transformative.
Heather C. Lou (she/her/hers) is a past chair of the Multiracial Network. She enjoys thinking critically, making art, cuddling her cat, Olive, and love as praxis.