A bar full of tall athletic dudes. It was Friday night. I was with a friend who had invited me to tag along for a gay volleyball league social.
Our two became three, then five, a group. And then time for a move, another friend’s apartment in Chelsea, but first a slice or two to continue the night.
“I always thought you were Spanish,” one of them said, puzzled, uninhibited.
“Well I’ll tell you the story if you want.”
And I spoke. First about my father, who was adopted, and not knowing his biological family, and then me, growing up in South Texas thinking I was ‘Hispanic’, and finding out later—opening the sealed adoption records—that my father was actually born to an Indian mother and a White father. That I was American Indian, I was telling him. At least in part, and that’s what he wanted to know, I thought.
“That doesn’t exist.”
My lips pursed. My freckles burned.
“There’s no such thing, it’s all just Asian.”
That sinking feeling.
Not allowed to speak. Watch as I lose my body. Oh, please let me tell you who I am.
It was to exhort the other to speak as other while reserving the right to withdraw the discursive space of otherness, to be at the threshold where subject and object meet only to find that that space was never really there, an illusion.
It was to demand my enunciation as self, to fan my desire to call myself self only to find that that desire impels inexorably, sinisterly, toward the unraveling of me.
It was the power of Whiteness.
Let me rehearse it again: I position myself for the benefit of another—what is really to other myself for his benefit—and oh, what power do I cede. What self-determination do I vacate. I attempt to narrate myself, or at least how I see myself, or at least how I want others to see me, oh, and how I expose my self to its own negation. What oblivion.
I think that’s what happened at least. That I was foreclosed the identity I was demanded to produce. It was more than a racist attack. It was the negation of my ability to speak as myself. It was abjection, which is worse.
A not yet interpellation. Speak your-self. Not yet.
A not yet eternal. A not yet of Becomings promised, required. But promised and required only to be rejected. A demand to translate my mestizaje into legible categories, only to be de-tongued, un-spun, anti-selved.
To be a subject-in-process dangled the carrot of fixity, its impossible desire (I should have known better) only to be sent back to in-between and not-yet land.
Tell me your story. Tell me about your skin. Tell me about your hair.
Speak up, little Indian not-yet.