What happened the last time someone asked you where you are from?
I was at the Gaytimes festival and I was wearing an Obi. I was asked where it was from and what it was, and I explained that I'd had it since childhood and that it was a gift from my Ojichan (grandfather). Then they asked if I identified as a person of colour.
What was the person like?
The person was extremely open and curious to hear more.
How did/does it make you feel?
I love speaking about my heritage because it's been such a big aspect of my upbringing. However, more often than not, people seem to be surprised and question it. When it's questioned it makes me feel uncomfortable, as though I’m expected to explain myself.
How did you respond/how would you have preferred to respond?
I responded the same way I always do: with my family’s back story.
What connotations do you think the question has and what do you think it says about Australia in terms of the way we understand cultural identity/ nationality?
I feel like the lines are blurred in terms of the way Australians understand cultural identity. As I am white-passing and raised in Australia, surrounded by Anglo-Saxon culture, I haven’t had the same experiences as other people may have. I’ve been fortunate and haven’t found that question to have any negative connotation; it’s rather just an indication of curiosity.
Australia, Melbourne especially, is filled with different cultures. I think the question, ‘Where are you from?’ shows that many people in Australia assume that if you're not fair skinned and fair haired then culturally you must belong elsewhere. Empathise with it being an uncomfortable topic for some but speaking only my own experiences, I find the question to be innocent and because an of interest in my looks - which are quite unusual. It's only when people react with surprise, and start asking me whether I'm sure that I'm not whatever other ethnicity they think I look like I must be. Then I think it's safe to assume that the person asking is small-minded, uneducated and unnecessarily opinionated