I wanted to be so many things when I grew up: a doctor, a police officer, a marine biologist, Nick Carter’s wife, an author.
But I never once dared to dream about being an actor, because when I looked on the screen, there was hardly anyone who looked anything like me – and when there was, they played bookish nerds, losers, the unlucky in love.
This time last year, I had my heart broken. Crushed. Obliterated. It was an acute pain like none I’d ever experienced before – it honestly felt I was like dying.
For months afterwards, I begged for answers. My ex and I would spend hours on the phone, talking in circles, and we would both leave the conversation feeling the same way: defeated, frustrated. Until the next conversation, and then it would start all over again.
It always hurts the same way, like a new pain each time. The light goes out and you feel like you’re dying and you lie awake and become familiar with the stains and scratches on the ceiling, as if they are hieroglyphics with messages hidden in them just for you, or puzzles that are solved by staring at them for hours and hours and hours on end.
Having this language nestled on my tongue, being able to switch back and forth like a cultural chameleon, reminds me of the duality which I would not be myself without. I am Vietnamese and I am Australian. Both of these parts matter equally.
We are living in a strange and frightening time where bigotry is legitimised and given the ultimate position of power. In the weeks since Trump was elected I have seen my friends, who are also people of colour (POC), vocalise their fears on social media; I have held friends as they cried, wondering aloud why the world hates people like us. I have felt the fear myself as I hear reports of violence in Australia against people of colour, of Trump supporters at universities yelling at minorities. I have felt despair grip me and have worried for anyone who is ‘outside’ of the white mainstream, especially my Muslim friends.
But there is hope in this time of abject terror, and it comes in the form of unity.
During a drunken conversation with a friend recently, she asked how many people I had slept with. I opened my mouth, about to divulge, when she chimed in again: “I mean full sex only. Other stuff doesn’t count.”
“Wait a second,” I said. “What about same-sex couples? Does that not count?”
“Well, of course THAT counts,” she scoffed. “But for heterosexuals, it’s just P in V. Everything else is sexual activity, not sex.”
Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to write a book about my family.
As a teenager, I wrote imagined stories from refugee perspectives. I wrote poems that ached for something I’d never had. I read voraciously, hungry for tales that reflected the reality of everything that came before: the loss and the fear and the tiny victories that sowed the seeds for people like me to exist.
But I haven’t written about my family, and every time I try to start, I balk.
Single-sex schooling perpetuates tired notions of gender essentialism – girls are like this, boys are like that. In 2016, we know that anatomy has nothing to do with gender, and continuing to define individuals and their experiences by a predetermined social construct hinders social progress.
What’s more, the entire concept of segregated schooling operates on the model of a cis-centric gender binary, automatically excluding, by definition, any students who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.