Hannah's blog posts are written in collaboration with our partners at Yellow House, which is a space and community for Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Colour at Queen's. Thanks to Yellow House for their partnership. Make sure to check out their Instagram to stay current with their events for Queen's QTBIPOC students!
Understanding the complexities of being a person of colour, of being a girl with crinkly half-moon eyes, sun kissed melanin skin, and lineage from places beyond the British Isles feels complicated. My hometown in Ontario was picturesque and lovely and mostly monocultural. This meant that coming to the lakeshore town of Kingston—which I and many picture as monocultural and overwhelmingly white—felt daunting. The monoculturalism of my hometown was familiar and therefore was not as noticeable to me. But coming to Kingston, attempting to create home in a space unexplored to myself meant that the monoculturalism of this new town was more obvious and intimidating. I didn’t know what my future experience as a Queen’s student of colour would entail.
As a little girl, I found myself typically one of the only people of colour in most of my friend circles. Sometimes I felt awkward in classrooms when I tried, as earnest little kids do, to explain how to pronounce my Chinese middle name.
Even now, as someone who isn’t a little kid anymore, my experience as a person of colour still feels complicated. It’s intricate, interlaced with bliss and delight and grief and discomfort. Queen’s is a kaleidoscope, a myriad of cultural history in one space. The repetitive patterns of the similarities of the racial backgrounds of many of my peers sometimes feels dizzying, even nauseating. But at other times, it’s beautiful. And still, there is distinction within the cyclical kaleidoscope’s pattern. The gift of university is to have the opportunity to expand knowledge in a space rich in so many different stories held by the people who also learn here.
I think it’s okay for this experience to feel confusing. It feels easy to let myself sweep all my messy thoughts under the rug. I could allow the perplexing nature of being a multiracial person of colour at a university with a monocultural population to be dismissed.
To be a person of colour at Queen’s means that some conversations leave an unnameable bad taste in your mouth. Sometimes it feels overly complicated and you overthink the space you take up in the world.
To be a person of colour at Queen’s means that if you have an encounter that feels tainted with microaggressions, you still feel uncomfortable—even though it is a familiar experience.
To be a person of colour at Queen’s means that you melt in happiness and call your mom happy crying when you make a multiracial friend who looks like you.
To be a multiracial person of colour like me means that I sometimes feel out of touch culturally when I’m with my white friends and my friends of colour.
It’s complicated. It’s confusing. And I am okay with that. I am learning how to bridge the gap between the delight and discomfort of being a person of colour. I am learning to care for myself as I navigate this conversation within myself. I journal. Sometimes I’ll decide to run to the pier like the strong independent woman I am and scribble my thoughts into moleskine notebooks as I search for freedom. I read. Stories like Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish and Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before gently articulate the dichotomy of my experience. I listen. Artists like Jensen McRae, Ruth B., and Conan Gray create space for my experiences, giving my tired heart a chance to breathe and feel seen. Places like Yellow House on campus at Queen’s, and the companionship of honest, kind friends keep me feeling safe and open.
I am proud of my heritage and the way melanin has kissed my skin. And it’s okay that it still feels complicated too.
Until next time,