English | Thai
I was born in Birmingham to a Brummie mechanic and a Thai Tai Chi and meditation teacher. I grew up in Rednal, a village in southwest Birmingham and moved to London to go to drama school, I’m an actor and live in South London. My mom is from Bangkok, Thailand. My dad is from Birmingham, UK.
Dad was traveling the world in his twenties and during a stint in Southeast Asia. He decided to help out at a refugee camp on the Thai Cambodian border during the time of the Khmer Rouge, under Polpot’s dictatorship. My mom was working there too, so that’s where they met. My dad proposed after a few weeks although my mom declined, it turns out she had another love interest. Dad travelled to Australia then returned to try and propose again, but mom had left the camp. So my dad asked other workers where she lived and managed to track her down to propose again. She thought since he’d come all that way she’d better say yes.
My identity constantly evolves. I find it limiting to try and find one word to sum up my existence which is why I always resent filling in those equal opportunity forms. There’s never a box for me and I refuse to tick ‘other’. I’ve always used ‘half Thai’ and even now when pushed for a shorthand it can be useful, but for the past few years I’ve been going with Thai English as I wanted to move away from identifying as a fraction.
My parents were great at exposing my brothers and me to different aspects of our heritage, so I grew up for the most part thinking our experiences were pretty normal and didn’t really think of us being different to anyone else. My mom would teach us Thai, we would chant and meditate before bed, and as my maternal grandparents were Chinese we would celebrate Chinese New Year as well as Thai festivals. We would go to Sunday School on some Sundays and on others we would go to Buddhist temples and this was all very normal for us. I suppose the moment I felt I was different was when we experienced racism, being told you’re different and that different isn’t good.
When I’m with people from a similar ethnic background there’s always a connection, an understanding of experience, I guess. It’s always exciting to meet other Eurasian people as there aren’t many of us; to discover our similarities and that we aren’t alone in our experiences. When dating, ethnicity isn’t a factor at all.
Growing up as a very ‘White’ looking Eurasian kid was confusing at times. A recurring theme was that sense of belonging, or lack thereof; not quite feeling like I belonged in this country and that same sense of detachment in Thailand, while at the same time having a deep affinity with both. I experienced racism in Birmingham growing up, which made me feel like an outsider there, and then when I would go to Thailand I’d be made very aware of just how foreign and unThai I was. As an adult, while my identity is somewhat amorphous, I’m happy to say I’m at a stage where I’m happy and extremely proud of my ethnicity.
When people discover my mom is Thai, people are usually cool about it, but with others what I still get sometimes is ‘sawadee krab!’ in an offensive Thai accent, or ‘speak some Thai for me!’, or ‘that’s so cool!’. These are always accompanied by oohs and aahs as though I’m an exotic bird or something, that gets a bit tedious. Also trying to explain racism and the effects of it to some people who have never experienced it I’ve found challenging.
If I were to be born again I’d stick with being Thai English. At this point in time I couldn’t be more proud to be who I am.
Looking forward the world is only going to get more and more mixed and that can only be a good thing. I’m grateful for the vast and enlightening experiences I’ve had, and the openness that comes with having two cultures. I think mixed-race people have such a unique perspective of the world and have a lot to contribute, so the more the merrier.