Irish | Thai/Akha

I would identify myself firstly as British. My heritage is Irish, Thai and Akha, my parents are Muslim. My dad is Irish, and my Mother is Thai. My father is from an Irish Catholic family and my mother is from a Buddhist and Christian Protestant family. They met when my mother moved in next door and he saw her struggling with a table. My parents like to point out their old front doors whenever we go past. I grew up in inner city Birmingham. We lived in a top floor flat with no working lift.

I first realised I was mixed when I started primary school. I don’t believe my race was ever brought up before then. I was the only student who wasn’t south Asian in my school, so I guess it was clear to other children that I was different. The older kids used to ask me if I was Chinese and I would tell them no, I’m Thai and Irish. I didn’t realise it mattered, or why it was important, or why people were so, and still being so insistent in calling me something I am not. I soon started to get bullied because of my race, which is so hard to understand as a 5-year-old. I eventually learned to talk back and fight back. As you get older, the negative comments don’t stop, but your skin grows thicker, and your identity becomes stronger.

I think Both Irish and Thai people are a bit mad, so my family gets on like a house on fire. My family accepted my mother as their own blood straight away. My grandmother always spoke about how she was treated differently for being Irish when she came to this country, so I think that also plays a part in why my family never looked at my mother any differently.

Sometimes it feels like I don’t belong anywhere, Thai people don’t think I look Thai, and nobody sees my Irish side. I’ve grown up in England, so I feel mostly British, but every so often people will make comments to make me feel like a don’t belong. I don’t think I would have ever received the same questions or comments I get on a regular basis if I was White. Both of my parents are Muslim reverts. I was born and raised Muslim, but I don’t practice any religion. Though they accept I live my life differently, it’s very difficult. I’m constantly conflicted on what I want to do in life. Do I live to make myself happy or to make them happy? I love them both dearly so of course I want to make them proud, but the life I live is so different to theirs.

I avoid people with yellow fever like the plague. My race is not a fetish, I’m a human not a handbag, and if you make the assumption that Asian women are submissive then you’re sorely mistaken. Speaking from personally experience, some of the stereotypes about Asian women are very toxic. Speaking from personal experience, those of carry the stereotype that Asian women are subservient are dangerous. That’s why I avoid them.

It disgusts me that there are still people out there who think races shouldn’t mix. There is also this awful assumption that because my mother is Thai she’s from a third world country and was a ‘mail order bride’. My mother is Educated. People with a saviour complex should stop assuming Asia is living in poverty and that people need to be ‘saved’ by someone from a ‘better’ country.

My grandmother was fluent in Gaelic, but I know none of this. It’s a real shame that it seems to be dying out. I can speak some Thai, but I understand a whole lot more than I can speak. I think I’d like to learn more.

I feel because of my experiences I Identify more with being Thai as that’s what people see me as. When people only see one part of who you are, that is amplified, however, I am so much closer to my Irish family. I love being around them and they’re some of the funniest people I know. I love all the stories my grandparents used to tell, and I learned a lot from them.

When someone asks where I am from, I like to be difficult and say England if it’s the first thing they ask me. It’s rude to ask someone ‘what are you’ before even saying hello or asking my name, like that is the top of their priority list, and the defining characteristic of who I am. If I know the person or I am actually in conversation I will say I’m Irish and Thai. The full rehearsed spiel is sometimes too much. Nobody knows what Akha is, which is fair.

The best thing about being from a mixed family is by far the food. I also get to experience two very different ways of life. I think these differences have pushed me to become more open minded and accepting of other people’s way of life. The negative part of being mixed-race is feeling like an outsider.

I’m lucky to live in such a multicultural city. I think people are becoming less ignorant due to being exposed to so many different cultures. It’s important to speak up when someone says something out of line. Just because they’ve said something bad doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, sometimes it’s because they don’t know better. In some cases, people do know better.

If I was born again I wouldn’t mind what race I returned as, but I’d like it to be something different. Sometimes when I feel really down after someone has commented on my appearance I wonder what it would be like to be Caucasian. The standard for beauty is very European. People wouldn’t make fun of my eyes or how I look in the same way, there wouldn’t be the same questions and I wouldn’t feel any different. I realise there would still be a whole bunch of crap to deal with if I was born White, but it would be a different experience. I’d like to know what that’s like.