Thai | Guyanese
I identify as mixed-race, Buddhist & bisexual. My Mum is originally from Thailand and my Dad was from Guyana. They met in Phuket, Thailand whilst my Mum worked on chartering yachts and my Dad was writing for the local English language magazine on the island. I grew up in Guildford, raised by my Mum as my Dad passed away shortly after I was born.
I didn’t come to think about being mixed-race until I was around six years old. I obviously knew about my Father being Guyanese, but until that point, I had basically been raised in a Thai household by my Mother. It wasn’t until I went to Guyana with my Mum and met my Guyanese family that I truly understood my parentage and came fully around to the idea of being mixed-race. Whilst my Mum raised me in a Thai household, she would often try to talk to me about my Dad, and about Guyana and its culture. My Auntie lived close to us in Guildford, and she would often tell us stories about their childhood in Guyana.
Now that I’m an adult and am fully at peace with my identity, I feel like face few challenges as a mixed-race person. Despite the recent political climate, I still feel blessed to live in a country that is, on the whole, pretty accepting and tolerant. I do remember facing challenges in childhood however, especially growing up in a predominantly White area. In primary school, I remember the other children being confused and making fun on the ‘disgusting’ looking Thai food my Mum would put in my packed lunch. It’s funny to me now because it was of course much tastier than their plain ham sandwiches or whatever, but at the time it was kind of hurtful to feel so different and excluded. In secondary school I was often the subject of some ‘racial banter’, which I normally shrugged or laughed off because they were just shit jokes. Whilst I can look back now and see them as trivial things, I can imagine a lot of mixed-race kids, going through similar experiences. Feeling excluded or othered as a young child or teen can feel genuinely awful, and I’d encourage anyone in this position to stand up for themselves and their heritage.
Everyone walks through life representing who they are and where they come from, whether they try to or not. Whilst being mixed-race obviously affects people’s perceptions and judgements of me, I try not to let it affect my personal life, at least in a negative way.
I speak Thai fluently, and every day I am thankful that I do. When you speak your mother tongue, the connection to your parents and their culture is that much deeper. I know a lot of second generation and mixed-race kids who cannot speak their mother tongue, and they often struggle to overcome not only the literal language barrier, but also the cultural barrier between them and their parentage. Of course, speaking Thai makes going back to Thailand a lot easier and way more fun.
When asked where I’m from I always respond saying that I’m from Guildford, where I was born and raised. If someone wants to ask me ‘Why are you Brown?’ they can just ask me outright.
There are so many positives things about being mixed-race, but I can actually give you one from earlier today. I was out looking for a part-time job for the start of the new university term, and instantly managed to find a job at a local Thai restaurant. Being half Thai and being able to speak Thai meant that I was pretty much offered the job on the spot.
Being mixed-race come with its own unique series of challenges, but from personal experience its generally great. The early years can be challenging, as it’s easy to be confused about your identity and why you’re so different to every other kid can be extremely challenging. Once you learn to accept and be proud of who you are everything kind of falls into place. Of course when you look as racially ambiguous as I do, you do get into some funny situations. You learn to recognise the questioning look of someone trying to figure out your race, and I’ve been mistaken for a Hispanic or Middle Eastern person a fair few times. There are certainly inconveniences, such as being stopped at the airport nine times out of ten, but overall, I’d say being mixed-race in today’s society is pretty okay as long as you can deal with a few weird comments.
I’d be pretty happy if I was reborn as my same old self. There’s the obvious stuff like being born into money, but the only real change I’d think about is being born into a world where my Dad was still alive. I’ve always wondered how my life would be if he’d stuck around.