The Politics of Bisexual/Biracial Identity: A study of Bisexual and Mixed Race Women of Asian/Pacific Islander Descent

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2009-11-19 00:27Z by Steven

The Politics of Bisexual/Biracial Identity: A study of Bisexual and Mixed Race Women of Asian/Pacific Islander Descent

San Diego State University
First Published: 1999
Reprint: 2006
120 pages
ISBN 1-23456-789-0

Beverly Yuen Thompson, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies
Texas Woman’s College

The construction of certain behaviors and physical characteristics into an acceptable and recognized “identity” is a phenomenon that is meaningful to the specific location and historical moment. “Identities” may not travel well across certain places and historical epochs because of the intricate cultural meanings associated with them. The United States in the late twentieth century is one location in which certain identities are constructed and understood in relation to national history and to political and social issues of the historical era that created such locations. “Identities” in the U.S. have largely been based on membership in groups and classes in which people experience oppression or are denied opportunity because of that membership. For an identity to be understood as such, two factors are typically present: (1) the identity is forced upon the group in a manner which often reduces the group to stereotype and homogeneity for certain reasons such as to justify their (marginal) position in society; (2) the group members more or less accept the identity or label as significant to their self-understanding (and their position in society), although they may or may not accept the meanings that come along with the identity. Identities, therefore, are understood by both group members and non-group members as a legitimate self-label, though the ways in which either view the identity may diverge. Identities based on hegemonic cultural membership, such as white, male, heterosexual, or middle class, are often not employed as self descriptive terms unless one is differentiating one’s self from members of oppressed groups. Identities have largely been constructed in American society based on membership in recognized oppressed groups….

..Biracial identity challenges the construction of mutually exclusive racial categorizations by incorporating an understanding of miscegenation and racial mixing that produces individuals who have a diverse background of racial and ethnic characteristics. This racial mixing may stem from parents or grandparents from different racial and/or ethnic groups or from a cultural history in which racial intermixing was a common occurrence, such as the Caribbean or Hawaii. Biracial identity implies that individuals have an understanding of their diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and believe that this is an important aspect of their identity and use this concept to describe their racial makeup.

Bisexuality and biraciality as occurrences and concepts involve more than our current construction and indeed it has been argued that they have been present throughout human history (e.g., Stonequist; Haeberle & Gindorf). However, our understanding of bisexuality and multiraciality is relatively recent and the construction of them as identities is arguably quite unique. In order to understand bisexual and biracial identities in their present construction, it is crucial to review briefly the historical, legal, political, economic and social processes that influenced their treatment and embodiment. Therefore in the remainder of this introduction I will review the historical construction of Asian American experiences within the U.S. I will also give an overview of the treatment of bisexuality and homosexuality in relation to the socio-political context of placing bisexuality and homosexuality together based on the premise that it was under “homosexuality” that bisexuals were persecuted. I will then compare and contrast the historical process in the creation of biracial and bisexual identities and the issues that arise when both these identities reside in the same subject…

Read the entire thesis here.


Fence Sitters, Switch Hitters, and Bi-Bi Girls: An Exploration of “Hapa” and Bisexual Identities

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2009-11-18 21:36Z by Steven

Fence Sitters, Switch Hitters, and Bi-Bi Girls: An Exploration of “Hapa” and Bisexual Identities

Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies
Vol. 21, No. 1/2 (2000)
Asian American Women
pp. 171-180.

Beverly Yuen Thompson, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies
Texas Woman’s College

I had been wondering about taking part in a student theatre project about being Asian American, and I said to Tommy, “The thing is, I don’t feel as though I’ve really lived the . . . Asian American experience.” (Whatever I thought that was.)

Tommy kind of looked at me. And he said, “But, Claire, you are Asian American. So whatever experience you have lived, that is the Asian American experience.”

I have never forgotten that.

-Claire Huang Kinsley, “Questions People Have Asked Me. Questions I Have Asked Myself.”

Claire Huang Kinsley articulates a common sentiment among multiracial Asian Americans regarding their racial and ethnic identity. She describes the reaction that her mixed heritage has provoked from Asians and Anglos, both of whom frequently view her as the “other.” In response to these reactions, her faith in her racial identity has been shaken, and she feels unable to identify herself-fearful of being alienated for choosing either her Chinese or Anglo heritage, or both. Although she knows that she is mixed race, the question that still plagues her is whether or not she is included in the term “Asian American.”‘

When I first read Kinsley’s article, I was elated to find recognition of a biracial Asian American experience that resembled my own. I have a Chinese mother and an Anglo-American father, as does she, and I am constantly confronted with questions about my ethnic background from curious individuals. Like Kinsley, I also question my ability to call myself Asian American because of my mixed heritage. However, in addition to my mixed heritage, I am also bisexual, which brings with it additional complications and permutations around my identity formation and self-understanding. The process of identity formation, especially of multiple identities, is complex and lifelong, and my experiences have been no exception.

Though I have always understood that I was mixed race, a true understanding of what this meant in terms of my self-understanding and my relation to the dominant culture and Asian American communities did not develop until I was much older. My first exposure to the political side of identity politics came at the ages of fourteen and fifteen when I began to develop a feminist understanding of the world around me. Then, at seventeen, I first began to call myself bisexual after two years of questioning my sexuality and believing that the only options that were available were either a lesbian or straight identity. Finally at the age of nineteen I began to uncover the history of Asians in America through my college course work and developed a newfound understanding of my racial identity and its political implications. Yet, as is usually the case, this process was never as linear as it may sound…

Read the entire article here.

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