Multiply Other’d

As in multiple, and not a command to do math…

For some reason I woke up this morning remembering a post-it note of key points I’d scribbled down after a shower about a year ago when I didn’t have time to craft a decent post.  Nothing has changed, except the post-it note, sadly, got tossed.  But, the multiply other’d point remained and seems to want attention more than perfection.  So here I am, rust and all.

The notion came up during a grieving period.  I had a hunch I operated differently from most of society and went to head doctors for a diagnosis and, sure enough, it was determined I was autistic.  It was a relief to know my differences were neurological and that there was an explanation for my retreat from this exhausting, confounding, illogical world!  But then I grieved, because instead of dismissing society as wrong as has been my habit, I began to think dismissing society had cut me off from experiencing a full life.  I wondered if I ever could.  I still wonder that.

Anyway, in the shower that day I was crying and wondering if/how being autistic had influenced my life story arc.  Was that why I was given up?  Was that why I was abused? Was that why people were cold to me?  It was obviously just another complication to a very complicated, multi-layered, transracial international adoptee thing.  OMG, it was a trifecta of pain. And then, I realized, another perspective. A trifecta of perspective.

I thought about my writing on the value of the abused adoptee voice. I thought about how weird that was viewed as revolutionary by some. I thought about all the activist adoptees I’d met in the past. And then it seemed to me a pattern appeared.  I thought about the struggles gay adoptee friends had had. I thought about all my beloved friends here at Transracialeyes… It appeared to me that the common thread, the strongest voices, the most profound voices, were those who had been multiply other’d. Othere’d in multiple ways.

It stands to reason.  Humans responds to what they see first.  They respond to what they learn second.  That’s about the limit to what they can process.  The order seems to be: visual identification with one allowed predominant characteristic. In a vain effort to create a world that only mirrors themselves, they have a solution for dealing with these visual differences, which is othering.  They can not seem to deal with hidden differences or hidden disabilities. The guilt of othering is in opposition of their view of themselves as good people, which challenges their own identity and makes them uncomfortable, which makes them hate us.

So from that one judgment – that general social consensus of what you are and how you should be – in our case as an instantly recognizable other, you are asked to voluntarily submit your social identity to their definition and that becomes the only perspective you are allowed.  If you deviate from that, you are hammered down.  This injustice becomes the crucible of dissent.

But your grievances fall on deaf ears because discontent is part of the pathology of your kind (other) and are therefore dismissed.  But for those of us who are others in multiple ways, we can compare from our second or third or more perspective that such characterizations fall down and, more poignantly, show exactly why they are false.

It is my belief that being multiply other’d means having multiple perspectives.  Which means we can question the paradigm we’ve been handed and makes us dangerous to society.  But it, like being autistic, can also be a blessing.  It is a blessing to be able to recognize these fallacies, throw them out, think with reason above emotion and, once the fallacies are thrown out, the humanity can better reveal itself.  So multiple perspectives, a voice, and a pen can really throw back the curtain on what makes life important and how to navigate through a limiting world and how to change it for the better. It’s no wonder multiply other’d make such great writers and activists.  Because when you can see clearly and can express yourself, how could you not try to be a change maker? James Baldwin, a gay black man in a straight white world, Maya Angelou, a rape victim prostitute single mother black woman in a conservative white world, come to mind; Daniel Drennan ElAwar, a brown Muslim adoptee in an anti-brown Christian world, and Snow Leopard, a gender fluid animal spirit transcultural adoptee in a straight conservative world come to mind. We are trans in multiple ways. We are differently raced. Our reflection is deeply personal and our concern is universal. Other color, other culture, other gender, other religion, differently able’d, different brain…It’s a beautiful thing to stand on multiple boxes and be able to see the view.

So here I am writing blah blah blah blah again and yet, I really truly do want to hear all your stories about how you came to appreciate being multiply other’d, what that means in your life, and what ways we can turn this stigma into an asset.  Your perspective is crucial in these new dark ages.  Speak!

One thought on “Multiply Other’d

  1. So much to say here. I’ll come back to it definitely. First thoughts have to do with empathy, and how that is learned, but also how it is targeted in our adoptive cultures. Then I think about categories and categorization as functional to these cultures, and how a focus on un-defining and de-categorizing have been useful for me. Finally I tend not to abide by diagnoses offered up by these cultures, especially as I watch them used to target my students, for example, suffering the same kinds of alienation we went through. What it comes down to for me, all of this Other-ing on multiple levels, is the base notion of deciding who is human and who is not. The reasons are not consequential, and are defined in multiple ways. The response, on the other hand, needs to point out this dividing line. And empathy means feeling for those on the other side of this demarcation of privilege and status….

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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