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The closest person in the public eye I could identify as looking remotely like my mother (and her ’80s perm) was Miles, a four-year-old black boy on Sesame Street.

That’s a telling story: I was in preschool when my teacher asked me to fill in the blank, “My mom looks like ______,” and I wrote “Miles”.

Outside of my immediate family, the most influential people in my young life were my Thai American best friend (26 years together now, and counting) and my Korean American dance teacher, a strong, handsome man who never raised his voice, showered me with love as if I were his own daughter, and taught me I should always reach across to open the car door for a man whenever he opens mine.

Fast forward to the recent present: I turned 30 last year and was single and freshly broken-hearted for the first time in ten years after investing half a decade in a relationship that did not end up in what I had hoped would be a lifelong commitment.

But my yearlong experience of dating strangers (of all races) revealed something more unsettling than the process itself: I’ve never culturally aligned with anyone I’ve dated.

These uniquely special partnerships catalyzed the beginning of my faith in relationships where more expansive definitions of physical beauty could be uplifted. I was able to be nothing but my nerdy b-girl self when a man of color chose me.But one gentleman in particular, a sartorial East Asian dandy, shattered my post-breakup confidence when he said abruptly one day: “I’m a romantic guy, despite what you think.I just don’t see myself falling in love with himself falling in love with me was in part because I’m an ambiguous-looking mixed race woman.They would gladly kiss me in the dark, and then nitpick every part of my body.I felt I was always failing to meet their white standards of beauty.

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  1. Isn’t gender dysphoria simply a result of being limited by gender stereotypes? How gender identity expresses itself is of course tied to cultural norms, but our traditional, patriarchal society did not create the stereotypes of the nurturing female in a dress and the aggressive male in pants.