Where are you from?

A loaded question, for some more than others. TCKs have long written about the difficulties answering this question – do I tell you where I was born? The long list of places I’ve lived? The last place I came from? How do you encapsulate in one answer the years, the places, the plans and trains and buses and hotels and houses and schools and people and loss and friends and learning and yearning?

I have been here so long my accent is barely detectable. Only the most keen eared can still recognize my origins. I am white. If I watch the words I use, lean in to my acquired accent a little more, I seamlessly fit in. I am white you see, living in a majority white country. If I were a person of colour I know I would be asked this so much more, but I blend in. If I don’t open my mouth it is assumed I am from here. My heritage, my history, my life, in one fell swooping assumption is erased.  I joke that because my dad is from here I got a “get out of jail free” card in the form of a passport. People laugh along, but its true. Immigration detention centers are prisons.  I am in a limbo between seeing myself as an immigrant, but being claimed by a nation I had nothing to do with until a few years ago. But this is home. I have been here longer than anywhere else. If this isn’t home, where is?

Answering that question to myself is never easy. I am more at home here than I have been anywhere else, but I am still keenly aware that I am not from here. I do not share the same upbringing, or cultural heritage as my peers. I am still hopelessly clueless about most pop culture. I have given up all hope of ever learning how the school system works. I do not want to be from here. I do not want to stay here. And I cannot say I am from here because my accent betrays me.

I am a from my life. I am not so naive as to say that I am a “global citizen”, a poetic concept that holds no real standing, designed, I believe, to make expats feel more elevated than their peers. Expat. If I am one then so is everyone that moved from their place of birth to another country. So is every immigrant, so is every dual citizen or international student, so is every asylum seeker and refugee. No, now I am an immigrant.

I am from my past. I am a culmination of my experience, the people I have met and lost, the places I have lived and seen. I am from the 22 houses, 23 moves, five countries, 18 schools, 7 towns and cities, and countless long haul flights and airports. I have no strong sense of national identity, and I have become good at faking national pride. How can you be proud of a place you don’t know? I love where I live but I hate it. I love where I was born but I don’t feel I can go back. I love all the places I have been, but they are not mine to return to. I love all the places I could go, but I resent that I have the privilege to make that decision while others do not.

I always feel strange when people ask me where I am from. Because I know I will not be told to go back where I came from. I will be believed. I will be received with a smile and a nod, or wide eyed surprise. I will not be told to go back to where I came from. But if I was, where would that be? I feel like I come from everywhere and nowhere.

I could say all this, but instead I don my usual smile and say “I’ve lived here for 8 years, but I’m originally from…”

Itchy feet

This is something that I deal with every few years, and many of my school friends feel the same. Its that need to move. A restlessness that is impossible to shift. Everything around me becomes mundane, and I can’t stop thinking about places I would like to go.

I have been where I currently live for nearly 8 years now, and have fended off this restlessness by moving regularly, changing jobs and making sure I leave the country once a year to get the travel bug out of my system. But these last few years, the annual trip has become an opportunity to explore other countries I could live in, find out about places I could work, and has just fueled the need to move on.

As a queer person though adds difficulty to the choice. Being gay is illegal in many countries, and only a handful of places are vaguely okay on the whole trans and non-binary thing. Do I want to live somewhere I would not be able to be myself, where I would have to hide? I have lived such a privileged life, never really having to hide anything, so this would be a huge change. Weighing up the pros and cons I would have to decide if it is worth it. Experiencing new places and cultures, and exploring new fields of work. it would not just be a CV building excersise, but rather an opportunity to enrich my life, which I miss and crave.

I recognise the privilege in my position – being able to chose where and when I immigrate, and on top of that having the choice of where I go. Many TCKs end up going back home, where ever that may be, and being forced to deal with the current laws, societal attitudes and all that entails.  They may have the choice to leave, though many do not.

Whatever I decide, it is a risk. A risk I will have to censor myself. A risk I stay here stuck in a rut. A risk I don’t take control of my own life. But each risk has its payoffs, and I need to decide which I want to go for.

S

 

Welcome to TCQ

I do not profess to be an expert on issues of gender and sexual orientation. Neither am I an expert on what it means to be a Third Culture Kid. What I am, however, is an expert in my own experience, and a firm believer in sharing stories which may, in some way, benefit others.

I first came out as bi when I came to university, having spent the last two years reading every tumblr blog on LGBT issues I could find. The problem was that until I got to university and found the LGBT society, there was no story, no experience of being queer that I could relate to. So since coming out I have regularly searched for queer TCK experiences, which I have never found.

It is not as though we don’t exist. In the seven years since I finished school a total of 20% of my year group has come out. My best friend. Another good friend. Many of their friends. But why is no one speaking about it? Why are there no blogs? No books? No studies? I can only speculate.

One reason I can think of, which is glaringly obvious, is cultural perceptions of being queer. Another is that I am only searching in English (if you know of any blogs in a different language, let me know!). Maybe they didn’t see the call for it. Maybe its not something they have thought about Or maybe, it just takes a very long time to reconcile these two fundamental aspects of your identity, notwithstanding all the other facets of a person’s identity, and once you have it is so difficult to put into words that you give up. That’s where I have been for the past year.

However, through this blog, and through collecting the stories of other queer TCKs from around the world, I hope to shed a bit more light on what it means to a third culture queer.

S