these past couple of weeks, i've had the opportunity to be a part of two different events. both were good experiences for me, but at the same time, they gave me the opportunity to think about what is 'normal'.

a panel for the Female Protagonists event

Female Protagonists

the first event was Female Protagonists: International Women Game Makers Week in Taipei, which i attended as a speaker in november. i also had one of my games exhibited.

when the organiser first reached out to me about attending, i was not sure how to respond - because i'm nonbinary. in daily life, i am generally feminine-presenting. my passport has the F marker on it. but i don't identify as a woman. likewise, i don't think of myself as a female protagonist. by definition, i didn't feel like i belonged at this event.

after a discussion, i ended up attending as part of a panel called The Inclusion Quest - The Other Protagonists, with the goal of talking about diversity in games with two other panelists. during the panel, i mentioned being nonbinary as well as asexual/aromantic, and after the panel, two members of the audience came to talk to me about how they were also ace and how they appreciated my talking about it, because it wasn't something that often came up in conversations about being queer.

during the first panel lecture of the event, henrike lode described how the games industry seems to create games for "default humans", which she defines as "white male cishet able-bodied neurotypical middle class people". many of these descriptors are visible, defined by things somebody has.

meanwhile, asexuality and aromanticism are both defined by the lack of something. for asexuality, it's the lack of sexual attraction. for aromanticism, it's the lack of romantic attraction. because of this, sometimes it feels like we're hidden, or worse, that we should hide. i've had people tell me my sexuality is not real. that being ace/aro is not oppressed enough to be queer. it can feel like we're not straight enough for straight people but not queer enough for queer people.

but what is straight? what is queer? what is normal to different people? to allosexual/alloromantic people who experience sexual & romantic attraction, that is normal. to me & the two members of the audience who talked to me, it is not.

where do ace/aro people fit in a world that usually only defines sexuality through the differences of how you experience it without acknowledgement there are people who don't experience it at all? where do nonbinary people fit in a world that usually only defines sexuality through binaries?

that brings me to the next event i attended.


last week, i was showcased with my partner sdhizumi in #WeArePlay, a campaign highlighting devs from different parts of japan.

in my blurb, i'm introduced as 'Born in Hong Kong, raised in Canada and now based in Japan'. for further explanation, i have a hong kong passport, a canadian passport, also a british national (overseas) passport, and a permanent resident visa in japan. saitama has been my home for the last ten years, which is a third of my life at this point in time & will only continue to grow.

this event introduced me briefly but i think fairly completely, but when i go to other events, this is not always the case. however, hong kong, canada & japan are all important parts of my identity. hong kong is my culture. canada is where i was raised. japan is my home. but i am often put into positions where i am only allowed to identify as one, & it always feels like i'm being asked to erase parts of myself to make myself easier for other people to compartmentalise. i don't feel like i can say i'm 'from' any of these places, because the way i relate to these places isn't considered 'normal'. if i say i'm from x place while in y, i am often suddenly expected to become the mouthpiece for every single person of x. this always makes me uncomfortable, because every person from any place may have some experiences in common, but so many more of these experiences will be unique to them. it also erases the experiences i've had in y, trying to fit me into only one box labelled x. there is no 'normal' person from any place, but for some reason, people often seem to want others to be as close to this 'normal' as possible.

identities as tags vs folders

i don't think that labels are a bad thing. labelling myself as ace/aro is what brought those two members of the audience to talk to me & i was able to connect with them through our shared experiences of being ace. labelling myself as being from hong kong helped me make a new acquaintance - somebody from hong kong but working in japan - last week at a separate event.

but when i label myself, i am using them as descriptions - like tags on a blog post. they are additional info that can provide context about who i am, that come at the end of the blog post - what i actually want to say.

meanwhile, when people tell me that i am x or y or z, it often feels like i'm being slotted into a manila folder of some filing cabinet of identities, & that's the only folder i am allowed to be in. all you see is the label at the top of the folder, & the contents of me are hidden within the opaque manila.

when i am put into the 'queer' folder, while i do think of myself as queer, i think that my experiences as an ace/aro nonbinary person are so different from some other queer people that it is weird to lump us together in the same folder without more context.

folder labelling can also cause friction between people who 'share' labels, because we all have so many different experiences. just because we share one label does not mean we share everything else.

extra section

(i thought i was done with this post but after posting it i had other thoughts. i think for people who do not fit into the 'normal' labels for folders, we are often forced to label ourselves so that people do not mislabel us, because they want to assume we are 'normal'. however, this often forces us into situations of friction. just look at how media often gets backlash for having diverse characters, characters who exist outside the 'normal' society has defined. but if we do not label ourselves correctly, then we have to continuously live under the wrong assumptions people make about us & the subsequent expectations they have of us.)

i don't actually have a conclusion

as per heading, i don't really have a conclusion to this post. it's just something that's been on my mind so i wanted to write it out, hopefully to try to figure some stuff out for myself.

what i do want to say though is that there really isn't a 'normal' for any label. for example, you can't just average out all the characteristics & experiences of the queer community to create a default queer person. my experiences as a nonbinary ace/aro person are different from another nonbinary ace/aro person's because we would have different backgrounds and lived different lives.

while trying to find a shared 'normal' can be a good way to connect, it can also erase large parts of people's identities in pursuit of that 'normal'. it feels like we are forced to reduce ourselves to just labels & the erasure can cause conflict between people who are labelled the same but are actually quite different.

anyway, this is a blog post from a nonbinary ace/aro person born in hong kong, raised in canada & based in japan, but that is not all of who i am, & i'm still trying to find a good way to connect to other people who i share tags with but not folders.