Up to adulthood, I did not feel represented within the Tamil community either, let alone the greater Asian community. I never felt like I could fit into how everyone else expected me to even though I tried; it also did not help that I had an invisible disability (neurodivergent) and was undiagnosed till recently. After the diagnosis, everything started making sense, but I felt even more isolated by institutions (academic, professional) and by my community. In the Asian community, mental health and disability are heavily stigmatized, and maybe there are others out there like me that were undiagnosed or have been taught to mask or hide their disability. So in addition to the lack of cultural and body diversity, I was dealing with the lack of neurodiversity. 

 

I had to accept that I may not ever have the same type of friends others do because of the internalized ableism that exists. It hurts especially when I’ve craved for familial bonds and life long friends that think of me the same way. I’ve learnt to be okay with that because I’m grateful for what I have now at least, but I do not ever want other Asians to go through what I went through again. 

 

I struggled for a very long time recognizing and accept that I may not relate to parts of my culture, nor western culture. I love Tamil music, my Marvel obsessions, anime, and k-dramas, but I also love my cabane-a-sucre trips, apple picking, and RamDam (a teen show that was popular on TeleQuebec). 

 

I also “speak up too much”. The model minority stereotype created this collective mindset I think on how Asians should be in relation to a colonial society, and we embodied that caricature: submissive, intelligent, hard working, able-bodied, and straight. The reality is that we are more layered and different than that. Over time, we lost the agency and the ability to advocate for ourselves. It’s probably why I started speaking for others more too, and wanted to create that representation I missed when I was younger by starting The Shakti Collective with my friends. We created a safe space for south Asian women where they can discuss and de-stigmatize a lot of topics unique to south Asian women (and other woc), and hope this creates a collective confidence boost and empowerment resulting in more representation of Asians in media, politics, etc. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I hope you can unapologetically be yourself, love yourself and find those that accept you for everything you represent and never settle for less.

Photo::
JÉ T'AIME
Collaboration::
JE SUIS MTL
Model:
Sarah Cartensen
Date: