So you may be asking yourself, "What the hell is a farang anyways?" Haha, who am I kidding? You probably took the two seconds to look it up already...
Farang (pronounced fuh-RONG) was one of the first Thai words I learned upon arriving, and generally, it refers to a "foreigner." More specifically, it refers to a "white foreigner with European ancestry," and I hear it used to describe me more than my actual name (I also get called "Crazy" a lot).
"The farang can eat spicy food."
"Why can't the farang ride a motorcycle?"
"Don't be afraid of the farang."
Some days, I find it endearing. Other days, it gets under my skin. Regardless, it is something that I need to reflect upon. What does it mean to be a foreigner? A white foreigner with European ancestry? A white foreigner with European ancestry living in Thailand? To be 1 of 2 farangs living in a rural town of 8,140 people? And to be queer AF? I'm living a very different reality these days, and I need an outlet to process and make sense of what I'm experiencing. So I plan on blogging about it...
Which brings me to the second part of this titular entry: why "Forever Farang"? Aside from being a sucker for alliteration, I have felt like a foreigner* for as long as I can remember. I was assigned male at birth and socialized as a boy, but was interested in toys and activities that were considered by many to be "girly." While the other boys were playing with LEGOs, I was choreographing coffee table dances with the girls to Paula Abdul songs.
Did I mention that this was in Texas? And that I went to Catholic school? Yeah, 'twas not the easiest of childhoods. I did not fit in...at all. But thanks to a supportive family and early involvement in the arts, I survived (and sometimes thrived) in a culture that was anything but hospitable to my kind.
Since then, I've spent my adulthood searching for a place and community where I felt like I belonged. I guess the closest I ever got was in Amsterdam. I had an incredible queer family and friends. I loved my work and my colleagues. I got to ride my bicycle everyday and perform every week. But after almost three years, I grew weary of being treated like a foreigner. I was tired of constantly explaining myself to people.
"Where are you from?"
"Why are you here?"
"How long are you going to be here?"
For some reason, I thought if I went back to Texas, I could just exist without ever having to explain myself. Haha, yeah, that didn't prove to be the case. It was a different set of questions, but they were just as frequent. Of course, there were other reasons behind my decision to leave Amsterdam. The weather was probably the biggest contributing factor. I desperately wanted to be one of those people that could live happily in any climate. I now know that I am not one of those people. I need a lot of sunshine. Like, a lot.
Ultimately, I needed to return to Texas to realize that I will probably always feel like an outsider, no matter where I live. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it's my natural state, the way in which I navigate and interact with the world around me. What would happen if, instead of fighting that feeling, I decided to embrace it? Well, so far I joined the Peace Corps in Thailand and started a blog, so I'd say that I'm off to a pretty good start!
* It is not my intention to conflate "feeling like a foreigner" with the everyday struggles of individuals who are deemed "foreign" by institutions or nation-states and must fight for legal recognition of their personhood. Especially given the rampant xenophobia coming out of the West these days, I feel it's important to make this distinction and to acknowledge the privilege I have as a white person with U.S. American citizenship who is able to travel the world and reflect on feelings of Otherness.