Forever Farang

May 11, 2018

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.

 

 

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