On Otherness, An Introduction

- from the Desk of Kenta Thomas


*this is a rather short exploration into the idea of Otherness, and an introduction to a week of narratives shared on the topic of Other. It is our first 'themed week', and we're excited to bring you our first batch of contributing friends for this edition of F{P. 



Growing up, I remember being told I was 'too Asian' by the White kids, and 'too White' by the Asian kids. I remember being called a 'faggot' in high school for wearing short cut-off jeans and feeling the need to choose my flavor of sexuality. On the street, people touch my hair and ask me if I am mixed, they compliment my thick bushy hair I have grown to love and remind me that Japanese people are supposed to have straight black hair. But lately, I don't mind so much. After College, I was told to specialize, as to not confuse employers on what value I have for them. I was told to choose a career and to become successful in this way, and that. Their rejection gave me energy. At the local diner I was called, 'mam', and I liked it. At a dance recital, I was hit on by a man, and I liked it. My friend recently introduced me as the guy who does a little bit of everything and I liked it. Otherness is my authenticity, and I find myself constantly learning from it, seeking it. But still, Otherness and I have shared a complex relationship. I remember hating being different, and then loving being different. I remember being made fun of for my name, what I eat, the shape of my eye, the color of my skin and how much it stung to feel unwelcome. Yesterday I was reminded by a friend that I am so much more. Yesterday I was reminded how much I love who I am. At times Otherness has given me ambiguity, and ambiguity has given me privileges. It has helped me sneak into spaces otherwise unwelcome for 'people like me'. But the ambiguity comes with a price. I examine how my Japanese roots have asked of me to follow conformity, and how my Bay Area community has asked of me to be everything else. I wonder who I can call as my community if I am too much of this, and not enough of that, and perhaps not seen as this, but accepted as that. I am reminded how important creating a safe space for self is, how important it is for me to celebrate the Otherness of others. Otherness is so many things, and thankfully it has been rather positive, the silver lining often shimmers gold. Still, I have been thinking a lot about Otherness lately, in an attempt to understand my authenticity. An authenticity as practice.

Recently I interviewed Amber Lee, about embracing our 'uncool'. In reflecting during our time together, I remember thinking how our 'uncool' is everything that is us, it is what makes us unique, and how 'cool' that really is. I suppose, I have been feeling a shift in my relationship towards Otherness again. This time, it's not about ambiguity or the Otherness against mainstream mediocrity, it is not a bold statement or a subtle gesture. In fact, lately I find myself feeling so much in unity with the Otherness of others, the voices of my community resonates with me, and even more than before, Otherness seems to be celebrated, though perhaps not enough, ever, but this time, for me, it is a relationship in letting all of my Otherness be. It is an Otherness of self I am trying to let go of and hold on to. In not defining them, and in not giving them too much power, just simply letting them be, in exploring them and cheering them on. 

During my time with Kim Argetsinger, I remember sharing thoughts on the fear of success, and how much I have been holding myself back from embracing all of me. This time, my attempt at Otherness is a challenge to myself for letting myself be brave, in letting myself truly be who I wish to be, and not fearing the consequences of Otherness, or even getting so caught up in the idea of Otherness. Just getting out of my own head. I am Other either way. 

In this process I wanted to open up the conversation for Folioh Port, I wanted to create a community again, of thoughtful people sharing diverse narratives, so I here I am ... 

In my first attempt at investigating a collective theme with my community, I set out to ask some friends to share their perspectives on Otherness. This is Folioh Port's first 'Theme Week', something that I'm playing with for next year when I start our print version of this site. This week we'll examine 'Otherness' through five stories from people of diverse backgrounds and cultures and through an interview with Vogue dancer Beck Heiberg. I AM EXCITED! 

Phew! That was a rant, more than an organized article. It's definitely not an article, it's more of a memo to those who care. Anyways ... Otherness, in taking a moment, how does it resonate with you? Let us know below : ) ~ 

Lots of Gratitude, 

Kenta Thomas