29 July 2005

A cultural wall

As I write my novel and workshop it with a writing class, I am feeling that a cultural wall has impacted my novel negatively, and is blocking my progress.

As you may have expected, I live in a world, populated by Asians and Latinos, where personal freedom is sacrificed in the name of family, group, and morals. Caucasians don't work this way; they value personal freedom as the source of happiness and well-being, and even founded Western democracies - including the USA - on those values.

Now, the problem is, I am writing about Sarah, a young transgender woman who is Caucasian, born in California, and raised in Europe. In writing about Sarah, I need to take the Western personal freedom to heart and be liberal about it as much as possible. But when my own life is so full of family restrictions that are so common among Asian and Latino families, where parents have absolute control over children (even adult children), this doesn't come easily. I just wrote a scene where I portrayed 17-year-old Sarah's parents as having absolute control over Sarah's gender expression, and it is raising question marks all over. I've had more than one suggestion that I change Sarah to an Asian or a Latina. While I do not want to do so, and would rather approach the ethnic conformity and homophobia from a Caucasian viewpoint, I really need to make sure that I am not writing about my own family/surroundings when I am writing about Sarah's.

In fact, parental control in Asian and Latino societies is so strong and absolute that a transgender individual in Korea, for example, will never be allowed to live in his/her preferred gender without parental consent, even if he/she is an adult. This is unthinkable in Western societies. While I am indeed sending Sarah to Korea on a work assignment for a chapter (I've written this chapter already, and it is a cruel, but in the end rewarding trip), that's about it; it doesn't change the fact that Sarah is a white woman, and a product of free-thinking Western culture, and I must keep that in mind.

Please bear in mind that I am working in this particular class under another name, and I will out myself (and my plans for a more free future) toward the end of the class.