Growing up in Oklahoma, I was one of the palest faces in any crowd. In high school my skin tone became an appropriate topic of conversation for strangers. From kids at the lake saying “Damn girl get a tan” to teachers commenting about not seating me too close to windows lest I singe (or disintegrate b/c anyone as fair-skinned as I am must be a vampire). Even as an adult, a client once complained to one of my superiors by calling me “an evil china-doll.” The only thing to do those cases is laugh.
Because, wow, people can be insensitive.
Skin is one the largest signifiers that we are Different. That maybe we don’t “belong” wherever we are. So I am really intrigued by the cover story from the current issue of Gazillion Voices. They are celebrating their first anniversary of their publication by asking exploring the question “Do adoptees feel comfortable in their skin?” There is also an accompanying exhibit in Minnesota that I would for sure be checking out if I was there.
I am not a transracial adoptee. I don’t know entirely what it is like to be raised in a country or a family where few if any people share your physical traits. But I do have some sense of what it is like to feel that something as visible and unchangeable as your own skin can become something that sets you apart.