And that external gaze is powerful: the invisibility desexualized me. Two, specifically, over four years of high school – not exactly like I rotated through all of the Harlem Wizards or something. Not exactly the stuff nice little Indian girls are made of.I was brown; they were the other brown people around. But what’s more memorable and noteworthy than these actual relationships is what people on the outside believed about them, something that follows me to this day after a fierce drawn-out battle in adulthood with my family over a boyfriend, also black, whom I was with for six years and nearly married. I silently accepted the loud assertions that “Chaya loves black guys!And when it came to white people, I think I continued to feel overlooked, but even this was changing.Instances such as being told that a friend’s boyfriend, a Jewish guy, mentioned to her that I come off as “very sexual and should be careful” occurred in higher frequency.The silence around female sexuality – everything from the onset of puberty to reproductive health to attitudes about sexual activity – is common in Indian American homes.And then young people take this with them into their personal and social lives, carrying stigmas about sex and judgment for those who break the rules.I would spy him coming back from class and get the jitters. Everyone turned to do their own individual nitpicking before agreeing that, yes, Chaya does look a little weird. Sometimes people looked “less Indian” than other people. But the others seemed to understand something about the final comment that I missed.
But in reality, these protections are meant to hinder their sexual freedom, not ensure their overall wellbeing.
Half a lifetime of words about big dicks, super-sperm, promiscuity, sexual prowess, and insatiability, etc. ” put on me by the white boys who ruled the Briarcliff social world.
At 17, I didn’t know how to have a voice about the exoticization, and implicit oversexualization, of me and my choices.
This may sound extreme, but it’s the reality I lived.
I undoubtedly stood out in this context – ashy knees in the winter, unruly mane of thick, black hair in a sea of pale midriffs and near-ubiquitous gold or platinum highlights – but I was also invisible.
The night was warm and wet in the late North Carolina summer. If I’m honest with myself about the big picture, I actually think this all started before boys could even be blamed. I remember being in a hotel room with my sister and a few children of my parents’ friends, the only other Indians I knew and whom I saw maybe twice a year.