University of Iowa

Student Reflection on Identity Abroad: Watch and Be Watched

September 13th, 2017

Every time I go to downtown, getting in and out of underground metro stations, I know this is Paris. Paris was once a name of romance in my mind. I got that stereotype from movies, music, and fashion, like everybody else. However, the opportunity of studying abroad here gave me the chance to learn about Paris. In Marais, the downtown district consisted of Center Pompidou, numerous gay and lesbian bars and boutiques, I saw individuals, who wear their own hair, their own clothing, especially females. Young girls, a black woman with a huge hat and a colorful long tight dress, madams with gray hair but exquisite make-ups. I would follow them and I can’t move my eyes off from them. I feel touched. They are individuals who know and love their egos and selflessly shine out their pureness which lights through my heart inadvertently. I have seen woman shaved half of the hair clear and woman tattooed two lines as mustaches. Although I never agree that a strong woman has some more masculinity, I realize one’s appearance represents one’s being in society. I shaved a corner of my hair and cut the short choppy band by myself. It took me two days to get used to my new look, and I love it afterward. It is not completely free and carefree in Paris. Out of downtown, crowds of people wear black, basic clothing. They jam in metros with tiring eyes, suitcases, and phones. I can see them again when I walk past office buildings where they smoke on and off. That is the reason why I would feel touched when I see those beautiful people in downtown. They are brave and I want to be like them.

I joined the gay pride this year. It was the 40th anniversary. I walked down the street with a cup of beer, shaking my shoulders with the music. People stood on the sides. Some were watching. Some were dancing. I learned the duty to be watched. When others are watching, out of curiosity or interest, inadvertently they will be influenced. They respond to what they see. For me, I am amazed by unique people's outlooks and encouraged to display a queer look. However, some people probably refuse to accept what they never saw before, but presenting the difference, even the nonconformity, is the first step for changing. Before, I am used to watch, to observe. Now, I want to step forward to influence people's idea by displaying what I believe.

By the way, as a citizen of China, I felt depressed when the censorship defined homosexuality as an abnormal disease.

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