My alter ego is a queer, mixed-race Stepford Wife


Her voice is in my ear. ‘You’re deceptive,’ she says, ‘and unassuming.’ She is sure of herself. She knows there’s weight to what she’s saying. ‘You say you’re scatty when you’re not. You say you’re unintelligent when you’re not. You say you’re bad at directions when you’re not.’ She’s right. I am bizarrely good at directions and have been from a young age. My mum would call into the back seat, and I’d reply, using only the L of my left hand as a guide to translate my mind’s map into words for the grown-ups. Yet now, I rarely pipe up with an, ‘It’s a left turn here,’ no matter how right I know I am.

There was a change in me when I realised a queer girl of colour wasn’t supposed to be the mouthiest in the room; or the smartest, or the sharpest. It happened some time in high school when my hand got stuck under the table, even when I knew the answer. Another change came when I realised I quite liked that feeling, that warm safety of my hand in my lap.

"In turning the volume down on myself, I am, in part, turning the volume down on everything that oppresses me. Systematic racism, glass ceilings, LGBTQ+ discrimination – they all hum quietly in the background."


For the most part, it feels like a persona. It goes deeper than merely what I say – it’s also in how I say it. Sentences stuffed with ‘like’ and punctuated with ‘but’. Wandering between ‘was’ and ‘were’. The letter ‘t’ shy on my tongue, shrinking in the middle of words- ‘water’, ‘better’, catching on a lull in the centre. If these words offer nothing but a meaningless hollow, then I can sit back in my seminar, glad to have scored those participation points, even while the tutor nods slowly, unsurely, thinking, ‘what the fuck did she just say?’

The advantages don’t stop there. It’s freeing to erase oneself. To forget your identity. Our identities, as marginalised people, are inextricably and inherently politicised and it's exhausting. In turning the volume down on myself, I am, in part, turning the volume down on everything that oppresses me. Systematic racism, glass ceilings, LGBTQ+ discrimination – they all hum quietly in the background.

"It seems a choice must be made between maintaining this masquerade and doing the right thing. Am I really going to pretend I don’t know the difference between capitalism and communism and then get on my soapbox when the fifth round of beers at the pub begins the slagging of immigrants and the working class?"


Of course, this is a double-sided coin. In playing down our attributes, we diminish ourselves. I morph myself into the digestible outsider: she twirls her hair round her fingers, she giggles, nods, smiles. She is the queer, mixed-race Stepford wife of the 21st century.

She is merely some projection, played out for acquaintances, fellow students, and whoever I fancy that week. As my inner circle know me, I am mouthy and I think I’m always right and I want everyone to know I’m always right. So, by shrinking myself down – so small I could sit in the palm of a white hand – it seems I’m merely doing an oppressor’s job for them. I’m so helpful like that.

There’s guilt too. Others dedicated their lives to giving me a better one and yet I’m willing to shove my worn copy of Audre Lorde’s Your Silence Will Not Protect You to the bottom of my bag if it means one less tricky conversation in the university library. The audacity. 

When everyday activism marches into the picture, it seems a choice must be made between maintaining this masquerade and doing the right thing. Am I really going to pretend I don’t know the difference between capitalism and communism and then get on my soapbox when the fifth round of beers at the pub begins the slagging of immigrants and the working class? Am I really not going to comment when someone insists Boris seems like 'an alright lad'?

"That word [deceptive] came from white hands but I didn’t have to take it. I chose to. And maybe that’s the most subversive power of all – taking what the world gives us, unwrapping it, and claiming it for ourselves."


In dawning my ‘deceptive’ disguise, I get a break. Not merely from the weight of adjectives but also from the stereotype itself. Subverting stereotypes is a whole lot easier than playing to them. It’s a soft submission – but it is submission all the same. Let’s be honest here, this is a glorified rehashing of the ‘I’m not like other girls’ complex.

No matter how sweetly I smile, when I reject the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’, all I’m saying is, ‘I’m not like other black or mixed girls, I’m not smart or confident. I don’t care about my rights.’ Yet what’s the alternative?

Either way, if we claim power over stereotypes, we claim power over ourselves. Besides, the true deception lies in the awareness of our oppression. 

Stereotypes and labels go hand in hand, meaning we can’t ignore the label ‘deceptive’ itself. A label assigned to me by a white girl. She handed that word over to me, neatly packaged, bow on top. A whole identity in nine letters. Certainly, the word holds a degree of hostility. If I were a white girl – a blue eyed English Rose – would she still have used the word ‘deceptive’? Would I be something closer to ‘unassuming’, maybe ‘modest’? 

The white patriarchal tongue sits heavy and sluggish in my mouth – and so I don’t see why I should cater to its connotations. I don’t say ‘ballsy’ when I mean ‘gutsy’ and I don’t say ‘dark’ when I mean ‘depressing’ or ‘bad’. I took ‘deceptive’ and decided what it meant to me. Yes, that word came from white hands but I didn’t have to take it. I chose to. And maybe that’s the most subversive power of all – taking what the world gives us, unwrapping it, and claiming it for ourselves.

"For marginalised people, tools of power don’t always sit the same in our hands. They’re weighted with oppression, with systems, with expectations. For some, like me, they’re too heavy to hold day in and day out."


The owning of such a label is a feat in itself. Marginalised people are perpetually subject to imposter syndrome. Owning that I am ‘deceptive’, that I am one step ahead, is subverting the syndrome itself. Moreover, I am not playing down my attributes because I feel that I am unworthy – I am doing so because I know I am worthy.

Deception is key to being an imposter. I am an imposter in that I am aiming to carve a space for myself in a society that does not want me to. This is not a syndrome. And my ‘deception’ is not a symptom.

The whitewashed Pinterest boards all preach the same message: ‘Don’t dull your sparkle.’ But my skin colour does not sparkle; my sexuality does not sparkle; I do not sparkle. And that’s okay. Not everyone is empowered in the same way – what matters is that we are empowered. Any means to empowerment is valid.

For marginalised people, tools of power don’t always sit the same in our hands. They’re weighted with oppression, with systems, with expectations. For some, like me, they’re too heavy to hold day in and day out. There is nothing wrong with putting down one tool, and picking up another – a lighter one, one that doesn’t feel so dangerous in the hand. As Audre Lorde wrote, "The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house."

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