‘Whiteface’ by Akira Imai, Part 210 min read


☜ Part 1

Animated Illustration by Mei Yao

I got a fire in my stomach. I was now a white woman, so I decided to put that to the test. I felt inspired to go out to one of the offices I applied to a week ago and got the ‘don’t call us’ treatment. I came up to the front counter and introduced myself to the receptionist. I asked her if the position in admin support was still available. Then, out of nowhere, a man walking by the side of her desk came towards me.

“Hi there!” He said with a smile that was almost too much. It was the same manager that I had talked to last time. He looked like something out of a 1950’s men’s fashion magazine. “The deadline was two days ago, but I can make some time to see you.” Luckily, I came ready with my resume now with Blair Stone as the name. I followed him into his office.

Being the exact same resume, I was worried that he would figure me out as my previous incarnation. But he didn’t. It was like he wasn’t even looking at the resume and just spacing off. He kept smiling and asking me a series of standard questions that I had rehearsed for. I answered the questions almost the same as before when I met him.

But this time, the interview went over to an hour. I barely got 20 minutes with him last time. As I thought about this while he was talking to me, I could feel his eyes creep up and down on me. Before, he had looked at me with contempt and would barely make eye contact. Now, I couldn’t get him to stop staring at me. Being visibly trans, I never caught men’s attention. I could tell they saw me as a man in drag. But now I get to feel like a piece of meat instead of a pariah. Great.

The interview ended and he shook my hand and said exuberantly that he would call me for the second interview soon. I thanked him and walked past the receptionist.

“How did the interview go?”

“Really good. I think he really liked me.” I replied. She curled a sassy Cheshire cat smile around her cheeks.

“Yeah, I bet.” I could tell what she was thinking. It sounded like she went through the same thing. “Well, better you than the guy that came here last week. I think he was Korean or something, but he had the nerve to show up here in a dress. Like, when he came up to the counter I couldn’t tell but when I heard his voice I knew. Thank God they didn’t go ahead with him. Having a guy come into the same bathroom as me here…that creeps me out.”

I’m not a man. And I’m not Korean. I thought spitefully to myself. But I didn’t have the courage to say it. Because I wasn’t. I was a white woman.

The next day, I woke up a little bit later than I thought I would. It was around 10:30 in the morning. I thought I would get up and go to some of the other places that I applied to and see how they would treat me. There was this odd confidence I had now, the kind that I didn’t have to justify to anyone. I started to wander down the hall when I froze in place. I looked over to the just-opened door and saw Nuan standing there with her bags and her hands full with a coffee and keys.

“Who the fuck are you?” She asked indignantly. I stopped  like a deer in front of her.

“I thought you were coming back on Monday?”

“There was a fire at the convention centre – wait! How the hell did you know that? Who told you? And you still haven’t answered who the hell you are!”

“Nuan, it’s me. Aiko.” It’s not like this could get any more awkward.

“Bullshit! So what? You expect me to believe that my girlfriend just woke up in the body of a white girl.”

“…yeah?” I said. Nuan rolled her eyes at me.

“Fuck you, I’m calling the cops.”

“Please don’t do that. Last time we had a fight you threw your favorite mug against the wall.” She looked at me, stunned. Nuan had a temper but hated showing it to anyone. I promised never to talk about that fight with anyone and that it would stay between us.

“How did you know about the fight?” She asked me. “Aiko promised she wouldn’t tell anybody.”

I stood in front of her with a lot of fear. “I didn’t.”

I’m not a man. And I’m not Korean. I thought spitefully to myself. But I didn’t have the courage to say it. Because I wasn’t. I was a white woman.

We sat down on the couch side by side. I made some tea and placed a mug in her hand. The one she broke and we spent all night gluing it back together with tears in our eyes, promising we would never fight like that again. I started to go over intimate details that only she and I would know. Anxieties, fears, dreams…things she only shared with me. And she knew above all else that I would never break her trust.

“Blair?” She asked.

“Yeah. You remember how I was telling you about all the white names I was thinking about using before I came out.”

“I remember. But…is….what is this?”

“I don’t know. I just went to sleep the day after you left. I guess…” I couldn’t make eye contact but I knew Nuan wanted to look deep into my eyes. “I got sick of being myself. I got sick of going through the grind of this world. Not just as a trans woman, but as a woman of colour too.” Stress leaked through my muscles as tears warmed up my eyes. “I’m tired of all the stares. All the times I catch people clocking me. And now that I go up to them as a white person, they have conversations with me that they wouldn’t have with anyone else. I mean, do you know what kind of things they say about us?”

“I know all too well.” Nuan said. “But now that’s something that you don’t have to deal with anymore. That’s just my problem now, right?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I think it is.” She set her mug down on the coffee table and looked at me like a mother scolding a child. “You think it’s been easy for me to be a queer Asian woman in a white man’s world? You know, as hard as it’s gotten I never wished that I was white. And this?” Nuan started to cry too. “This was your idea of a perfect woman? The woman that you wanted to be?”

I floundered to find any words to say. “I don’t know! All the woman that were desired when I grew up were white. All the supermodels, all the celebrities, all the girls in my school…I just….I guess that’s what my idea of perfect became too.” She glared at me.

“So what? Is this everything you wanted?”

“All I ever wanted was to not have to deal with being different. I just wanted to work so hard at myself. I just wanted to not have my gender, my sexuality, my race constantly staring me in the face. Mocking me. I was never woman enough, I was never Asian enough, I was never white enough…I wanted one fucking day that I didn’t feel like a freak.” Nuan swallowed a throat full of pain at my words.

“I got sick of being myself. I got sick of going through the grind of this world. Not just as a trans woman, but as a woman of colour too.”

“Is that how you see me?” She asked.

“What? No, of course not.”

“Yes it is! Aiko, I’m not a white woman. Shit, I’m not straight either. Don’t you think I go out in the world every day and feel out of place too?” She huffed in a tight breath of air. “The difference is that I know that I’m not the problem. You see, you just take in everything as if you’re what’s wrong with the world. What’s wrong with the world is shitty assholes that think they own everything. That the world is only meant for them and that we’re the ones who have to work so hard just to be recognized.” She brushed away some hair on my head. “You’ve lost so much of yourself already. You didn’t have to try to be anything for me. I fell in love with a proud trans woman of colour. This…woman that you woke up as, this is not you. This is the face of a woman that never had to struggle for acceptance. This is the face of someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to push through and transform herself.”

“Well, maybe I’m just sick and tired of that!” I screamed out at her. “I’m sick of trying to struggle through every day as if I know what I’m doing. I can finally go out and not have the word ‘barrier’ stamped on my forehead every day.”

“Do you hear what you’re saying?”

“I’m saying that I can’t stand being this person anymore! I’m not like you, I didn’t ask to be trans. I didn’t ask to be queer. I didn’t ask to be Asian.” She got up form the couch slowly.

“None of us do.” She told me in a cold tone. “But you asked to be white.” Nuan moved over to her luggage and before I could dry my eyes to stop her, she stormed out of the apartment. I stood there with a blank look on my face. She was right. I asked to be white. What have I done?


I  curled up in bed, my face hot and red with tears. I felt the vibration of my phone go off. I looked at the screen and saw a text from her.

‘I’ve never met anyone who hated themselves more than you do.’ That hit me right in the gut. ‘Go be with your privilege. I hope it’s everything you wanted it to be.’ I gripped the phone tight. Nuan loved me because of all the things that made me different, that made me stand out from everyone else. I never realised how my integrity crumbled away when I was given a way out of my own harsh reality. Eventually, I slipped into a very deep slumber.


Akira Imai is a writer in Vancouver, BC. She works to help advocate for the Japanese Canadian community as well as the Transgender community. She strives to create access and recognition for all. You can find her on Twitter.
Animated Illustration by Mei Yao


Randal Chin 15 October, 2017 - 4:18 pm

‘Whiteface’ is very daring and original. The story tackles head-on both gender and race. There is so much packed into this short story, it leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

K. Ho 7 February, 2018 - 9:23 am

Akira, wow. This piece is so brilliant and heart-wrenching. Thank you for writing it.


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