Recently Statistic Canada reported that 4% of all relationships are interracial. In Canada, most of these couples are Canadian-born (as opposed to foreign-born). They may experience opposition and resistance from family, community, and even strangers, yet many find ways to overcome these obstacles.
When Arlene, a Filipino-Canadian woman, and Kay, a Tamil-Canadian man, entered into a relationship, they understood it would not be easy being an interracial couple. They began seeing each other five years ago, but only recently decided to introduce each other to their families.
In a recent interview with The Trauma & Mental Health Report, Arlene and Kay shared with us the challenges of being an interracial couple and how they overcame various obstacles.
Q: Has race been an issue in your relationship?
A: Kay: Sometimes I feel like I have to have eyes at the back of my head just to make sure that family or family friends aren’t around while I’m with Arlene. If I was with her around my family, I would be judged for not having a Tamil girlfriend.
Arlene: In the beginning of our relationship, we used to get a lot of stares and see people whispering, and it used to bother me. When people would stare, it made me feel like we were doing something wrong. It was discouraging, I knew I wanted to be with Kay, but it was so hard to stay positive.
I used to feel ashamed of our relationship to the point that I would feel uncomfortable holding Kay’s hand in front of people who I thought would judge us. Eventually, I had to realize that other people’s opinions about us don’t matter. We are happy together and that’s what is important.
Q: What’s the hardest part about being a mixed-race couple?
A: Arlene: I sometimes wonder how our families will come together, and if they will get along. I am a very family-oriented person so having Kay integrate into my family is important to me. I often wonder if our families will mesh well because of the language barrier and cultural differences.
Q: Do you have to make any sacrifices to be together?
A: Arlene: Well I haven’t met Kay’s father yet because we are not sure how he’ll react to me being Filipino. His dad is very concerned with what people in the Tamil community will say or think about him and his family. We’ve held back from officially introducing me as Kay’s girlfriend.
Q: How does being in a mixed-race relationship give you two perspectives that others might not have?
A: Kay: Through my relationship with Arlene, I get to experience traditions of the Filipino culture, and I’m not limited to following the expectations of the Tamil community. Arlene’s parents recently invited me to their wedding anniversary at a Roman Catholic Church, and it was the first time I’ve attended a Catholic ceremony. It was an eye opening experience.
Q: Do you feel that interracial marriage is still an issue in the modern world?
A: Arlene: There will always be close-minded people but you really can’t change that. People are becoming more open to interracial marriages nowadays. I see a lot more mixed race relationships compared to a few years ago.
Q: Do you have any suggestions or advice for other interracial couples to help them overcome similar challenges?
A: Arlene: Listen to your gut, not other people’s opinions. If someone makes you happy, and they just so happen to be of another race, so be it. You will face criticism from others, and it will bother you, but if you two are strong enough you will overcome it.
Kay: We got together because of our personalities and not because of our differences. Those in denial are going to have to accept that these are naturally occurring things and they have to learn to accept it.
-Rachita Saini, Contributing Writer