One of my sisters is Japanese. I'm really sensitive when it comes to discussing her and how she came to be my sister. I usually refuse to talk about that with people. I used to do it. We'd go some place together and, I swear, people would act like they just couldn't control their rudeness. I used to indulge their curiosity when people would ask us who we are to each other. However, I'm at the point where I just don't feel like I should have to do it. Frankly, it's none of their business. Once we say we are sisters, that should be the end of it. In fact, telling a random stranger that much is going above and beyond what they are entitled to know.
Today is different though. I'm choosing to discuss my relationship with her. Neko-Chan (her pseudonym on my blog) was born in Japan. She has a family there--a mother, a father, and a couple of siblings and nephews. They are amazing people. Neko-Chan was raised in a temple. Her father is a Buddhist monk. Her mother is one of the premiere sado (tea ceremony) teachers in Japan.
After leaving Japan, she traveled across the globe all by herself. She even spent some time working in Mother Teresa's hospice in India. She came to the United States several years ago. Not long after that, she became involved with someone from my family. She came extremely close to marrying that person. However, for many reasons, it didn't happen. Still, by that time, she was a member of our family.
I'm sure that some people will read this and say, "Oh, they're not really sisters. They're just friends", but they'd be wrong. We--my parents, my siblings, my cousins--are Neko-Chan's family, too. If that's hard for someone to understand, perhaps they should examine what really makes someone family.
My mother married my step-father when I was a teenager. He already had eight children from his first marriage. Most of them moved into our house with him after he married my mother. Over the years, I developed relationships with them and, slowly, his daughters became my sisters.
I think the majority of people here would have no issues with the concept of me calling them my sisters. Why is that? Is it because they are Black? Is it because we've lived together, gone through life's ups and downs together, cared for and sacrificed for each other? I'd rather think that it's because of the latter but I don't think I can fool myself into believing that any more.
In all my years of being a sister, I never had the experience of someone challenging me when I said that my step-father's children from his first marriage were my siblings, not even when they were well aware of the fact that we did not have the same biological mother or father. However, when it comes to Neko-Chan, I can't even count how many jerks have felt like it was perfectly acceptable for them to insist that she is not my sister. Salespeople have done it when we're shopping together. Various people have done it when they happened to see pictures of our family together. Guys at dance clubs...don't even get me started on how loose-lipped and rude men feel free to be towards us in social situations.
It happens everywhere and I'm fed up with it. I used to be able to tolerate it better. I'd just laugh it off and we'd go about our business. However, their comments are not as harmless as they might want to believe. They really do affect me and my sister's relationship. It HURTS. I can't even describe what it's like to have to try and undo the emotional damage their comments cause. Now when people do that in front of me or when I hear about someone doing it to her when I'm not around, I just feel so furious.
Maybe I'm just feeling needlessly riled-up, but lately I've been thinking about what it means when someone--someone who may be an acquaintance or a total stranger--insists on trying to redefine my relationship with my sister and force us to accept their conclusions. What does it mean when someone simply refuses to accept that a Black girl and a Japanese girl can be and are sisters?
I don't have an answer for that question yet. It bothers me to no end that I can't quite figure it out. Whatever it is, it leaves me feeling very angry and frustrated. Maybe I can't analyze it clearly because when I try to think about it, I can't get past the fact that she's my sister and I feel like anyone else would feel when their sister is being hurt. At this point, I don't know if even care about why someone would try to force us to adopt their narrow (and probably bigoted) views about who should be allowed to define and limit the extent to which two people can love each other and share each other's lives. Really, I just don't even care.