Specialisation: Ethnicity



Autoethnography, a powerful qualitative research method that integrates personal experience with cultural analysis, provides a unique view into how cultural circumstances impact our lives. According to Custer, autoethnography is a research method that can heal the self and society after traumatic events (340–347). Autoethnography involves reflecting on experiences, cultural background, and the more significant social and cultural setting (Anzaldua, 1987). Autoethnography helps the author understand her mestiza identity and writes about living on cultural and linguistic borders. Anzaldua’s autoethnography emphasizes human experience and subjective perspective in interpreting more considerable cultural processes. She combines personal and cultural to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the world.

Similarly, Clare’s “Freaks and Queers” uses autoethnography to examine the experiences of disabled and queer people in the United States. By weaving personal experience with cultural analysis, Clare offers a powerful critique of how ableism and heteronormativity intersect to marginalize and exclude certain bodies and experiences. By centering the experiences of those often marginalized or overlooked, autoethnography offers a way to illuminate how power operates within our culture.

Autoethnography examines gender, racism, and sexuality in personal and academic encounters (Adams et al. 1 – 11). Autoethnography can help us understand identity and how culture shapes it by exploring how social norms and expectations impact our experiences. This exploration can help us grasp interconnectedness and social fairness. My autoethnography will examine how gender, ethnicity, and sexuality have affected my personal and academic experiences. I wish to comprehend power in our culture by comparing my experiences to cultural standards and expectations. I seek to promote personal and social change through autoethnography and encourage future research on marginalized groups. I hope this autoethnography will help me understand how gender, ethnicity, and sexuality affect me. I can better support marginalized populations by evaluating my biases and privileges. I hope this investigation contributes to discussions and efforts to create a more just and equal society.

Thesis Statement

My autoethnography examines how gender, ethnicity, and sexuality affect my personal and academic experiences. This study examines how societal norms and expectations shape identity to illuminate its intricacies. Intersectional social justice is also stressed in this autoethnography. This study provides a unique perspective on individual lived experiences to add to current dialogues about identity, power dynamics, and societal transformation.

Literature Review

Feminists have long addressed the reproductive justice issue, where the dichotomy of pro-choice against pro-life debate has dominated reproductive justice discussions. However, the debate on women of color’s experiences is increasingly being addressed after being neglected for a long time. The reproductive rights movement has disregarded women of color’s concerns and experiences and needs a more integrative approach (Smith 119-140). Reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights (Smith 120). This definition widens reproductive rights to include more women’s issues which, according to the author, racism, poverty, and lousy healthcare hinder reproductive justice for women of color.

Anzaldua, in her article “Borderlands/la Frontera: the new mestiza Aunt Lute Books.” Gives a robust analysis of the experiences of women of color in the United States, where she discusses the concept of the borderlands, which refers to the physical and metaphorical spaces where different cultures and identities intersect. She argues that women of color inhabit these borderlands and are often forced to navigate multiple identities and cultural expectations. This idea is particularly relevant to the discussion of reproductive justice. Women of color often face intersecting forms of oppression that impact their ability to make choices about their bodies and lives. Christian article “The Race for Theory” is another feminist classic. Christian writes that feminist philosophy must start with the experiences of women of color to have any value and relevance (67-79). Reproductive justice discussions must focus on women of color’s experiences and viewpoints.

Clare’s “Freaks and Queers” article powerfully examines disability and queerness. Clare’s work emphasizes the need to consider how many identities affect individual lives, even though it is not about reproductive justice. This is especially relevant to reproductive justice since women of color typically suffer interlocking oppression that limits their bodies and life choices. Therefore, Autoethnography helps examine gender, racism, and sexuality and is emphasized by using personal experiences to understand social challenges (Adams et al. 1 – 11). Reproductive justice requires centering women of color’s stories. Reproductive justice literature emphasizes the necessity for an intersectional approach. Smith, Anzaldua, Christian, Clare, and Adams’ writings help explain how gender, race, and sexuality affect individuals. Reproductive justice talks can improve society by centering women of color’s perspectives.


Gender norms influence how people view and express their gender. Studies have shown that gender identities are shaped by culture, upbringing, and personal experiences. Butler’s “Gender Trouble,” argues that gender is a social construct perpetuated by daily behaviors and discourses. As a heterosexual Asian male, I experienced the pressure to perform academically and professionally. I was expected to be ambitious, competitive, and determined to succeed because I am a man. There was no room for failure, and setbacks were viewed as evidence of fragility. The social assumption that men should be the family’s primary breadwinners increased this pressure to achieve. I consequently had tremendous pressure to succeed academically and pursue a successful career.

I was pressured to follow gender roles in my Chinese family. Boys were expected to be robust, authoritative, and emotionless. Conformity harmed my relationships and expression. China values academic accomplishment, and I was expected to succeed as a lad. This pressure to succeed in school caused me anxiety and tension. Social pressure was also to get a solid job to support my family. As a straight guy, I was expected to marry and have children to perpetuate the family line and fulfill my only responsibility. However, heterosexuality is the norm in China, and homosexuality is not accepted, so there was pressure to conform to heteronormativity, which damaged my sexuality and made me repress my genuine feelings and wants. My mental health suffered from the pressure to hide emotions. As a heterosexual male in Chinese society, I was expected to comply with these standards, which damaged my identity and self-image. As a boy, I was supposed to be competitive, independent, and self-sufficient in Chinese society. These pressures damaged my relationships and made me uncomfortable asking for support. As a boy, I was expected to succeed in everything in Chinese culture. Success pressure caused me anguish and tension. Gender forces have shaped my personal and academic experiences, identity, and viewpoint.

As I grew older, I also felt pressure to conform to gender norms with the expectation to be strong, independent, and not express emotion. My struggles to meet these preconceptions, as well as to like traditional feminine pursuits, were very high. My early financial and social struggles made me feel obligated to get a high-paying career and support my parents when they were elderly. My career and professional pressures increased as I grew up facing a difficult employment market and family obligations. I had to adjust my values due to China’s rapid social and cultural developments. I had to repress feminine behaviors and emotions and seem more austere and more robust. My Asian community, which reinforced gender roles, was highly pressurized.

With time learned about toxic masculinity, and I started to question these standards. They were hurtful and restrictive to me and others. I began to accept gender fluidity and the right to self-expression. I discovered through autoethnography that my activities, behaviors, and relationships shape my gender identity. Butler’s gender identification research influenced academics and activists. Her ideas have inspired a generation of researchers and activists to challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender equality. She popularized gender performativity, emphasizing that gender is performed and enacted via daily actions. Intersectionality—how social factors like race, class, sexuality, and gender affect each other—is another critical topic in gender identity research. Women of race, for instance, face particular oppressions that mainstream feminist rhetoric overlooks.

Smith, in his article “Beyond pro-choice versus pro-life: Women of Color and reproductive justice.” contends that mainstream reproductive rights campaigns have historically ignored women of color. Smith supports an interdisciplinary reproductive justice strategy that addresses marginalized women’s concerns. Autoethnography, along with feminist and gender studies literature, can explore personal experiences and identities. Custer claims that autoethnography may cure both personal and social pain. Autoethnography uses personal experiences and scientific analysis to illuminate how social and cultural forces shape individual identities and experiences. Gender identity is complicated and molded by societal conventions, cultural expectations, and personal experiences. Judith Butler’s gender performativity research has challenged gender norms and shown how everyday acts shape gender identities. The feminist discourse emphasizes intersectionality, which shows how multiple social categories affect one another. Autoethnography, therefore can illuminate personal experiences and identities and the social and cultural factors that influence them.


As a Chinese boy in China, several racial influences impacted my identity and race. I can see how these demands affected my relationships and self-image. I now accept my identity and defy societal norms. I faced racial pressure in elementary school. My classmates mocked me for my physical appearance and said I looked weird, but I learned to accept myself later in life. As a child, I was embarrassed and ashamed of my appearance. I also applied to college as a teenager with immense pressure to do well academically to impress my professors and parents, who expected nothing less. As a Chinese male, I was expected to succeed academically to meet my parents’ expectations. This pressure initially drove me to work hard, but it also made me realize how much my life was shaped by cultural expectations rather than my own. I suffered workplace racism when I started working. My ethnicity made my coworkers and managers think I was strong at maths and technology. I felt trapped by this assumption, even though it was not bad.

As I became aware of societal standards perpetuating racial pressures, my relationship with race shifted. Anzaldua’s article “Borderlands/la Frontera: The New Mestiza” help to comprehend how social practices and discourses produce race and gender. I learned that race is a social construct that power relations constantly shape. As I learn more about these topics, I challenge my racial pressures. I correct my coworkers’ microaggressions. I also accept my cultural heritage, which I thought had embarrassed me. I have gained confidence by embracing my identity and questioning social standards. Writing about my experiences and thinking on how they have shaped me has helped me appreciate cultural influences. Autoethnography helped me digest these experiences and understand my race connection better.

Smith’s article “Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice” and Christian’s “The Race for Theory” help grasp how race affects other identities. My experiences as an Asian male have shaped my views on race and gender. Butler believes that social practices and discourses shape to race. This emphasizes that power dynamics and social interactions change race-gender relations. Butler challenges the idea that race and gender are separate categories. She proposes that race and gender co-construct and shape each other. “Gender is not always constituted coherently or consistently in different historical contexts, and gender intersects with racial, class, ethnic, sexual, and regional modalities of discursively constituted identities,” says Butler. (Butler, 1990, p. 7). These texts have shown me how race, gender, class, and sexuality impact our worldview.


As a straight male adult in China, I faced many sexual pressures and expectations. These pressures have shaped my personal and academic life and identity. In China, gender roles were one of my first sexual pressures. I had to be assertive, competitive, and dominant as a man. Any evidence of vulnerability or emotion was considered a weakness. Media and popular culture typically promoted hypermasculine men as ideal. As a result, I felt pushed to follow these norms even if they did not fit me. Also, Sex education was stigmatized in China, making sexual health resources hard to find. I felt guilt and bewilderment about my sexual identity and wants due to this sexual silence. I first felt sexual pressure in middle school when my classmates talked about their sexual encounters. It was a regular topic of conversation, and individuals without experiences were sometimes taunted or mocked. Even though I had nothing to say, I felt forced to comply and establish my masculinity by joining these debates. I felt shame and inadequacy about my lack of sexual experience until I realized that sexual experience does not define masculinity.

Another burden was dating. Society valued marriage, children, and opposite-sex relationships. I had to conform and find a companion quickly. I did not realize I did not have to follow society’s course until my early 20s. My family and society pressured me. My parents expected me to marry a Chinese woman and have children. They rejected other relationships and lifestyles. It took me a long time to embrace and be happy with my sexuality due to parental pressure. Cultural norms about masculinity and sexuality also pressured me. Chinese guys are believed to be sexually domineering and aggressive. These cultural norms clashed with my more nuanced and fluid sexuality. I had to reject these notions and adopt more open-minded sexuality. As I matured, I questioned these constraints and expectations and sought tools and networks to help me discover myself. Butler and Clare challenge gender and sexuality stereotypes and encourages people to accept their unique identities. These articles broaden the understanding of sexuality, gender, race, and identity.

Talking to people with similar views helps to find acceptance and share experiences in online support groups. These communities also help to grasp the intricate intersections of race, gender, and sexuality and how they affect our lives. Chinese sexuality constraints and expectations have affected my self-discovery and societal development. Through autoethnography, I seek to illuminate identity development and the necessity of intersectional social justice in personal and social transformation. This method provides the framework for embracing a distinct identity and working towards a more inclusive and equitable world. Autoethnography not only helps to comprehend race but sexuality. Autoethnography shows how personal experiences may illuminate social and cultural issues (Adams et al. 1 – 11). I learned how cultural beliefs and societal expectations impact my sexuality by reflecting on my experiences.

The events of sexual pressures influenced my childhood, but social, family, and cultural factors helped me to navigate my sexuality and understand myself and the world. Understanding autoethnography using Anzaldua’s article “Borderlands/la Frontera” and Butler’s “Gender Trouble” helps to reject the prevailing standards and accept a more fluid and open identity. As a heterosexual man, my sexuality and masculinity have been shaped by the dominant narratives of society. The pressure to perform sexually and adhere to societal standards has sometimes left me feeling dehumanized and inauthentic. However, through my autoethnographic exploration and study of Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble,” I have understood how dominant cultural narratives and power structures shape sexuality. Butler argues that gender is not innate but performative and constructed through social and societal factors. This concept of gender as performative means that we perform our gender roles through actions, behaviors, and interactions with others rather than being born with innate gender characteristics. This idea challenges the traditional view of gender as a biological fact and highlights the role of cultural expectations in shaping gender identity.

Butler illuminates’ race-gender interactions. Asian men confront distinct challenges and discrimination. Butler’s notion that social practices and discourses generate race implies that social interactions and power connections impact the race-gender relationship. I now understand how gender and ethnicity impact my experiences. Sexuality, like gender and race, is influenced by social standards. Sexuality, especially for men, is about conquest and objectification. This can lead to inauthenticity and alienation from one’s aspirations and needs. Butler’s work broadened and empathetically understood sexuality for me. Understanding that sexuality is manufactured has helped me prioritize empathy, communication, and mutual respect in my sexual interactions. This has resulted in a more fulfilling, honest sexuality.

My autoethnographic research has taught me how family and culture shape my gender, race, and sexuality. Cultural assumptions of masculinity and sexuality often hinder gender and sexuality awareness. Understanding these assumptions and how they impact my experiences helps me challenge and subvert these narratives. In conclusion, my autoethnographic inquiry and study of Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble” enhanced my knowledge of how cultural norms and power structures impact gender, race, and sexuality. I may defy prevailing narratives and express my gender, ethnicity, and sexuality more authentically by seeing these conceptions as performative and socially created.


In conclusion, autoethnography is a powerful tool that can help individuals understand how their experiences, identities, and societal factors like gender, race, and sexuality influence their worldview. Gender norms, for instance, can influence how people view and express their gender. However, Judith Butler’s gender performativity research has challenged gender norms and shown how everyday acts shape gender identities. The feminist discourse emphasizes intersectionality, which shows how multiple social categories affect each other. Race is also a social construct that power relations constantly shape, and intersectionality can also help understand how race and gender co-construct and shape each other.

Meanwhile, sexual pressures and expectations can shape personal and academic life and identity, but challenging societal expectations and embracing one’s identity can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling life. Autoethnography can help individuals challenge societal norms, embrace their identity, and appreciate cultural influences. Moreover, it can help shed light on the societal factors that shape how individuals think and act, promoting empathy and understanding between people with different identities and backgrounds.

Works Cited

Adams, Tony E., Carolyn Ellis, and Stacy Holman Jones. “Autoethnography.” The international encyclopedia of communication research methods 2017: 1–11.

Anzaldua, Gloria. “Borderlands/la frontera: the new mestiza Aunt Lute Books.” San Francisco, CA (1987).

Butler, Judith. Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge, 2011.

Christian, Barbara. “The race for theory.” Feminist studies 14.1 1988: 67–79.

Clare, Eli. “Freaks and queers.” Exile and pride. Duke University Press, 2015. 81–118.

Custer, Dwayne. “A Father’s Death: The Therapeutic Power of Autoethnography.” Qualitative Report 27.2 2022.

Smith, Andrea. “Beyond pro-choice versus pro-life: Women of color and reproductive justice.” NWSA Journal 2005: 119–140.