Tonight, my old classmate Iiming* visited Japanese class.
I haven't seen her for about two years, but we studied together for more than a year. At the time, she was a middle school student. She's from China and she's a total tomboy. She loves sports and has short hair and always wears track pants and looks kind of like Crayon Shin-chan.
While giving us an update on her life (she's a second year high school student now), she casually mentioned that she had changed her name.
What? exclaimed our Teacher.
Oh yeah! she says. When I started high school, I stopped going by Iiming. Now I'm Yuki. Yuki Ito*.
Does that make things easier? asked Teacher.
Yeah, everything's so much easier now! In middle school, they used to make fun of me, but now they don't bother me as much.
And then blithely moved on to talking about soccer.
I didn't say anything because it's not my place to second guess someone else's choices about something so personal as a name. But it makes me mad that she changed it and it makes me more mad that she felt like she had to change it, that changing it would make her life better.
I'm pissed at the students that made her feel that way and I'm super pissed at the teachers who made her feel that way.
Another one of our former classmates, also a middle school student originally from China, had teachers berate her and call her stupid for being Chinese. I've had my own Japanese language teachers (in the States, not my dear Teacher here) tell me that I wasn't Japanese, but American.
Fuck them and their tiny little boxes. I'm so mad that these kind of people are allowed to teach, are allowed to be in charge of teaching children.
*I've changed her name here to protect her identity, not to erase it. But it's similar to this one.