Last time we reported on Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran, it was the depressing news that a bunch of sad assholes had driven her off social media after months of online harassment. Despite the public support of people like Mark Hamill and Rian Johnson, Tran kept silent about the experience—until now.
Opening up in a new essay she penned for The New York Times, Tran address publicly for the first time the emotional process she went through in dealing with the harassment, and re-establishing the sense of self that allowed her to bounce back. Beginning with the admission that it “wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them,” the actor reflects back on how the online hate took her back to the feelings of her childhood (“a feeling I thought I had grown out of”) that were based in a sense of inferiority, a shame stemming from being relegated to the position of “other” in our society. “And as much as I hate to admit it, I started blaming myself,” she writes of her youth. “I thought, ‘Oh, maybe if I was thinner’ or ‘Maybe if I grow out my hair’ and, worst of all, ‘Maybe if I wasn’t Asian.’”
She then speaks movingly of realizing that she had been “brainwashed into believing that my existence was limited to the boundaries of another person’s approval.” And from there, she gets to the heart of the matter, and her refusal to accept this state of affairs as it is:
I am not the first person to have grown up this way. This is what it is to grow up as a person of color in a white-dominated world. This is what it is to be a woman in a society that has taught its daughters that we are worthy of love only if we are deemed attractive by its sons. This is the world I grew up in, but not the world I want to leave behind...I want to live in a world where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, sexual orientations, gender identities and abilities are seen as what they have always been: human beings.
The whole piece is well worth reading, an account of a singular experience that feels all too depressingly widespread but ultimately ends on a very hopeful note. “You may know me as Kelly,” she adds, only to conclude, “My real name is Loan. And I am just getting started.”