I’m Thomas Barnes, born in Hong Kong. My father is British and my mum Chinese. When I was growing up, the name for us in HK was “Eurasian.” In Cantonese Wun Huet Yee means “mixed blood.” There are also much ruder phrases!
Growing up in colonial-era Hong Kong, the mostly British kids at my junior school looked down on local Chinese and I made every pitiful attempt to blend in with them and ignore my Chinese heritage.
At school in England the same thing pretty much persisted, so I experienced a lot of self conflict as a kid. Moving to London when I was 18 started to change all that. I was in a diverse culture and it I suddenly wasn’t being made aware of being Asian or not. A blessed relief. When I returned to Hong Kong in my mid-twenties I found that Eurasians were now considered cool especially amongst local Hong Kongers. So the world was changing and I gained a ton of confidence and started to enjoy being who I was.
Now at the ripe age of 50 (though people think I’m younger), with two boys of my own, I could not be more comfortable with my dual identity.
I am a filmmaker and I live in New York City where every other young kid it seems, is a much celebrated hafu (hapa). My next project, a feature film, is an indie rock fable set in NY with hafu lead actors. I’m interested in portraying mixed-race people as themselves rather than posing as other races. You rarely see a Hapa actor playing a character based on someone with their specific biracial identity, so I want to change that. More about that on my Tumblr blog if you are interested.
Looking back it’s been an interesting journey. In some ways the childhood part was tough, but it helped form me and inform me and I wouldn’t change a thing.