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Middle Ground: Unseen Stories: Photo essay

Unseen Stories

There’s what people see—and then there’s the unseen story.

Because I am Asian,

People think I can speak Chinese and they talk to me in Chinese.

But actually I don’t speak or understand Chinese.


Because I dress frumpy,

People think I act pathologically.

But actually I volunteer weekly and call attention to government abuses of the community.

Because I am White, privileged, and an American citizen,

People think that I am not an immigrant.

But actually I have been deported and am struggling to live in the same country as the person I love.

Because I am moving to Hawaii,

People think that I’m moving to paradise—where I’ll be living the good life under the Sun.

But actually I’m moving there so I can care for my mom, who is in stage two of her dementia.


Because I have brown hair and an accent,

People think I am an “exotic” Latina immigrant.

But actually I have a White American mother and I have been in the United States. for more than half my life.

Because I work in government,

People think that I love bureaucracy.

But actually I’m in public service because I want to streamline access to public services, and make the city a more equitable place.


Because I stay clean and don’t panhandle or carry more than one backpack,

People think I’m not homeless.

But actually I’ve been homeless a year and a half after SSI/disability refused to help me stay in my apartment.


Because I speak with an Italian accent,

People think it’s charming and cute.

But actually sometimes this makes me feel I don’t belong here after all these years.


Because I come from a multiracial background,

People think I was not born in the United States.

But actually I was born in the Midwest. My great grandma is Vietnamese, but I’ve lost the ability to speak with her.


Because I am homeless,

People think that I am not important and I don’t want to change.

But actually I have not always been homeless. I am important and I will rise above my situation. I am somebody.


Because I am currently dating a male-identifying person,

People think I am heterosexual.

But actually I am bisexual and date both men and women when I’m single.


Because I look overweight,

People think I should lose weight.

But actually I’m fine just the way I am. Also my blood sugar is normal, my blood pressure is stable, and I’m in great shape.

Because I walk with hiking poles,

People think I am able-bodied.

But actually I’m disabled and have arthritis in my lower back and both knees.



Because I am blind and had eyes that were shaped differently and didn’t move together,

People thought I was cognitively impaired.

But actually I have a master’s degree and a vibrant social life.


Because I have a long criminal background,

People think that I’m a monster or a threat to them.

But actually I run a social enterprise that has a mission to support those from troubled backgrounds to elevate themselves, find employment, get mental health support, and be an example of change.

Do you have an unseen story to tell? Can you imagine someone else’s? Share your stories and photos: #MiddleGroundSF

Further Reading

Claude Steele (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. (book)

The Conversation (2018). The Terrifying Power of Stereotypes—And How to Deal with Them. (article)



National Science Foundation
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1713638. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.