In many ways, we perform identity, in that who we are is often expressed by what we do. Kenji Yoshino, in his essay “Pressure to Cover,” outlines the way performing non-mainstream identity is often still subject to discrimination, as the law focuses on immutable (inherent) traits rather than mutable (changeable) ones, such as hairstyle or speaking a language. He goes on to discuss the ways an individual may downplay these mutable traits to avoid discrimination, using a word borrowed from Goffman: “Covering.” (Yoshino 1-2) Hsu also discusses a certain manipulation of identity in his essay, “When White Poets Pretend to be Asian,” though outlining several cases where white poets publish under Asian pennames after not finding success under their own names. He posits that these instances “… frequently help us test the boundaries of our assumptions and orthodoxies, codes of taste and propriety. We learn something about the world we’ve made each time this happens: the limits of empathy, the blurred line between love and theft…” (Hsu 6), and asking if these instances are in “bad faith.”
All of which begs the question, is it “covering” when the identity being performed is not “mainstream”? To what extent, if any, are the poets in Hsu examples of Yoshino’s concept of “covering”?
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