When you think of a biracial person, who do you imagine? Here's the reality.

Being biracial can often feel like being caught between two worlds.

Biracial folks are often tethered to two (or more) sets of ideas of how someone of their heritage should be, look like, and act. And as a result, they can find themselves feeling unrepresented, lacking a strong claim to any racial background.


That feeling of anxiety is what prompted Jaya Saxena to start #BiracialLooksLike, a hashtag that highlights the faces and experiences of mixed race people.

“Among many biracial/multiracial people I know, there is anxiety over whether we look enough like what we 'are,'" Jaya tweeted. “I want to show, and for everyone to know, that there is no one way for biracial to look."

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Jaya posted this photo of herself and ignited a #BiracialLooksLike movement. Photo provided by Jaya, used with permission.

#BiracialLooksLike took off from there, with users tweeting photos of themselves and their multiracial families as well as the experiences unique to people with mosaic ethnic backgrounds.

I'm biracial, too. My dad is Filipino, and he came to America when he was a kid. My mom was born and raised in Texas.

When I saw the hashtag, I tweeted a picture of myself with my mom and dad:

It's not the most flattering photo of any of us (and it's missing my brothers and sister, who are white), but it's a genuine reflection of my family: ridiculous, unprepared, and biracial.

When I was a kid, people would sometimes speculate that I was adopted when they saw me with my mom and my siblings.

It's not uncommon for people to assume that my mom is "not my real mom," even though we look alike.

Many Twitter users posting on the #BiracialLooksLike tag shared similar experiences.

Despite the growing rates of interracial marriages and multiracial kids, many people jump to conclusions when they see families like ours.

Some people even used the hashtag to point out the unique experiences that many multiracial people share, like the inevitable inquiries of “What are you?" and “Is that your real mom?"

At its core, the hashtag is an opportunity for multiracial folks to make our faces, our families, and our struggles visible.

Take a few minutes to scroll through the tweets today; you may be surprised what biracial really looks like.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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