I’ve had some curious reactions to people saying “I identify as X Gender” lately, and I finally had the time to sit down and think about why. It’s all in the word ‘identify’ – how many cispeople ‘identify’ as their gender? They say “I am X Gender” without anyone batting an eye. Why isn’t that the norm for the rest of us?
I am some things. I identify as some things. I identify with some things. There is plenty of overlap, but you might be surprised at some of the categorization – I was. Let’s take a brief look at a few examples for me:
a high school graduate
a college student
I am not female.
I identify as:
To a lesser degree, I identify as a student, intelligent, caucasian, and a procrastinator.
I do not identify as grey-asexual, a high school graduate, a (specifically) college student, or female.
I identify with:
the trans* community
the asexual community
females and those with the cisfemale body type (however you’d like to word it)
I do not regularly or actively identify with caucasians, procrastinators, or high school graduates.
Look at that – I don’t identify as all of the things that I am. I threw in some silly examples to show that that’s pretty normal (many high school graduates don’t identify as such, especially if they are also college students and/or graduates), but there are some interesting ones in there too. I don’t identify as being disabled, though I am and identify with. I am grey-A but ID as asexual; in ‘identify with’ I count grey & demi as part of the community. I am not female, I do not identify as female, but I identify with females, as I’ve mentioned before, because we share many of the same issues/histories/relationships with our bodies.
That’s certainly not an exhaustive identification list, but (slightly silly illustrations aside) it’s pretty much my main list of this-is-who-I-am words. Which set do I use most often? “I identify as.” Because it’s a statement of fact in addition to being a statement on what matters most to me. (Things like caucasian and student are mostly dependent on the situation in which I am – in a race discussion, I identify (privately as well as publicly) as Caucasian, because I am aware of the extent to which that affects my views and knowledge; it is otherwise not an important part of who I am in my eyes.) And yet, I don’t phrase that list as “I identify as.” “I am” these things. I am all of the things I identify as*, and so much more.
So back to the original issue. When I say “I identify as genderqueer,” I feel like I have left a lot of room for discussion. I feel like I’m quietly whispering “probably” at the end of that sentence. I feel like people will think they have the right to question me. I feel like people will see ‘identify’ as weaker than ‘am’ – I feel like they won’t see it as a statement of fact and will take it instead as an opinion. This is why I say “I am genderqueer.” This is why I say “I am transqueer.” It is a fact. I don’t know why other people make different choices, though I’d love to hear any thoughts on the matter from other people.
I don’t want to hear that implied “probably” every time you say you identify as X, but I do. I hear it because I’ve had people hear me say it when I didn’t mean to. I hear it because somebody, somewhere is hearing it from you and questioning you, even if only silently. I hear it, and I will back you up to them until that “probably” disappears, until the day when I can stand up and say “I identify as genderqueer” and have it mean “I am genderqueer, and I take pride in being genderqueer, and I fight for genderqueers, and I stand by genderqueers.” Because that’s what I want it to mean.
*asexuality is the interesting exception here. I am grey-asexual, but I identify as asexual without the grey. Part of that is because it’s just unwieldy, to me, to say “grey-a” all the time, but also, hmm. Here is what I said about it a month ago:
I’m not sure how to explain that. Clearly I identify with grey-A privately. But it is less trouble not to do so publicly. And it is not worth the explanation most of the time in not-public. (by which I mean, if you completely rule me out as a partner because I identify as ace, you’re really not going to change your mind when I’m grey-A (or if you do, it’s not going to work out), and I am saving us both some time by simplifying it some.)
And all of that is true, but it’s only part of the story. I do identify as grey-A privately, a little bit, enough to say “this is what I am”, but I identify more strongly as asexual. It’s like … I’m grey-A on a technicality, but I feel more at home with the plain aces. I’m cozier there. I’m not sure how to explain it, but each time I try, I get a little bit closer.