On Identity

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:

I am:
a procrastinator
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:
nonbinary-gendered people
the trans* community
the asexual community
intelligent people
kinky people
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.


DSM-5: some vague notes from a vaguely-researchy day

  • 5? Really? Why exactly are we leaving behind the Roman numerals? I like Roman numerals!
  • There were some lovely rumours, a while back, that asexuality was getting some mention. Some positive, not-a-disorder mention. This has, in fact, fallen through in a very dramatic way. (Dramatic to me, okay. Your mileage may vary.)

    The previous HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder) has been split into two separate diagnoses: N 04 Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder in Women and N 05 Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in Men. Please note at this point the binaristic division; we’ll return to that in the next section. Let’s first wonder about the fact that they felt the need to split it at all – I can’t see how the disorder is spectacularly different for different sexes in ways that can’t be rectified by using gender-or-sex non-specific language. But whatever. That’s not really my area of expertise. It is fascinating to see that women must experience 3 of 6 identifiers, while men need only meet 1 of 1. The phrasing that lets them get away with saying asexuals aren’t automatically included is also different for each of the two diagnoses: “The disturbance causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” for men and “The problem causes clinically significant distress or impairment” for women.

    Now remember that binary view of gender when you look at the next thing, which came from the same task force:

  • P 01 Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents or Adults. A diagnosis must meet 2 of the 6 indicators, pasted below:

    1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics)

    2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics)

    3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender

    4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

    5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

    6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

    or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender. or some alternative gender, you guys. DSM-5 is breaking out of a gender binary. DSM-5 is calling it Gender Dysphoria rather than Gender Identity Disorder. DSM-5 made me cry at what a big step forward this is.

    Would it be better if we didn’t have to have a formal diagnosis in order to seek treatment? Yes. Medical gatekeeping to transition is a little extreme. But look at what they’ve done. It’s not called a disorder anymore. It’s still regulated by the DSM, the APA is still the boss of who is or isn’t, legally speaking, but it’s not called a disorder anymore. We’re acknowledged as healthy human beings. More than that – room has been made for the nonbinary transpeople. I am not kidding when I say I cried at that. It is about time.

  • Hypersexual Disorder is also fascinating me and I am eager to see what happens with it.

Oh, DSM-5, why you make me infuriated and overjoyed at the same time.