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.


2 thoughts on “On Identity

  1. Interesting thought. I always say I am gender fluid and queer, thought I also identify as and with gender fluid(s) and queer(s). I’ve never really thought about the use of “identify as”, mostly because I don’t often hear people use it – most people I know use “am” instead. But it does make sense.. it’s like you’re not completely sure, but you feel like you need to identify as something, so you’re using it for the time being, but it’s not really who you -are-.

    Also boo on you for not using tumblr or somewhere I can easily follow your blog! :c

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