How do you define your identity?
plural noun: identities
1. the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. 2. the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.
Have you thought much about your identity? I can say that thinking about my identity, is part of my identity. Is this because I was naturally curious? Is this because since I was a very young girl the question “What are you?” was asked to me time and time again? I was always taken back a bit when asked this question. When I was younger I would answer honestly, and politely, “I don’t know, I was adopted. My birth Mother is white, and I don’t know what my birth Father is.”
The question “What are you?” was asked to me time and time again.
As I got older, it depended on their tone and attitude when asking the question. If they were truly interested I might tell them the truth. If they were obnoxious I would say, “I’m a woman, or I’m a human being”. Some might push me further, “no really what are you?”. I would say, “ a Kansan, or I’m Pamela”, always knowing exactly what they wanted to hear. They wanted to know my race. What category did I fit in? Was I black, or hispanic, middle eastern, Native-American, from an island,….what mixture was I? The list is vast in terms of categories that people would put me in. I have also experienced folks wanting to know, so they could connect, or learn something about me. When people ask me in a genuine way, I notice the tone, the way it was asked, their body language is always different. It is pleasant, and non-threatening. In response, I also feel calmer, and am able to share openly with love.
But, when someone asks me “What are you?”- in a harsh, accusatory tone, I assume they are asking so they will know how to act towards me. “If she is hispanic, I will treat her like this, if she is black, in a different way,”, and the list goes on. The assumptions are flying both ways, from them to me, and me to them.
These questions were happening mainly in my teens and 20s. Biracial people are now being seen and heard about in great numbers, but back in the day people did not know who were were, what we were about, and how they were to treat us. Almost 30 years later, with much more experience and being more settled in my identity, I actually welcome the question, and I normally ask a question back. “What do you think I am?” This forces them to really think about why they asked the question, what they think they see in me, and how stereotypically based the question is to begin with. These constant experiences forced me to ponder identity, and how it reveals itself in our lives.
For me, because I looked "different", my identity was questioned by many, but truth be told, like you, I have many areas of my life to pull from in terms of what makes me- me.
If you were to share your identity what things would you list?
My Identity thus far, in no particular order is:
Woman, Mama, Facilitator, Biracial, Dancer, Actress, Adopted, Singer, Activist, Daughter, Friend, Sister, Evanstonian, Chicagoan, Kansan, Wife, Bonus/Step-Mom, Ex-Wife, KU Alumni, Spiritual, US Citizen, Empathetic Artivist, Entrepreneur, Optimistic, Trustworthy, Lover...this list can go on, but this is where I am so far.
My experience is that when people find out I grew up on a farm, their eyes bug out. I normally say, “Don’t I look like a farm girl?” We both laugh, and I help them with the discomfort of the stereotype. Figuring out who we are, when others want to define it for us, putting us in little boxes, can be very complicated. Guess what, none of us fit neatly in a little box, if we are honest with ourselves.
Who are you? What are you? Who do you want to be? What is your identity?
People will assume many things about you. You may even put pressure on yourself to be a certain way. In the end you chose who you are, and what you want to be.