Intersectionality fascinates me. It's challenging and it's frustrating. But also inspiring. After all, it is our personal intersections that distinguish 'me' from 'you'. I must confess, it doesn't take much for me to get quite lost when it comes to thinking about identity and the many facets that we are made up of.
Where do you position yourself? Is that how you want to be seen by others? By whom do you want to be seen in that way? Is this how you are seen? Might that change? At what times, and under what circumstances?
Introducing... 'the self'. (Controversial, I know). I am interested in how comfortably the different parts of our selves fit together. Maybe the traditional metaphor of the onion, whilst familiar, doesn't feel to be the best fit to our experience. How well do your different layers feel to sit alongside one another? Which layers are on the outside, and most visible? What is deeper within, and hidden? Are you more of a garlic? Or, do the parts that make up yourself occupy something less integrated and whole? Does your identity feel more fragmented? How do you do yours?
We are, I believe, all of us, complex hybrids continuously 'doing' self. Different components of our identities interplay, and they do this differently, depending on context. Where we are can define who we are. Or at least who we play.
In what environments are parts of you thrust to the fore, whilst others remain silent and shy? Are there circumstances in which parts of you feel squashed, or ignored?
Where can I be my-self and what might that look like today?
What groups do you belong to, and what do you derive from these memberships? Do the groups you belong to tolerate your other memberships? To whom does it matter, and why? Sometimes belonging to lots of groups can, paradoxically, leave us feeling lonely and alone - where we feel unable to pick, and find it impossible to prioritise is a horribly uncomfortable space...
I remember how being young and black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell. There were no mothers, no sisters, no heroes. We had to do it alone.
Audre Lorde, 1982.
We can be our selves, but then have our identities done to us. Some of us may have some recovering to do where people's assumptions, expectations or requirements didn't fit with the sense of ourselves that we held as authentic at the time. I see the self as fluid and ever changing. We are forever self-ing. Institutions, however, may require identity to be fixed, final and known about. There is much pressure to make distinctions and choices.
What business of yours is it who I want to be today?
People may even lay claim to the parts of us that they see, and like.
If only you knew about the rest of me...
And what about the roles we take on... When did these become our identity? It's worth thinking about how we all self-brand. Are you a lawyer, or someone who practises law? Are you a runner, or someone who enjoys running? These labels and badges whilst oftentimes worn with pride can, I fear, become heavy, and arduously adhesive, posing a threat to mental health and wellbeing whose degree should not be underestimated.
Acknowledgment:Intersectionality, Sexuality and Psychological Therapies: Working with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Diversity, eds. Roshan das Nair and Catherine Butler, 2012. John Wiley & Sons.