Monday, 21 March 2016

Aspects of Identity

Who are you? Who am I? 

Simple questions, but not ones I'm convinced have a straightforward answer. On the surface, they can be answered by stock answers, our names, our sexes, genders and so on. Dig in a little further and we may find something else waiting for us. It's akin to taking a chair and simply saying that that's what it is, without considering the style of the design, the wood used to make it, the presence of a maker's mark etc. Similarly our identities are composed of our sex, gender, class, sexual orientation, and many other factors. Add to this that we commonly wear masks, adapting who we are to our circumstances; I am not the same person with friends that I am with my family, or the same person at the doctors that I am at work. These masks may be so fine I don't notice the difference but they're still there.

If I were to dissect myself I would say that my various aspects are as follows:

  • Male
  • White
  • Middle Class
  • Husband
  • Man? 
  • Christian background.
  • Quiet (Introvert?)
Grabbing these first, these are the immutable apects I suppose, as they relate to my body, which is undeniably male, and how I was raised. There's also no denying the colour of my skin, even if in my case it's further complicated by the knowledge that I'm a true mongrel, with Prussian and Spanish ancestors cropping up in the Victorian period, and that I am third generation Middle Class on the last part of the 'shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves'. Despite that, I still went to a private school (a Catholic school no less) and then to university, so an immutable fact is that I had that sort of background. 

I got married about eight years ago, so I am a husband, and by implication straight. That's actually a difficult area for me, so I'm going to leave it undisturbed...

You'll note that I've put a question mark after 'man': I consider it to be a political term, It holds an ideological value of what a man is, and I'm not comfortable with it (I feel that it too often refers to certain types of behaviour that I'm uncomfortable with, especially when put with the word 'real' - there is nothing as pernicious as the 'real man' in my opinion). As things stand I'm not sure I want to be considered a 'man' because of this. In a similar fashion, I put Christian background because while my parents are devout, to the extent that my father is a Methodist lay preacher and my mother used to run the baptisms group when they went to the local Church of England church, I lost any faith I had in my teens. In pat that was probably because I was going to a Roman Candle school, but I'd say it was just as much to do with reading books on Paganism, and Terry Pratchett). 

This is where I start from, the basic parts of my identity, the bits I can't escape. None of us really escapes our childhoods, especially as they're the part of our lives we have no control over. We can only move on from what happens there, embracing or rejecting 

Onto other facets:

  • Goth
  • Writer, poet, 
  • Folklore enthusiast
  • Roleplayer
  • Feminist
  • Critic
  • Politics graduate
  • Would be PhD student
  • History lover
  • Geek (though I'm not sure about this label so much any more, I find I'm growing tired of geek things more and more).
  • Theory nerd
  • Pagan?
  • Agnostic/Soft Atheist?
  • Fantasy fan
  • Science Fiction fan
  • Horrorist
  • Squeamish person who can't handle basic biology
  • Socialist
  • Green Person
This collection of labels, seems to be what I've gathered over the course of my life, Some, like my feeling that socialism is the right creed for me, or my concern with green issues began in my early teens, others like my love of Fantasy find their roots right back in childhood, a love of mythology was fostered by my Grampy and grew from there. It's only now, as an adult, that I look at the genres I steeped myself in with a more critical eye, looking for something new; which often seems to not be there.  Despite that, I'm taken with the amount of language based things on the list. I don't believe in inborn personalities and I'm unconvinced there's a genetic tendency towards profession in any of us (though there are various things out there that claim the Redgraves, for example, are genetically disposed towards being actors). However, I did grow up surrounded by books, with a father who read constantly and my Grandfathers both encouraging me to read. Language has always been a big part of my life. I suspect my parents also influenced my interest in politics, albeit indirectly. The news was always on at home, be it on the radio or the telly, and I remember both the Falklands War and the Miner's Strike, and how they shaped my view of the world. Childhood shaped my view of Feminism too (and has left me wondering why we're still debating the same old things, surely the pay gap, housework etc, should be sorted out by now?)

My love of History grew out of just being interested, and therefore quite good, at the subject, whilst my squeamishness over how my body functions not only makes going to the Doctor a pain, but was something I didn't factor in, I only found out about it during a Science lesson where we covered some aspect or another of human biology and I was nearly sick. 

And so it goes on - I don't want to go into it all exhaustively, as I imagine most of you are bored by now. There's only so much 'swimming in lake you' that you can do before you get sick of it. But the aspects I've listed somehow fit together to make me... And there are days when I'm truly confused by that, and times when I honestly have to question some of the parts I see in myself - when I'm rabbiting on like a nutter about nothing, how can I see myself as quiet or introverted?  Never mind the fact that there are days when I hate myself, because I don't live up to some mythical archetype of a writer, or a man, or whatever. The fact is that all these pieces, and some I haven't mentioned, are all relevant; all part of me. I just decide which parts you get to see, or let them slip through by accident. 

On the surface I appear to be just me, Steve... scratch the surface and I'm still me but I'm more complicated, there's less about me that's straightforwards... 

And the same is true of you.