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In all the rhetoric about "identity poltics" and what someone "identifies as" I find myself reflexively resisting the concept of identity. I do not resist on the basis of assuming a completely level political playing fields, or ignoring the reality of various subcultures, but simply because I am not used to being paid much attention anywhere outside my immediate family. No reputation, no identity.

I mean it's not like I didn't actually have a reputation, but it was for being a Real Smart Kid and also quiet enough to be considered mute, and retiring enough that I completley missed the boat when it came to learning how to make friends outside of specific organizational structures. So after the fourth grade I forgot about my reputation as a Real Smart Kid and didn't really have any kind of social network of peers outside of Boy Scouts, which wasn't my idea to join in the first place, so once I got my Eagle Scout Badge and took a break from that organization I forgot about my personal identity as a Boy Scout. I didn't gain another until Freshman Year of college, where my habit of playing the Recorder during Humans Versus Zombies games earned me the moniker of The Bard.

I guess that was the first time I felt like I agreed with my current quasi-public reputation enough to call it an identity. Also one of the few times in my life that I have noticed strangers speaking of me in the third person. (I don't really get this whole 'pronoun' business either. If some stranger were to ask me what my pronouns were I'd be surprised that they noticed me at all!)

I still wonder what people think of me, and yet in the times when I have an answer, I forget about it later. I don't know why it all seems to slide off. I don't know why I resist everyone's compliments. I have friends who love me and I love them and yet sometimes I still wonder what they think of me.

It is all very odd. I do desire a reputation -- I would like to be known as the local carilloneur, and hope that people bother to listen to the bells and gossip about them. But maybe I would shed that sort of identity as quickly as all the others?

Unless I am more likely to hang onto the identities that I have actually hoped to find. More than anything I want to be someone whose presence people find reassuring, and I would never dare act against such a reputation. 

With that in mind, let us say that I am not averse to the concept of identity, but that I'm not interested in any of the pre-fab options.

Before I get into things: a disclaimer

I felt like I related to Chord's writeup in this node to some degree, and that is my motive for writing this. This isn't a response to Chord's writeup, it is a separate entity — though some of the content may be similar. In addition, this writeup is my opinion, and while some elements presented in the course of argument may be objectively correct, my personal opinion and experiences are subjectively correct. For example, the statement "the concept of gender exists" is something that is objectively correct, while the statement "I personally do not feel as though I have a gender" is subjectively correct. This post is a bit of a ramble with no real point; it is an opinion, it is personal, it is philosophical, it is an argument, and it is a statement.

 

What is gender identity, anyways?

For sake of argument, let's make an abstraction. In this post in particular, "variable" should be interpreted to be synonymous with "attribute", "element (of)", and "stereotype"; also, I am using "gender" as a term conducive to identity, not conducive to your biological sex. If you perceive gender as biological sex, please put aside your subjective perception for the duration that you read this post, otherwise you will likely not really perceive what I am trying to communicate.

Most everyone goes about their lives under the presumption that they have a gender, but almost nobody goes about their lives with a defined concept of gender, simply that it arguably corresponds to some degree (the extent of which is disputable) to their biological sex. On one extreme end of the spectrum, gender is your biological sex, and the opposite extreme is exemplified in otherkin: people whose gender identity corresponds with fairies and other mythological creatures, inanimate objects, videogame/fictional characters, pop-culture icons, etc. because the desire their variable attributes. The average individual tends not to gravitate toward one of the extremes; but rather, somewhere between the two, and generally toward the former. Regardless, it is almost unanimously agreed that any given gender has a collection of variables inherently bound to it. Let's go with one of the more obvious examples; woman can wear makeup, and men had ought not to. Men can have leg hair, and women had ought not to. I am not arguing in favor of these things; I am merely pointing out that they are generally perceived to be variables that are bound to gender.

If you're fixing to dispute these examples, before writing me a message arguing that my given examples are not perceived variables bound to gender, go ask a random (or twenty) right off the street something akin to "what gender wears makeup and what gender does not?"

What is masculinity? Masculinity is simply a collection of variable attributes. The same applies to femininity; it is a collection of variable attributes. Some variables overlap, many do not. Some variables seem to be nearly universal, and some are in dispute based on culture, religion, ideology, etcetera. Some female-sex people desire a larger number of masculine variable attributes than feminine variable attributes. Sometimes, that desire is mild or near-nonexistent, and the person does not really experience what we would call dysphoria, and they live their lives comfortable with the identity of their biological gender. Sometimes, that desire is more intense, and they experience what we would call dysphoria, and they identify as masculine. These people are considered "men", unless you fall under the extreme that sees gender as conducive to biological sex. The same principle applies to male-sex individuals who desire a larger number of feminine variable attributes than masculine variable attributes.

I'm not going to write a similar section about sexual identity as I don't really have one, never really have, so I wouldn't consider myself knowledgeable enough to write on it.

 

What about other forms of identity?

A person can identify with any arbitrary thing, integrate it into their persona, who they subjectively feel they are, what they subjectively feel defines them. I gave the example of otherkin in my previous section, but a person can also identify with what they do to make money, their university or school, their hobbies, the color of clothes they wear, personal projects that they've taken on. I say 'arbitrary' because it can be legitimately anything. Studies have shown that in some cases, some identities may be less healthy than other identities; if not physically-detrimental, mentally detrimental (being an otherkin, narcissism, identifying as your mental illness, and a million other examples.)

If someone feels like playing the guitar moves their soul, they might identify very strongly as a guitarist. If someone paints portraits of people and learns to appreciate the human condition on a deeper and more profound level, they might identify very strongly as an artist. If someone performs very satisfying work in a very prestigious industry, they might identify with their line of work. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

 

But nicolasstag, you said this was going to be a personal writeup?

Well, as the title would suggest, I don't really feel as though I have an identity, gender or otherwise. I used to, I think. I used to feel passionately about people, about the human condition, about art, music, God, religion, nature, beauty, literature, philosophy, everything — but as the years have gone on, everything has just sort of seeped out of me. I don't really passionately love people anymore. I don't hate them, I don't resent them, I just don't love them. I don't really passionately love writing anymore, or music, or art. I used to deeply love things, but now it's sort of a mild, monotone "oh that's neat". I'm not against people calling me a musician, an artist, fill in the blank with whatever. I'm not against people calling me the antithesis of all those things. I don't really care anymore. The only thing I'm making a conscious effort about is whether people see me as virtuous, I still try my damnest to be good to people — but I used to have such strong moral convictions, and I feel like those are slipping away too. The more the years go on the more everything lose momentum. It's easy to just not care about anything at all.

I don't really feel like I have a gender anymore. I used to feel very strongly that I was a man. I don't really feel like a man, I don't really feel like a woman. I don't have gender dysphoria. I just don't feel much of anything. The only thing I feel strongly anymore is just that everything about me is wrong. It all feels fake, somehow. My body, my consciousness, my life, my friends, my family, my relationships, my hobbies. It all just feels fundamentally wrong. But I've posted about that before, so I won't go off on that tangent again.

I don't really need a gender, I don't really need to identify with anything. I don't really see the point. I try to be virtuous. I see the point in that. Logically, virtue makes sense. I try to live a life filled with love for others, compassion, not living in excess, practicing self-moderation, not judging or condemning, not shaming people for their lifestyle, etc. I'm just hoping I don't lose momentum completely and become a walking purgatory, not feeling, not compassionate, simply existing. Only time will tell, I guess.

Hey, pal. Lemme see some--

Wait, hey-- Yo!

'EHHYYY!

Look 'ere, palsy, I need to see some ID.

No, I don't care what metaphysical construct of the self you've cobbled together. The sign says "must be over 21 to enter," so's if your psychological and philosophical identity and-or affiliated persona don't gotta license, I ain't lettin' you in.

Got that?

Oh don't feed me that bull about self-verification 'n behavioral confirmation, this ain't no identity negotiation, I just gotta check yer ID. And not the one with the ego 'n superego.

Yeah, okay, bub, fork it over, lemme see what you got.

The fuck is this?

Transitive? Transitive ain't a state!

I mean it ain't part of the You-Ess-Of-Ayy!

No, I don't care about the paradoxical nature of--

Okay, you know what?

Beat it, kid. Come back when you're old enough to drink, then you can go ahead and wax philosophical with the bar tender. I ain't got time for this.

Disclaimer: I am not a philosopher. I barely know what I’m talking about. I lie in privileged “sides” among several spectra: I’m male, cisgender, heterosexual and within my own circumstances seen as mostly white.


There’s how I see myself from the inside—the Inner Point of View.

There’s how others see me from the outside—the Outer Point of View.

Are those necessarily the same? It’s easy to see that they’re not, even about relatively trivial aspects (some people here have expressed their amazement at some of my previous code writeups, I maintain they are amateurish and barely passable).

Are those objective? Again, it’s easy to see they are not: humans might strive for objectivity—and may even achieve it some times—but in general we see things with lots of biases (conscious of them or not), assumptions, culturally-based judgments, goals… Imagine Andy getting drunk on his first weekend as a salaryman, living on his own. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Is it expected and maybe even forgivable? Is it morally reproachable? Is it laudable? Who can even give a completely consistent answer? Certainly not me, and I’m the one who did it.

Are those complete? It’s easy to see they’re not. No one has perfect introspection, so the Inner POV will always be lacking. And since no one—or almost no one—is 100% open about everything about themselves, the Outer POV can never operate on complete information.

Here’s when I need to introduce two more actors: the avenue between me and another person (Direct Point of View), and the avenue between two—or more—other people (Indirect Point of View). I posit that these need to be discussed as well.

The Direct POV is what may inform you of things that only I know. None of you know me “In Real Life,” so your knowledge of my name, age or whether I like marmite or not depends mostly on me expressing them and you believing me.1 The Direct POV requires me to exist and depends on me and what I discuss or don’t.

The Indirect POV is what may inform each other about me, particularly about things that may be obvious or knowable from the outside but not the inside. The Indirect POV is what others speak about me. In general—and barring outstanding circumstances—people talk about “me” less than I’d think, but still may do from time to time.2

Do these four points of view—Inner, Outer, Direct, Indirect—agree in some sense? Maybe, but only partially and not necessarily about anything non-trivial. It’s possible that I may lie about this or that thing, and that alone may introduce noise to the equation. Similarly, other people may misunderstand me—intentionally or not—which also muddies the system. Any ill will between two members of this graph can also introduce imperfections and a degree of imperfect truth.

Are all of these complementary in any sense? Again, maybe. As seen before, there are truths only known to me and there may be truths known only to the others. There are reasons why some of these should stay secret and there are reasons why some of these should never stay secret. And the more one delves here, the more “special cases” are found, to the extent that there may not be any hard rules about what should and shouldn’t be “shared.”3

So, what gives? Which of any really is my identity, if any? I could say that anything I feel and think about myself is the only part that counts and that anything perceived by others that is somehow not vetted by me is invalid. That’s a powerfully attractive idea, but it has two problems.

First, it’s hardly humane to completely dismiss others, especially when talking about identity—which generally matters because there are others—and runs the risk of being self-centered and self-serving to the detriment of my fellow humans. Secondly, this idea of “my” identity being only what I say, think and feel about myself does not hold in practice. If I start yelling racial slurs left and right, it won’t be long before I’m branded as a racist, and that will color every interaction I have. Imagine that I use racial slurs in casual conversation while I insist that “I’m not racist,” would that automatically be the one and only truth about myself? That may be an extreme case, but it serves to illustrate the point that my opinions about myself cannot be the only ingredient in my identity.

The reverse is easily seen as false. If only what others say, think and feel about me counted as “my” identity, then “I” would merely be an external entity, no different from an object in a museum. Given that we humans have a conscience, we presume others have as well and that internal state should be as important to them as my internal state is important to me.

Therefore, there are aspects of one’s identity that can only be informed and determined by the very person, and there are aspects of one’s identity that can only be known from external observation. Trying to infer internal aspects of someone else from pure observation is then an exercise in guessing; and trying to infer external aspects from pure introspection will always yield an incomplete picture.

So, what gives?


By this point one can see that “my identity,” while being real, is also a thing with nebulous edges. It has parts of the private and public persona in who knows what mixture. But being ill defined doesn’t mean it’s not important.

Any person’s identity is important—as mentioned—because there are others. A human identity exists—among other things—to mark oneself as an individual in a group, as part of some groups and in contrast to others. “My” identity would be meaningless if I were the only human in this planet.4

And so, an identity is formed partly by others and partly because of the others. “Identity” as a whole does not exist from a single person, but parts of it do.

It is not to me to say which parts of “my identity” matter and which don’t in an absolute way, for this is a tool for others as it is a part of me. The tribe I arrive to may not be interested in my name, but may find my tendency to eat only berries as important.

This hints at yet another edge to this discussion: exactly who and whichothers” are in play. Cruel as it may sound, my boss might not care if I sleep with this or that person as long I do my keyboard-mashing job. Similarly, the other people at the orgy might not really care if I’m an accountant or an engineer. Or they might: again, I cannot determine what is important to others.

So the question “Do I Require an Identity?” is for me not the complete picture. I may not require it for many, many things. But an Identity associated with me might—and most likely will—exist any time I have to deal with other humans. I can declare that I have no strong opinion on soccer, but that doesn’t mean that the “Andy identity” that exists in other people’s heads don’t include an entry on “Soccer: affiliated team.” The next time they want to go out for drinks, they might determine that, since “Andy’s identity” does not match theirs, it’s not necessary to invite him. Isn’t that also part of me?

And here is a tragedy of human life: one’s own identity exists, whether one wants it or not, and some parts of it will be “filled” by others. My identity exists and its parts matter differently in different contexts. Some of those parts I hold very close to me and I find them integral to my “Self”5 while others I care little about.

I may know which parts of my identity are really worthy and integral to my self and which parts are trivial, but this doesn’t necessarily mean others know it as well. And even if I expressed them out loud, there’s always the possibility of misunderstanding. My not caring about soccer can be—and has been—misunderstood as me “hating” soccer and all that surrounds it. To them, the spectrum of liking a sport could only be expressed in one of two ways; to me there’s a lot of ‘meh’ area. How easy it is then to misunderstand another in more pressing matters.

So let’s remember this: “my identity” is not just mine and it’s not just for me and it’s not just dictated by me for others to adjust to me. But it starts with me and large parts of it can only be determined by me.

The same is true for “your” identity.

It’s not to me to say who you are. And even though I may create an image of you in my head doesn’t mean that image is 100% accurate. Or kind.

The same is true for “you” about me.

Far from advocating against this or that set of pronouns, I wish to advocate for more human understanding on how an identity exists between two entities. My asking to be called this or that pronoun is important. But it exists in a relation with other people and merely demanding from others to accommodate me without consideration for the mental, mnemonic and maybe even cultural toll on them is selfish. This is a large portion of why many people who wish to use “special” pronouns are seen sometimes as self-centered.

“My Identity” exists, whether I want to or not. But not all of it is required here or anywhere else, for it would be tiresome for any one of us to be conscious of all of that Identity, at all times, in all contexts. It’s not so much that I require an identity, but I have one regardless of my wishes. It’s my duty to form and inform it, so that it may serve me as well as others as a bridge between conscious beings. I say it’s also my duty to be kind to others’ identities as much as I want them to be kind to mine.


🜞⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️
  1. Corollary: I’ve never tasted it, so if you really want to know for some reason, please send marmite my way.

  2. Lesson to my younger self: people really are more worried about themselves than about me. “They” don’t talk about me as much as you think they do. You shouldn’t worry about what “they” say as much as you do.

  3. If there are more exceptions than objects that fit a rule, it’s a rubbish rule.

  4. The stronger assertion would be that “My” identity would be meaningless if I were the only consciousness in the universe, but that seems to be a leap in many assumptions that I’m not prepared to make. For now, let’s establish the above phrase as rhetorical point. You get the idea.

  5. Are “Self” and “Identity” one and the same thing? I suspect not.

FUCCBOIS be all about RATIONALISM when da BITCHES be WET for ANARCHY.

FUCK.

Identity is NECESSARILY CONSTRUCTED. Ya know, I'm a stand-up guy. I fuck wit a heel.

It's a double entendre. I fuck wit a heal.

IT'S A TRIPLE ENTENDRE GODDAMNIT. I will FUCK YOU. With a STILETTO. ALLEGRO FORTISSIMO. OBRIGADO.

Domo arigato Mr. Roboto?

Anyone else notice how Eminem been real quiet since that dropped.

Construct yourself into a monster. Construct yourself into something confident enough to attract attention and despicable enough to make sure your detractors can't turn away from you. Be undeniable. THAT'S what identity means. You CUCK.

Don't you want to be PRESIDENT? Life is a competition you already knew that. Every moment of your life is television. Loudest one wins. Put your DICKS on the TABLE.

Fuccbois gon' win doe. It's ok. It's worth taking an L to be a heel. That's the whole point. The most important fucking fights that you'll ever fucking fight are the ones that you know you're gonna lose. Keep your mask on.

But then at the inauguration, OH MY GOD IS THAT--THAT'S HIM!!! IT'S HIM!! HE'S GOT A STEEL CHAIR, AND BY GOD HE CAME HERE TO WHUP SOME ASS!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

I'm gonna go stun my whole family. See you in another 4 years or whatever.

I have been thinking about this for quite a while. So thankfully this showed up here. I have my own take on the matter, that you can enjoy, or not.

For me, the basic question in my relationships with others is not about what I am, but about what we are doing. Or, more directly, what rule set we are operating under. All of our social interactions are covered by a gigantic web of tacit social rules, that, while unstated, are still enforced, one way or another.

For example, imagine responding to the friendly comment about the weather from the cashier at your local supermarket with more than a casual "oh, its going to be a nice weekend". Stretch that out into 20, 30 seconds of personal disclosure about what you plan to do, and watch people waiting in line, and the cashier, start to shift and act nervous. Even if there aren't people in line, see how long it takes the cashier to start commencing the friendly brush-offs. But don't do this experiment, because that would be rude. We have many rules about what and is not appropriate in conversation, personal expression, body language... but none of these rules are exactly written down, but we still have to follow them.

A good way to say this as that as much as identity might seem to be a question, the more pressing issue in our interactions is roles. We are expected to act within the constraints of a role, and failure to do so can bring down sanction, from the mild annoyance of strangers to quite serious legal problems.

Many of our rules about roles and norms relate to gender expression and interaction. I am a man, and there are many tacit rules about how I can socialize and communicate with women, even in seemingly innocuous situations. I have male friends, such as Qousqous, that I can bombard with non-sequitur messages throughout the day, posing hypotheticals to him about Navassa Island. In general, I have found that even when I have a friendly relationship with a woman, that too much communication can be annoying, even harassing. Our society has rules about the roles we play, and even in our era of confessional internet, there is still such a thing as bombarding someone with TMI and inanities.

Which is one reason that I think the pronoun question is, if not silly, very inadequate. I have friends (and have even had one romantic relationship) with someone who now identifies, and acts, as a different gender. But. Often the tacit rule set of how we interact was set up over decades of interaction. Despite the stated shift in identity, I am not sure how much the rules have changed. Someone who I established a relationship with as a woman is now non-binary, but when they are "busy", I still treat it like when a woman is "busy"---a friendly way to tell me she is only interested in superficial interactions. And when someone who I established a relationship with as a man is now a woman, I still think it within the realms of appropriateness to random chatter to them about my favorite animes. And when a person who I had a (admittedly brief and odd) romantic relationship with when they are a woman is now non-binary and tells me they don't wish to talk---I treat that as an ex-girlfriend saying that, not as if it was a male friend saying it. (So I am, in effect, disrespecting their gender identity by respecting their wishes.)

Do you need an identity? Your identity is a shiny, ephemeral ghost in the machine that can only be known to you after communion with the Vorlons. But your role? You require one of those, and if you are uncertain of it, grit will start piling up in the gears of social interaction.

Drank a glass of water earlier. Knocked it out, no problem, drips and all. I'm really good at drinking a glass of water. Maybe go pro someday. As one of our national heroes would say, I could do this all day. Some people aren't great at drinking a glass of water, but imo it's not nearly as difficult as eating a piece of cake (which is no picnic). My life is all about a glass of water.

I drink it. Tell my homies after a glass and they love it. Have a habit of going on the message boards for it, talking about pitchers, filters, the comparative merits of cubes vs crushed ice, and so forth. But what really got me here, to this embeveraged position in life is making the decision to become the kind of person who drinks a glass of water. It was all in one moment, standing on my beige kitchen rug. Faucet. Sink. Glass, cubes: they made who I am, but first I had to choose to be this person. A person who drinks a glass of water.

I've got an identity! Does it mean anything?

How do you make an identity? Life which consists of hundreds of other little things bouncing around, this pulsating mess of impulses, memories and ideas, and generally a state of existence that is not really about any one thing, is gosh darned hard to identify. Most people don't have a great answer to "who are you?" Asking a person who they are, really who are they, is like trying to ask a bird to describe air. I reject the idea that identity is something you figure out, and then project outward, it's not like that, more like a negotiation, an ongoing performance, a leaking out of the truth in your head.

Identity is weird, because the implication is that is a thing by itself, that it exists, occurs somewhere, like some unseen watcher notices the qualities of your soul and invokes the naming ceremony with the phrase in mind: Water-Drinker. But there is no perfect eternal Observer, there are only the other people on this planet. They don't see your truth or your internal life, and at best with total sincerity the best you can show them is a quick glance across the surface of the Katamari cluster rolling through your being, this vast and intricate thing observed through a peephole once. For those vague and misty honesties to be mixed with happenstance and assumption and prejudice into the memory vault of the other, and then built up into a guess at what you might really be like. Identity is to allow yourself to be estimated for a chance at being known.

Identity is messy, public, and it sticks. No longer are you this floating ball of energy, here you are a shape who speaks, a function, a part within a whole. And the stickiest parts are the ones that fit cleanly into other people's expectations. You'll remember their recalling of what they remember about you, and it will become what you recall about yourself, through their eyes. And in being perceived, you are reduced. You are guessed at. Understood only in part. A person is so shrunk before they are known and then again before being made real. But that narrowed aspect which remains intact, the truly intended is built upon, and it grows.

Self-knowledge through identity is like looking at a reflection of a reflection. You can't really know what people think of you, most of the time, so you're guessing at what they're guessing about you. And so in society we climb into our homunculus mecha seats, pull on our overgarments, and we pilot around our guess-of-a-guess identified selves, walking into other guesses-of-guesses. We do not perform identity; instead others perform identity on us, while we control very little of the process. We occupy a small space within their knowing of us so that we can be imagined, invented, manifested by them.

We are more, and we are held to be less.

Emphatically, yes. You require an identity. The real world is so much larger than the physical world. The social constructs are social in origin, and they are made by design and upkeep, but still they are made. It's there, you just can't see it. And in such a world where real aspects exist in a purely social element, you also must exist in that social environment. They think of you, and the idea is populated by traits and quirks and stories that serve as handles on the otherwise nebulous depth of your reality. It is a pointer for memories, relived and remembered all at once, that blooms into their thinking of you, their share of your being here. Identity is imposed across you, for them, and is so much.

It is a thing that is imagined and then becomes real by being known, felt and eventually understood. It would be nice if that guesstimated freshly cloned copy waking up in the test chamber version of you which exists in the thoughts of strangers would also happen to match with the honest core of your being. It could be nice. Otherwise, there's always water drinking.

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