Speaking up about Identity

I loved high school. I thrived in the small,  Lutheran private school. The community was uplifting and challenged me spiritually and mentally. I had good friends, that I can’t call good friends anymore but I still care about, we just took different paths. My path has led me to new friends that flex better into my new mindset. High school allowed me to challenge and find my strengths. I took art, english and environmental studies as higher level classes and I thought that would be enough but when I entered university I took an education class called self and other which allowed me to look at how I identify and influence other identities.

And thus a feminist emerged.

The quick definition is someone who fights for the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. The part about the sexes is what everyone is hung up on but basically it’s someone who promotes equality and rights for all people who could be oppressed through any way that they identify. For myself, I identify publicly as female, cisgender, white, heterosexual and able. As for my personality, I identify as an environmentalist, a feminist, and a sexual and mental health advocate along with many other things. In my inner discourse to myself, I often wonder about how I identify and I’m scared to identify in other ways for fear of public reaction. Sometimes I even worry about how I know if I identify as a certain thing and how to be genuine to that identity. If I come out as a certain identity, can I change my mind? But then, of course, how I identify now is just as authentic as it was ten years ago because my reality as changed and so have I. I also don’t see identity as black or white. Identities are spectrums that intersect with each other to create unique people. The biggest example for myself is the spectrum between heterosexual and homosexual. They created the words:  bisexual for someone who is attracted to both sexes, pansexual for people who are attracted to any gender or sex and asexual for people who aren’t attracted to to any sex or gender, but I don’t think that anyone should make themselves try to fit into these definitions – they should only be used as an aid to help other people understand your thought process and how you feel. Sex and gender are also both spectrums for me. It’s neater and tidier to fit into societies boxes but it’s not genuine in my opinion.

I’m still scared to be true to some of my identities but university has given me confidence to, at least, question my identities as more than what society dictates I should be. I’ve surrounded myself with people who care about the same things and through this I’ve been able to learn more through them about myself, how I treat other people, how they treat me and how relationships work. I question every relationship I have and every word that I say to ensure that, with what I know to be true at this point in time, I am saying and being the most empowering and healthy person that I can be.

Being a social justice advocate is mentally taxing because it requires constant care. It’s also very relieving because I can allow myself to just work towards this. I will never create pure social justice by myself so I don’t have to worry about being the perfect social justice advocate. For a perfectionist, like myself, this is strangely peaceful; to know that I am doing the best I can with the knowledge that I have at the time is relaxing. In a year when I know better I can correct myself or if I feel that I have made a wrong choice then I can deconstruct my thoughts and wonder why I chose to be oppressive and not have to worry that I am the issue but instead recognise that society creates these standards and I’m learning to move against them.

It’s just as scary to stand up for what you believe in as it is to identify with something. Lately I’ve been worried that my voice is being brushed off by those around me. Being an advocate for things that don’t fit into the status quo means that the majority of the people you talk to will brush you off. Some of my friends couldn’t care less when I start getting passionate about the environment and other people’s eyes get hazy when I talk about rights and equality but having these conversations and speaking your truth is the only way to deconstruct the way that society is fashioned and upkept. “Say it loud and go from there” from the tenth season of Grey’s anatomy is how I choose to speak. Even if you think people don’t want to hear it sometimes you just have to say it for yourself. I was at a social justice panel held at the University of Regina and the one thing that I took away from that was if you say things loud enough, you will find allies who care about the same things you do.

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