Forging an identity 

All of us have an identity, Identity relates to the things that make up who we are. Identity is something which we can take with us throughout our entire life or something we acquire in our journey to navigate the world. Identity often relates to personal characteristics and is bound up with intersectionality and what demographic groups we belong to. Sometimes we are acutely aware of our identity and sometimes we do not realise the elements of our own identity. 

We all identify differently. Different parts of us are more or less important to our sense of who we are. For example I place a far greater weight on the non-binary part of me than I do on the part of me that relates to having been born in England but for another person their British identity may be more important to them than their non-binary one. 

The main things I identify with are:

  • Being Autistic
  • Being non-binary and transgender 
  • Being a member of my family – parts of my biological family and my family through choice 
  • Having schizophrenia and anxiety 
  • Being Asexual 
  • Being an author and advocate 
  • Being a Government official 
  • My ADHD 

Like many people, my identities have changed over the years. I rejected my autism and schizophrenia diagnosis for many years so even though I was still Autistic and schizophrenic I did not see either condition as being part of my identity but now I do.

Many of my elements of identity relate to groups that face disadvantage and to which the notion of pride is often ascribed. My gender and sexuality identities come with a fair whack of pride attached as do my neurodivergent identities. Pride is a way that groups who face disadvantage fight for respect and recognition. In this context pride is a great thing and I think should be encouraged and supported. 

Identity is related to the notion of privilege and intersectionality. Civil rights activist Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality. It essentially means that people can belong to more than one group that faces disadvantage and that this compounds the disadvantage. For example some of the intersectional groups I belong to are neurodivergence, mental illness / psycho-social disability and being Asexual and transgender. Intersectionality relates to membership of each group compounding or multiplying the disadvantage a person faces. For me, claiming and embracing my intersectional identities makes it easier for me to understand the difficulties I face and counter these through activism and advocacy. It also means I have some great friends who also belong to a bunch of intersectional groups and as such share some fellow feeling and common experiences with me.

Identity around being part of a group that faces disadvantage can be liberating an involve a strong sense of pride and engagement. I feel a lot more passionately about my gender identity, my sexuality and my neurodivergence than I do about many of the other aspects of being me. I

I am now very confident in my identity. I feel like my identity is hard fought and won and not just the parts of my identity that relate to belonging to one or other disadvantaged group. My autistic identity is something which I had to grapple with myself to accept. It took many years to be a proud autistic person and when my journey to that particular identity began then most people saw autism as a negative – including me! These days autistic identity is a ‘thing’ and there are a great many proud identifying autistic people out there. I can credit my own path to acceptance and my autistic pride but also the work of other autistic advocates, authors and my autistic friends and peers for basically changing my world – and changing the wider world too. In terms of gender and sexuality my path to my positive, out loud and proud identity was quite a long and winding one. It took a long time for me to discover I was non-binary / trans and even longer to work out I am Asexual but as soon as I figured these things out they became a big part of my identity and something I am really immensely proud of.

Identity is a big deal. We all have different elements that make us who we are. Identity is a lifelong journey. I am learning about my identity as time goes by and I am building my own understanding  of my identity. I think it is an amazing thing to learn about who I am, what makes me ‘me’ and where I feel I fit in the world. One big yay to positive identity!

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