Who gets to define our identity?

Every time sour-faced bint Julie Burchill plops out another scathing article, the attached comments section comes alive with vigorous debate. Julie’s stance on Gender Identity is well known… she believes that Trans people shouldn’t have the right to live fully as their own perception of their identity would dictate… and on the attached forums and comment threads there are many responses both for and against her assertions.

Now my views on Burchill are on record and I will save any further criticism of her until the next time she gets sand in her vagina over Trans people having rights and pinches out another opinion piece in order to desperately seem ‘cutting edge’ and relevant. But it leaves me wondering about the identity of everyone, and who it is that gets to define us.

Of course we get to define a lot about ourselves. We can express ourselves through fashion or creative outlets. Being an old-skool Goth with a thing for black lace, satin, heavy eyeliner and masses of hair (and that’s just pre-transition) was never questioned, and I took the rough with the smooth. For all the times I walked down the street in a long leather coat and had barely polysyllabic simpletons shouting ‘Matrix’, ‘Goth’ and the imaginative ‘Fuckin… fuckin… goth! Fuckin… matrix… fuckin…’ not one of them felt the need to go ‘Pfft, you’re not fooling anyone!’ That was left to other Goths.

So my identity as a Goth wasn’t questioned by the masses, only by a select few who felt my identity as a Goth detracted from their own. Why is it then, that Trans people are so often challenged on their identity? Why is it that someone presenting as a Goth is accepted as such without question, when someone presenting as the opposite gender to their birth sex creates divided opinions? I wonder, were subcultures, music tastes or football teams assigned at birth like Gender, if there would be a lot more hostility towards people who don’t conform to these labels.

There is a struggle between how we define ourselves, and the labels that are assigned to us to make us more easily identifiable. I have sadly known many people that assign their own prejudices and preconceptions to the identity of someone because of their race, religion, gender or sexuality. Trayvon Martin, for example. The assertion of someone else’s opinion of his identity led to his being murdered, and the perceptions of others regarding race, led to Trayvon’s murderer walking free.

What about when prejudice over identity is enshrined in law? What about where it is illegal to be gay, such as Nigeria, Uganda, Iran, Saudi Arabia or any of the other grotty little piss-hole nations out there? Even though any reputable scientist will attest to the role of Nature in determining one’s sexuality, these nations impose the added aspect of ‘criminal’ to the identity of anyone who happens to be born a certain way.

Ultimately the issues over Gender Identity and sexuality are caused by good old fashioned sexism. Think about it, if we weren’t raised to assign different values to people based on their gender, then there wouldn’t be such a clash of belief structures when one person failed to conform to gender roles. With same sex people, it is those who appear to adopt the roles or characteristics of the opposite sex who face the most ridicule. ‘Butch’ Lesbians with their stereotypically more masculine appearance, or effeminate, overly camp men who give a lot of attention to their hair and speak with a softer voice are given a harder time than those who have a more typical, conventional appearance or behaviour. People take comfort in an established order and so are reluctant to challenge it, even when they are in the perceived inferior camp (i.e. Women). Better to be bottom of a stable pile than the top of a shakey one right?

If there were a universal sense of equality between men and women, Gender roles would be irrelevant and so anyone who identified differently would not be seen as either degrading themselves or trying to elevate themselves above their station. There is a massive correlation, I find, in those who have a very strong sense of Gender roles, and who express homophobic and transphobic opinions, while conversely those who are more accepting of LGBT persons are also very critical of any gender divide.

So for my initial thoughts about identity, the very concept of identity is changing. Time was that, at birth, you were assigned your Sex, Race and Social Class with all the accompanying expectations. They were immutable, set in stone and enshrined in scripture. Even radical feminists like Burchill, who espouse the artificiality of gender roles, still cling to that ‘olde worlde’ view that some aspects of identity are pre-ordained.

This leads me to ask. Who has the RIGHT to define our identity?

My answer: We do, and the only other people who get a say are those who love us, and those we hurt. If I were to callously break someone’s heart, then I would deserve the title of ‘bitch’. If I murdered someone, I would deserve to be labelled a murderer, but I do not see how one’s relationship to traditional gender roles is causing harm to others, and surely if those who love us truly do so, then they will accept us no matter where I am on the spectrum.

So basically, in the grand scheme of things, blowhards and hate preachers can bang on about gender roles all they like, but that will not change who I am, nor how I see myself. It helps to have a slew of scientists, psychiatrists and the British legal system on my side.

All this is coming from someone who can legally have an ‘F’ on her passport.




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2 responses to “Who gets to define our identity?

  1. It is truly amazing to me in the short time I have been trying to get help for my transgender teen how weird people get about what a person in transition should look like. The doctor, who has been very supportive, still was trying to get him to dress like Ellen..The therapist suggested he would now have to start liking sports!
    Keep holding on to who you are!

  2. Why is it that cises can get their bodies reworked with little to no commentary? Why are transes held up to a higher standard and are judged by how “feminine” or “masculine” enough, and if you don’t fit the stereotype they say you aren’t “trans” enough?

    You may like that on AutoStraddle (I hear some trans women don’t like them, I avoid them because they don’t deal well with Ft* and transmasculine issues, but I like this particular article), http://www.autostraddle.com/im-a-trans-woman-and-im-not-interested-in-being-one-of-the-good-ones-172570/

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