I once asked Andred for a story of Hers that I might tell the world through this blog or by some other means. The message I received was to the effect that I was already telling such a tale–about a warrior and a sense of lost human identity while trying to adopt an identity within another culture. It’s not a new story, though the people and the settings have changed, but these days a lot of people talk a LOT about identity. Are you gay, straight, transgender, cisgender….and sometimes, are you those things enough? Who are you? Who are your people? Your ancestors? These talks come up a lot in pagan circles, in left wing circles, in right wing circles, all kinds of places.
I talked a while back about my biological ancestry, as shown by 23andMe results, and what it might mean for my identity and relationships with my gods. I talked there about my mother’s lies about my identity, specifically that I was part-Native American. But there’s more to the sense of identity than biological ancestry or tales of such.
For example, I see myself as Kemetic, as perhaps Celtic, but not in the traditional sense. I understand myself as bisexual (so far), leaning toward liking girls. I have been styled as depressed, but I never identified with or adopted the label. I have only ever used it to describe to others what such and such therapist thinks of me. I do, however, consider myself a survivor and a fighter.
And, my identity has changed. In college I stopped identifying as straight, and that was enlightening. I never tried to bind myself with any labels that referred to illnesses, and almost fell into labels foisted on me by my mother about my weight. That didn’t last very long as soon as I got a full body mirror and shed much of my modesty. I stopped identifying with my parents; I changed my phone number and blocked most of the necessary Facebook profiles (depending on when a new one will crop up). This was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done (besides the physical altercation that led to this falling out, during which I felt I left too much up for debate).
My character is human, biologically. She used to identify as such, but ceased that once she passed through an alien culture’s initiation/coming-of-age rites. She came out less than unscathed, and wears the resulting scars as a mark that she earned her place in their culture. However, her disconnect from her human identity is still apparent, in the back of her mind. She has been affected by this change of identity, in a way that will probably never be fully understood. She has been affected surely by the experiences that shaped it. All people are.
One cannot adopt and accept a new identity without some form of change and whatever impact that might come with.
The fight is secondary, really. The war, the conflict, all that is in the background.
But there’s more to it than that, even.
You can’t escape getting assigned an identity by the people who surround you. I could not escape labels of “gifted”, or “depressed”, “anger issues”, “autism spectrum” (this came up only once and my revulsion to it was enough to silence discussion on the matter), and so on. I can’t get away from the baggage that comes with “bisexual” (or the umbrella term “gay” or “queer”), “abuse victim”, or, what I’m sure is coming: “Estranged Daughter.”
I can define myself and identify how I choose, but I am also identified by others, I couldn’t escape being identified, against my will, as depressed, spoiled, entitled, a brat, and a host of other things. I am not those things, but I cannot avoid people seeing me that way, no matter what I do. My mother, for example, will tell the whole world how evil I’m being by not speaking to her. First she will desperately try to contact me, and if I cave we’ve “made up”, but for now we are “fighting”, and if it keeps up she will eventually tell more people than my therapist that I am “insane” and “irrational”. After all, isn’t she such a good mother? (No. She is not. I have receipts.)
And, that has to be accounted for.