While I was on the way to an interview in New York last month my other Bird half, Magdalena, texted through a question she thought would be interesting to ask. What identities do you identify with? It seems like such a simple question but it sent my brain into a bit of a tail spin once I started thinking about it. Especially when you follow up with the question with; why are these important to you?
When I asked around most people came back with a list of personality traits that they felt summed them up. Their answers resembled those you would give in a job interview when asked, “How would you describe yourself in 3 words?” A list of adjectives are at the ready: assertive, kind, happy, thoughtful, energetic...
“Identity" is a word that feels so much more important than those adjectives. It’s something you really want to be sure of before you say it out loud.
Much like the women I discussed this question with, I struggled when trying to pin down labels I identified with. I know there are simple ones I’ve personally identified with for many years, if not for my entire life. Australian, Woman, Straight, Daughter, Sister. These labels are very easy for me to understand, and for others to understand about me.
I think the ones I struggle with are the labels and identities that are different depending on the person hearing them. “Feminist" would be a label that I strongly identify with, yet so many people have negative connotations with that word (the fact that this word is so misunderstood is baffling). “Girlfriend" is also something I am, but that word doesn’t seem to adequately describe the depth of the relationship I’m in and so I always feel strange saying it.
Then there are the career/work labels. It’s the question that you get asked most frequently when meeting a new person, “What do you do?” It can be tough to answer, especially when what you do isn’t your long term goal. People have so many preconceived notions about jobs. I’m guilty of it myself, putting judgments and assumptions onto somebody because of what they do. “Photographer" is what I aspire to be, but while I only do it rarely at the moment I don’t feel like I have earned any right to call myself that.
As you can see by my ramblings, this question of identities is a can of worms. Labels are simultaneously confronting, comforting, and aspirational. What do you identify as?