Generally this subject simply raises more questions than answers for me the more I think about it, but nevertheless it is something I think about and therefore I am broaching the conversational boundaries of such a topic.

So, to start with, a variety of questions immediately sprang to mind when I thought of such an open-ended, one word statement.

a)      What is it?

b)      What elements of somebody does it mean/represent

c)      Is it a society defined ‘thing’ or the individual’s definition, and if so; does it matter what one group or the other say is your identity? Does that then definitively make you who you are?

d)      Does it change? Is it a mutable/adaptive definition or state?

e)      Are there separate parts of your identity that are then mutually cohabitant?

f)        Is it difficult to isolate and define for certain what your identity is?

g)      Do people even have a true identity, and if so how do you define one aspect over another as your true identity?

Now, I am sure that there are vast arrays of other questions that can be added to that list depending perhaps upon who the person is asking them in the first place. I’m sure a person’s identity differs in how they quantify it for each individual, indeed for some maybe none of the questions ever even arise in the first place; they just are and therefore never think or need to question that. Which might be nice…I’m not certain.

Then there are those for whom the prospect of defining ones self is a constant struggle against themselves and/or society i.e. those with religious backgrounds, gender dysphoria, a strict upbringing etc any of these things and more factor into whether or not you are going along with that or valiantly railing against it to come out as your own person, separate from the ideologies of your upbringing.

So, to the initial questions I have thought of and thus outlined above, though as per usual I sincerely doubt that I will add a great deal of clarification on my part it’s more an open page discussion with myself and my own views I suppose.

a)What is it?

Perhaps this should be clarified more clearly, in the terms of ‘identity’


Word web:

  1. The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity
  2. The individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known
  3. An operator that leaves unchanged the element on which it operates
  4. Exact sameness (as in ‘they share an identity of  interests’)

To take the fourth definition first as it were, I have never heard of this usage for the word and in this instance it doesn’t seem overly useful in the clarity stakes… neither does the third definition for that matter, so we’ll focus on the first two and ditch the latter two.

For me, this question of what is an identity merely throws up even more questions.

  • Is a persons identity something that is innate from birth, can it be defined by nature/culture?
  • Is it something we develop and is thus in a reasonably constant state of flux?
  • Why do we have them, and why are they different for each person?
  • When did the idea of identity arise
  • When did it gain such importance
  • Why are some people and their identities thought more valid than others?

See, more questions… I feel that this topic will inevitably proffer more questions than answers in any case so I am going to cease being hung up on the prospect.

b) What elements of somebody does it mean/represent?

My opinions are part of my identity (for me they are anyway); they are part of what makes me who I am. My (non-denominational secular) beliefs, my attitude, morals, ethics etc are all part of my ‘identity’.

Or are they? Maybe it depends on what type of identity you are talking about…Identity or identity; does the capitalisation make a difference? Should it? Like talking about God and god? Does a person’s identity reference their morals; ethics etc or are these still more separate ideas?

I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to say that someone’s identity is representational of their ‘soul’, I think if you bring the soul into it, you’re playing a whole new ball game, but I do think that a persons identity, be it capitalised or not, is a large part of who they are. However, it may be that any one person only ever sees snippets of the whole; maybe you show your entire being to some, and only snatches and tantalising glimpses to others. I suppose it should also be considered whether or not you know your ‘entire’ identity.

This one is giving me particular problems in trying to identify and isolate my thoughts on the subject. I think that ultimately my view comes to this; I am something different for different groups of people, so they all see parts of my whole identity, sometimes this is a conscious decision, sometimes I don’t think it is.

For example; at work I am far ‘straighter’ and more gender ambiguous than I am at home where I am more male…I suppose, I don’t tend to air my views on politics or gender type things very much and most of the people at work don’t know I’m gay and they certainly don’t know or understand my questionable gender. This is not out of shame, it’s more how exactly do you broach the subject without turning it into a great big unnecessary thing? I’m currently not seeing anybody so the question of whom my partner is, is a non-question. That and half of them couldn’t spot a screamingly obvious boy dyke if it slapped them in the face… I hasten to add that I haven’t tried this method… yet, though it would be nice if they didn’t assume I was straight either. Actually I am far straighter with my family as well, I’m not sure why really, perhaps it is instinctual, which is completely stupid as they all know and it’s a non-issue. I don’t think the gender issue will pass muster as easily but that’s not really my problem.

c) Is it a society defined ‘thing’ or the individual’s definition, and if so; does it matter what one group or the other say is your identity? Does that then definitively make you who you are?

This one is particularly difficult to express because there is the ideal view and then there is reality. Ideally no-one but that individual should have any say over who they are, however, reality can be a cruel thing and this is not usually the case. People, many of them well-meaning, some of them tending more towards the fearful of what they don’t understand, try to manipulate and create a person in their image, or their ideal image…this rarely goes well. At least in opinion… which are worth as much as anybody else, but doesn’t necessarily make me right.

Needless to say, I don’t know the answer to this one, I never expected to and in all honesty if someone turns round and says that they do, I’d suspect them if lying.

d) Does it change? Is it a mutable/adaptive definition or state?

Yes. Is the simple and most straightforward answer I can proffer here. As human beings we learn, we grow, we adapt and we change (or at least, it is hoped that we do), why would this not also apply to our identities, to that which makes us an individual within the whole?

Rainer M. Rilke said:

It is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical will live the relation to another as something alive.”

Whilst I may not be speaking specifically in terms of relationships as he was, I am talking about the ability to change and adapt, to become who you are and who you want to be and to avoid falling into the pitfalls of potentially holding yourself back in life and yes I suppose that can and does apply to relationships also in a roundabout fashion, in this case I mean all relationships, be it with family, friends or lovers.

However, despite all of this, I also think that some people have a firmer hold of their own stubbornness and are unwilling to let themselves do all of those things to a greater or lesser extent, but that doesn’t make the basic premise any less viable, that is simply exhibiting a different side of their identity. Or perhaps they have always been who they are and what they want to be, if you’ve always set out in life to be that, then why would you need to change, to be in a constant state of flux.

The most illustrative example of this I can think of was a child I saw on a Barbara Walters documentary; 20/20, about transgender children. The child I am thinking of was called “Jazz”, that child knew, almost instantaneously that they were in the wrong body and set about rectifying that immediately. From the moment she was capable of it, she was trying to show her parents that ‘he’ was in fact a she, the first example the parents gave was ‘Jazz’ unpopping her romper suits to make it into a dress.

I find that child particularly impressive and admirable in her ability to be utterly herself with no constraints placed upon her by herself, she is lucky to be in a family who are capable of aiding her in that endeavour and not hindering her desire to be herself.

e) Are there separate parts of your identity that are then mutually cohabitant?

I guess the answer to this one lies in the question of what you consider to be your identity in the first place. Do you consider yourself to be made up of separate parts that make up a whole, or are you just one single entity encompassing your entire self?

I honestly don’t know what I think about this part of my questioning… I am still considering all of the elements, as one can probably guess through my rambling. Still, something to think about.

f) Is it difficult to isolate and define for certain what your identity is?

Yes. Insanely so. The idea of an identity and that of self is something, I at least find incredibly difficult to isolate and quantify for my own purposes.

g)Do people even have a true identity, and if so how do you define one aspect over another as your true identity?

I do not know if I have a true identity or indeed whether or not anybody has. I am who I am, I am more open about who I am around some folk more than others, based on personal preference and what I want them to know about me. There are things about myself that I don’t care who knows them and other things that I don’t want the world to be privy to ta muchly, if that was the case I’d be a slave to Facebook or some other such site. That being said, I am quite an open person generally, yet I’m not naturally trusting of people… understand that dichotomy if you can.

My identity, as I have mentioned above is made up of many things… as is everybody else’s, I am not making any great claim at being unique in this matter, far from it. I am a geek (self confessed), a boy, a dyke a loner, a hard worker, a person with S.A.D, I have Father Christmas ‘issues’, a voracious reader, a film fiend… etc etc ad infinitum. Are any of these necessarily part of my identity or just some other form of element that makes up me as a whole? Don’t know, is the short answer once again. I’d lean towards personality traits… but are they identity traits and is there a difference between personality and identity?

To me personality is how you act, how you are, how others see you. Identity is who you are, to yourself and others, how you see yourself etc. I’m not convinced that the two are entirely separate thoughts, but nor do I quite belive that they are identical to each other, I do think they are intertwined and that they are reflective of each other and that’s all I’ve got.


About Nerdsbian

I am a nerd for ALL seasons. I am a genderqueer wlw Librarian who unsurprisingly likes reading...a lot But I love being outside too...sometimes even reading at the same time. Also animals, any and all of them. Never yet met one that didn't get on with me and vice versa. I do a couple of different voluntary jobs (animal charity related) and have recently completed my MA.
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