• Alex

Identity, fixity and Attachment

A friend came for dinner last night. I find myself awake in the middle of the night with words spinning around in my head. The ones I said the ones I did not say. I find myself performing particular identities with particular people some are explicit, social and political identities some are implicit psychological identities. All of them are reductive painful and at the same time can be containing and supportive. What I notice is that I feel anxious about identity because it is a performance for me and serves a purpose but I often sacrifice my integrity in this performance and afterwards I feel quite traumatised and have to work hard to reconnect and forgive myself for leaving out important parts of my experience in order to belong and protect myself from scrutiny. This experience happens more when I am with people who are strongly attached to their identity and feel very comfortable with particular labels. I end up talking about other people, or defining myself in opposition rather than exploring the interpersonal and unknown in that particular relational moment.

When I am with people who are identified (explicitly/implicitly) as women with hetero-patriarchal notions of gender I am often performing the nice alien, and invisibility and resentment can be what emerges for me. When I with people who are identified with disabled, lesbian, or other marginal identities I can end up finding it hard to differentiate and express my own alienation in relation to these terms because I don't want to be perceived as threatening and different among people whose embodied difference actually allows me some sense of relief and space from the dominant assumptions. I also feel very sensitive now to the fact that if I am not talking about something comfortably I may not be ready to explore this aspect publicly, or I may be picking up on the fact that I will not be accepted in the relational field of the moment and therefore I am protecting myself until something shifts either in my internal, or external field.

In marginal groups identity is about survival and community in a dangerous external world. However this group survival can lead to a loss of individual expression, diversity and freedom if the pact is still you're in, or you're out. Including my transgender person I have to come out to my own internal lesbian and the edges in these aspects of my personality really struggled to meet and co exist for a long time. What I'm getting at is that all these identities live inside all of us. Some are comfortable and we can easily identify with and others are threatening and repressed. I feel most whole when I can move and flow between them without too much attachment or threat and with people who can live that wholeness and flow. Much of the time this happens most easily in the realm of the nonverbal, music, touch, play, art, exploring in nature. I need identity to help other people understand and feel less frightened by my difference and to assert my need for support and to exist and live my difference in this society. I own autistic because this word helps some people to name and make sense of themselves in relation to me and it helps them (and me) to appreciate my physiology is different and I have different experiences of the world. However, it is also a trap as with all names in the hands of the powerful this word can be used to define, contain and assault me and to reduce my uniqueness and equality. For example. You can't be autistic you are so articulate. You can't be articulate you are autistic.

The other thing about identity which I think is hard to convey verbally is that if white english words are not your first way to think then all white english naming is the language of oppression it's concepts are inherently reductionist, forceful and feel broken to me. Therefore the very act of speaking is to experience a certain loneliness and sorrow, a certain resignation and grief for all the violence and oppression that is contained within the story of this language's development. So I don't want to speak myself or others into the ideas of that language. I think rather I would like to use the language as a bridge or aspiration to reach out and make contact and I want to try and forgive myself for the impossibility and fear I find when I attempt to be with people and for all the challenges that go with being and belonging and the tensions between them.


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