Identity is fascinating. If we didn’t find it fascinating, there would be no interviews, no memoir, no ‘I’, as such. To identify each other, we talk about interests, beliefs, our dreams, our likes and dislikes, our passions. We talk about where we think we belong, what our past has been, what our present is, and where we think we’re going. Or we are ‘rebels’ in some sense of the word – setting ourselves apart from the culture we grew up in, or apart from the culture that people attribute to us.
It fascinates me because I’ve noticed that my identity has shifted, along with how I define myself at any one time. I used to define myself by what I consumed: my favourite TV series, my taste in music, what I wore.
Nowadays identity is something I consider deeper, rooted in a sense of my experiences and how I’ve responded to them, being a deaf person, my philosophy, what my dreams are and how I’m going about achieving them, my introversion. I do define some aspects of my identity by what I consume: my numerous geeky interests. However, people are more complicated than what they consume, no matter what it looks like on the surface.
Is identity shifting with each generation? When I look at children now, they are growing up in a world where they have never been without computers, the internet and a constant flow of information. I already find it difficult to deal with how much information it is possible to process in one day. How will the children of the future define themselves? Is there such a thing as a generational identity? Some people would argue that there is – that because I grew up in the late 80s and 90s, that my generation is particularly consumerist, that we define our identities by consumption, and the idea of the unique individual.
In past blog posts, I’ve written about belonging, and what it means to live in a hearing world. I still feel the same about the question of belonging, that: ‘Deaf identity is, then, not always about where you belong. At least not so much for me. It is an understanding and appreciation of culture and language, of access and shared experience. It isn’t one or the other – the deaf world or the hearing world – it is the best and worst of both.’
I know that I belong in a family, that I belong in a partnership with my fiancé, that I’m part of different communities according to what I align myself with. But it isn’t clear cut. You can be part of something but not agree with everything about it. There are factions and break off groups and different ‘levels’ of identity (for a hilarious example of this, look to the Monty Python sketch The People’s Front of Judea).
There is such a thing as a post-apocalyptic geek feminist (not really, I made that up…or is there?). Or should we consider the whole sum of our identity that voice inside us, our consciousness? The good news is that we can define our own identity, that we can create our own lives. Casting off labels is just as valid as naming yourself the above post-apocalyptic geek-feminist, whatever that is.
‘We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.’ – Chuck Palahniuk, Choke.