Thursday, February 4, 2016

More on Identity, Authenticity, and Disclosure

This post on identity vs. autheticity courtesy Third Way Trans is the long-read of the week:
Another problem with group identities is that they can result in a loss of individuality. Connecting with a group and being a part of a group can be such a good feeling, especially if it is a group of people that reflects parts of oneself that have not been reflected before. A lot of my own impulse to transition 20 years ago arose in part from my encounter with the community. It felt so good to encounter people that shared the same feelings about gender that I did, as my gender feelings felt like a deep secret that I would never share with anyone and did not share with anyone “real”. Talking to people who had the same feelings and could relate to my experience was so great. I do think it played a role in my adopting the transgender identity. I am not saying that I adopted this identity due to peer pressure, as the reason I adopted this identity also related to the deeply held feelings that I had. It is rather the intersection between my deep feelings ,and the group that led to my development of this identity. I think this is true of most identities, they are the intersection between biological factors, temprament, and social identity. Cross-gender feelings exists in all cultures but how they are expressed is different depending on cultures. In one culture one might be considered a shaman, in another an abomination, in another a transsexual. Cultures and subcultures say these feelings mean certain cultural identities and the ultimate expression lies at the intersection between the cultural ideas and the internal feelings.
Although the post is about gender dysphoria, a lot of this can be applied to other identities, or things that have have been refashioned as identities in the past generation or so. In a very short time, I've felt as though I've gone from being defined by what I know, what I believe, what I think, to where I place on various axes of power. The former can onlt be reasoned as a result of my "privilege." And while it's important to break down those systems that grant power to some but not to others, individuals aren't institutions of power.

Coincidentally, Dan Six from Psych Central wrote about the danger in using mental illness as identity:
We take on these labels as badges of honor or, in my case, ways to hold ourselves back. We cease to be human beings living with an illness and start to be illnesses living with a human being. Do you see the difference? Who’s running the show? You or your illness? I think this blog post is for me today. To let you know, and to remind myself, that we all have days that we succumb to the label. But, we need to remind ourselves, daily that we are not our label. We are not: addict, borderline, bipolar, depression, schizophrenic, cutter, anxiety. We are people: husbands, daughters, friends, wives, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, etc. More importantly, we are: Bill, Dan, Jane, Ashley, Ralph, Jordan, whatever your name may be. You are a person with an illness, NOT an illness with a person. Don’t let society fool you, don’t let your doctors fool you, and more importantly, don’t let your mind fool you. You are an individual and you have the final say.
Just yesterday, I saw a headline at a popular ladyblog that thrives on personal narratives of suffering detail ing the author's "identity" as a bulimic. That's a dangerous road to go down, particularly for eating disorders. When disorder is thethered to one's sense of self,  the disease is much harder to treat. I don't talk about my medical history online at all. Not because I'm ashamed, but because it's no one's business, and I hope I have more to offer than that. Unfortunately, it's becoming not only acceptable, but expected, for a woman to "disclose" her suffering like it's some crime. It's scandalous and we consume it like pornography.