It’s LGBT+ History Month this month so I’ve been thinking about awareness, fairness, judgement and identity, which is this week’s topic.
How you identify can be related to your body, your mind, where you live, what you do and who is in your life. Identities can be simple or complex, deemed as positive or negative, but there’s usually a connection to other people, places and the ongoing activities of everyday life that make up society. Some identities are fixed or are very difficult to alter, whereas others are transient, changing throughout someone’s life.
When we meet someone for the first time, a conversation often starts with the question ‘where are you from?’, as if the answer will reveal something about the type of person they might be. This comes from the assumption that identity is somehow connected to the place where people live or their place of origin. When we meet others from places with which we also have some association, this can help to break the ice and create a sense of connection. This suggests that people living within one place share a collective identity or a sense of common belonging.
Typical forms we fill out for identity purposes usually have categories of sex, age, nationality, race and ethnicity. Each of these may be a personal identity but they’re also likely to connect us socially to others in that same category e.g., people of a similar age being in the same educational year, or people of the same ethnicity sharing the same social club. Disability is another category that appears on forms and makes us consider bodies as part of our identity. As well as sex and age, the ability of our body connects and disconnects personal and social worlds. Sport is an area of social life where our bodies and our abilities are really important. Your body might determine whether you win or lose, or even if you can take part at all.
Psychologists use the term ‘label’ to refer to a negatively valued identity which, once given, sticks to a person and is difficult to escape: e.g., ‘labelling’ someone as selfish or lazy is certain to cause that person hurt as well as encourage them to fill that role. A family who talks about their child as being “the naughty one” may cause that child to feel that’s their identity. Your family will have a huge influence on your identity, as people grow up thinking their environment is the norm.
There are also many examples of a negative identity given to one group of people by another and this usually comes from unfair judgement.