Your identity is none of your business!

Who you “identify as” (which really means “who you’d like to be”) is not who you are, no matter how urgently felt, or even how biologically determined. We do not give birth to ourselves. We do not choose our genes or our childhoods. We play the cards we’re dealt. 

We also don’t live in splendid isolation, but as part of communities. Your identity includes how you are perceived and how you respond to that perception. because we rely on each other and on the recognition of others for our sense of self-worth. 

We know this to be true, intuitively. You can guess, for example, that if you are gay, growing up in a small, devout, conservative town, this realisation might lead you to be a more cautious, secretive, lonely person than you might otherwise have been, or perhaps more angry and resentful, or more sympathetic to alternative perspectives and excluded minorities, or with an inner strength borne of long endurance, or all of these things. 

So who you are is not your decision. It is an ongoing negotiation with your society, culture and upbringing, and the values and expectations they have inculcated in you. 

Self-invention is, at best, an attempt to reposition your relationship with these things. Your identity is a compromise, decided by consensus. 

And so much the better. It makes us much more complicated and interesting. 

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