Identity. What does that mean to you? How do you introduce yourself?
When someone looks at me, there are aspects of my identity that are clearly visible. I’m of East Asian descent, female, in my early twenties. Maybe you’ll catch me on a good day when I’m wearing nice clothes or maybe you’ll see me bumming around in sweatpants (previous project post here).
If I just met you, I’d probably tell you that I’m a graduate student. You’d find out some combination of my interests, depending on how the conversation leads. It might come up that I enjoy photography, museums, eating potatoes, or all things purple. I might tell you that I’m “from” Boston. But all of this, it’s just how I spend my time or where I’ve lived.
Push a little deeper. What would you find? Maybe that I take my responsibilities very seriously, more seriously than they usually needed to be taken. Or that I’m a huge planner, not just in that I use a physical planner & color-coding to keep track of my life, but I also like to schedule my future out as much as I possibly can. I might tell you how this might be a coping mechanism I developed earlier in life, or that I was unofficially diagnosed with ADHD my junior year of college but came short of pursuing an official diagnosis. Stick around long enough and you’ll discover that while it takes me a long time to feel comfortable around new people, but once we’ve spent enough time together, my silly side peeks through and my friends are friends I intend to keep for life.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve considered writing many blog posts that never came to fruition. Even this one was almost scrapped. Maybe it was because I’m lazy, but at least partially, it was because I struggle to express myself in words. I live, actually, I am at an intersection of identities. Sometimes being part of one identity implies being at odds with another identity and it becomes hard to know where I stand.
These past couple months, more than any other time in my life, I’ve found myself at these crossroads. Often it feels like each of these identities dictates a viewpoint I ought to hold, but of course, none of them ever agree. So they pull and pull, and like a kaleidoscope, it plays out a little differently each time.
Perhaps it was moving my Bostonized self to the Bible belt, discovering that now I am the “liberal” one in Texas rather than the “conservative” one in Boston. Or maybe it was the news leading up to and through the election, often pitting young millennials against traditional Asian values or “good Christian” ones. Maybe this explains my intense displeasure when a non-asian person insists on greeting me with 你好 (nihao), an outsider determining for me how I should be identified rather than allowing me to decide. Who gets to define what it means to be American? I was born, raised, and lived my entire life in this country, yet for the rest of my life, I will continue to receive the question “where are you really from?”. Yes, as a Christian, my primary identity is in Christ, but He also made me a Taiwanese-American millennial female.
There’s a lot to mull over, and I have no answers or even any solid conclusions. I’m sure this issue of intersecting identities affects more than just Taiwanese Americans (or more broadly Asian Americans), but that’s the demographic I’m able to speak from.
What do you align yourself with when you identify yourself? How do you identify with what you agree with while separating yourself from what you disagree with? How do you pick when your identities contrast on an issue? What wins?
Speaking of identity often brings up questions of family, race, age, gender, and religion. I’ve worn these lens my whole life, and they’ve shaped my view of the world. Sometimes it’s easy to identify the source of a thought or action, such as taking off my shoes when I enter a home. Other times, I might not be able to pinpoint which one(s) of these identites determine my stance on something. I am part of all of them, but I am not and will not ever be wholly one or another.