A Question of Identity

There has been a lot of discussion recently about identity, and how many identities we, as adoptees, may have or claim.  Identities develop through a variety of mechanisms that include where and how we were raised, the cultural activities or events we were introduced to and/or chose to follow and how comfortable we are with our place in time.  Human beings, really, are relatively emotionally slothful people – we don’t change from what we know unless we are made uncomfortable enough to do so.

So my question is two-fold:  how comfortable are you in the identity or identities you claim?  And how has culture/society protected or pushed that identity?

One thought on “A Question of Identity

  1. The first time I heard the Groucho Marx joke (as repeated by Woody Allen), “I would never want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member,” I did not understand that joke in the sense intended (that any club with me as a member would not be a club anyone would want to be a member of) and more in the sense that, “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t join clubs, so there could never be any club of people like me that would form.”

    I have never felt I fit in, and I haven’t exactly minded that. I have a vividly distinct member of a dream from high school where I was outside of a building with a massive glass window, and inside I could see everyone having a party, and in particular most of the good-looking males that I secretly wished I could have sex with. And as I watched all of those popular people—the beautiful people—doing their thing, I longed to be a part of it. And then I immediately thought, “I really have nothing in common with them. It’d be a waste of my time to hang out with them. I don’t really want to.” Kind of a profound and self-honest thing to acknowledge, albeit to myself in a dream. So I’ve been content to be an outsider and in fact, not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member, if I found myself becoming an insider, I’d move on. There’s a part of me that’s not afraid success; it’s an aversion to being acknowledged by the world according to what THEY consider to be success.

    When I lived near San Francisco in the AIDS era, I found myself estranged from the so-called gay community. My frustration was the lack of social outlets that didn’t revolve around the highschool-type tropes of popularity (drinking, dancing, sexiness). It’s only recently that I discovered a subculture where, to my great surprise, I found myself feeling “at home”. It turns out there can be a club of people like me, so to speak. Part of my outward expression of that is that I wear a stuffed, cloth snow leopard tail pretty much everywhere and all the time. I introduce myself as Snow Leopard.

    Getting to that point exactly paralleled coming out. It could be filed under the category of a response to a mid-life crisis on my part, but however I came to it, here it is. What I resent at this point about being an outsider—someone who literally wears a “fringe” as I walk around the world—is how lack of popularity entails economic marginalization. So, any dissatisfaction with my identity has less to do with it and more to do with how it is treated culturally—that is, to the extent that I do not, or cannot, or am not allowed to “play the game,” then I am more threatened by economic (and social) non-existence than others. And, of course, culture can “blame” me for this, since as soon as it tries to make me an insider, then I will back away from that for the sake of maintaining my identity.

    One of my favorite lines from Sleeping Beauty (I’m writing from memory, exact quotations not forthcoming) is when the witch Maleficent complains, “You didn’t invite me to your party,” and the faeries explain this by saying, “We knew you wouldn’t come.” Maleficent replies, “You should have allowed me the courtesy of refusing your offer.” I could write a ton about this moment, but I’ll just say this isn’t a case merely of Maleficent (the outsider) being perverse. To not offer her the invitation is to pretend she doesn’t exist or, worse, isn’t worthy of an invitation. Society should invite outsiders to participate, even if they decline to, because outsiders are members of society, whether one wants that to be the case or not.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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