May 18, 2010

Multiple Identities, One Person

I love the rain. There’s something about rain that makes me feel very reflective. I like playing in the rain when I’m not on my way to class or have something else to do. It’s very cleansing and therapeutic for me. So today’s sudden monsoon put me back in my pensive mood. I began to reflect on my classes this year and on the mistakes I’ve made. As I thoughtfully meandered my way through the past academic year, I halted my psychological car in front of this one awesome memory I like to call Clinical Issues for LGBTQ, a wonderful class taught by the amazing Dr. Janie Long (PLEASE take this class. I promise you will not regret it.). So one of the readings for the class was entitled “Black-Gay or Gay-Black” and it basically stated that when a person is gay and Black, that person must decide whether he or she finds identifying as gay or Black to be more important. For example, I would have to choose which of my identities matters most to me. This made me a very unhappy person.

According to this article, I cannot equally and fully acknowledge who I am as a person. What am I supposed to do? Should I neglect one part of me while I devote more attention to another part of me? I can’t do that. I am me and all of me. It’s not possible for me to choose what matters most to me. I am gay AND Black, neither more gay than Black nor more Black than gay. I do not choose to highlight one over the other or attempt to conceal one and promote the other. So where do I fit in in this dichotomy of identity? Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, I actually do unknowingly fall into one of these categories?

So I sat and I pondered. I pondered and I sat. Then, I went and played in the rain a little. Then, it was back to sitting and thinking until I finally realized something. As much as I hated to admit it to myself (and now y’all too), I’m a gay-black. It’s not purposefully done at all. I just see so many more issues that the LGBTQ community faces that the Black community doesn’t. I have not fully come to a conclusion as to why I participate in more LGBTQ groups and events than Black ones, but I’m beginning to understand why. As I was reflecting on another class I took this semester about racial passing in literature (Shout out to Prof. Maurice Wallace. You should so take one of his classes, too), we had discussions about what it means to be Black and some other very interesting discussions. Anyway, from that class, I’ve learned that my views and belief about race are not quite views that many others share. But it’s due to my own view on race that I’m not active in Black student organizations.

However, that does not at all mean that I am neglecting my heritage. I will never forget where I came from, but remembering the past will not hold me back from realizing the future. I have multiple identities. I draw strength, power, courage, and love from all of my identities and the communities associated with them. So, I still believe that the article was incorrect in stating that I view one identity as more important than the other. I fully embrace every facet of who I am.

Sometimes, classes teach you more than just knowledge about the subject of the course. Every once in a while, you get one of those amazing classes where you learn about yourself, too.

Now, I want to thank Dr. Janie Long and Prof. Maurice Wallace for helping me to learn and grow more as a student and as an individual. I could not have done it without their guidance. I owe both of you so much.


  1. I LOVED Janie's class...Valerie and I were just talking about this last night actually! we said it was more of an "experience" than a class (although it was that too).

    So when I think of how this article applies to myself-female, lesbian, white, catholic, etc, l agree with you in that I don't know if I choose to be one of the identities "the most". (Maybe that's just me taking the easy way out.) One thing I have noticed though, is that I definitely think I assimilate the situation or people I'm around. For example, when I'm at Church, "catholic" rises quickly to the top, whereas in any other situation it's just one identity among many.

  2. Hi AJ!

    Like you and Megan, I too occasionally have a hard time sorting out which identifier is primary--Catholic often vies for the top spot, as might musician or photographer. I do my best to just forget about the distinctions and try not to portray myself in any particular way or allow my preconceptions of these roles (as well as society's preconceptions) to influence how I carry myself. But it's tough and I'm not terribly good at it yet.