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 IDENTITY

Identity is a popular topic—often discussed, seldom understood. We are taught to take for granted that separations between people are normal. Historically, ethnic and racial identities have been recognized and treated as legitimate boundaries or separations between people. Wars, persecutions, and genocides have been legitimized on the basis of one or more groups’ feelings that their survival or well-being was threatened by one or more other groups’ existence. It becomes “accepted” knowledge that “they” are different from ”us” and dangerous to our survival.

Identities are conclusions about who “we” and our people are. They are informed by our undischarged pictures of how we are taught to see ourselves and other people. They are full of past undischarged hurts that have been used to manipulate some of us to define our interests as different from some others of us. This operates politically, culturally, and globally. They are also pictures of who we are and can be that focus on our strengths and contributions.

Millions have been displaced, politically disenfranchised, and/or killed because of these feelings that get passed down as patterns from one generation to the next. As various oppressions have eased and the pressures to conform have been removed, the beliefs or behaviors that had been repressed by the oppression of groups associated with those behaviors have tended to re-surface.

The current Gay identities bring with them the strengths and pitfalls of all identities, and are specific historic creations. The conditions of World War II moved young adults away from their homes, parents, and traditional cultures, and threw them together in cities with many other young people in the military all over the world. This exposure to large numbers of young people increased the opportunity of discovering more people like themselves with secret homosexual feelings. Discovering each other in bars, clubs, and barracks created the possibility for the growth of bar-based communities that gradually led to a social and economic sub-culture. Increased college attendance by the working and middle classes, combined with these other changes in the wake of the war, to permit the development and spread of a Gay identity.

At first this fledgling community was mixed male and female; later as the women’s liberation movement led to changes in the culture, many females moved away from mixed Gay activities to female-only organizations and meeting places.

In the white-dominated countries of the world the contemporary culture was influenced by laws against homosexual behavior stretching back several centuries. Early establishment of the Gay identity was reinforced by homosexuality being defined as illegal, as a psychiatric illness, and as a sin. As identity formed, these things were influential in creating an “us” and “them” viewpoint. As long as homosexuality was defined as criminal, as a “mental illness,” or a moral disorder there was apparent justification for the oppression. Despite the fact that pulls towards pedophilia and sexual abuse appear to be spread throughout the population regardless of sexual identity, the society used people’s fears of these to create an oppressive and inaccurate stereotype of who the people were who acted on homosexual feelings.

Claiming each other as a group and reframing ourselves as something positive with full human rights rather than as bad, wrong, dirty, dangerous, and disgusting was a huge cultural shift and accomplishment. The identity, as it formed, was a rallying point for humanness and connection: our non-acceptance of disenfranchisement.

As the identity has evolved, this distrustful and oppositional viewpoint (which came from the oppressive attitudes that institutionalized treating us as less than people) has remained, even as the laws change, the “mental health” system changes, and morality shifts. Identities are conclusions (including distress-based conclusions) about who “we” and our people are, and who we are “safe” with. This phenomenon sets up the LGBTQ world to be reactive to and different from the heterosexual world. We internalize being better than or worse than heterosexual people.

As the shift in popular culture that the women’s movement represented influenced the Gay movement to become the Gay and Lesbian movement, so the ongoing changes in popular culture continue to affect the development and change of these identities. This will continue. The ongoing changes in the culture, politics, and popular culture, combined with the chronic recording of feeling different, have kept identities changing, with new ones forming and alliances shifting. The Bisexual identity moved into prominence in the 1980s. Queer and gender-based identities came later. 

The current Queer culture is attracting many younger people who would not formerly have connected to a Gay-related identity. The activist, oppositional, and sexually amorphous character of this identity has broad appeal. Again, popular culture promotes an “us” and a “them,” available this time by choice and inclination as well as in response to oppression.

 In the LGBTQ world this phenomenon sets the Gay/Queer world up against and as different from the heterosexual world. The internalization of being bad, wrong, different, and/or better than, functions to separate these constituencies from the dominant, mainstream, mostly heterosexual world. Undischarged patterns seek to repeat themselves, so the oppression that targets these constituencies continues to impose the recordings of separate and different. These recordings persistently reinforce that difference. In so doing, the constituencies end up “wanting” separation and to institutionalize difference from the wider world.

This set-up, created by undischarged distresses, keeps the LGBTQ folks seeing our interests as separate from those of heterosexuals.

Identity and identity politics are created by the current conditions and in the long term do not make sense as a way to see ourselves in relationship to other people and other groups of people. The effective elimination of hurts left upon us all by past conflicts will yield to the discharge process.

Our futures will likely not be defined by any boundaries of identity or geography. However, the current oppressive situation requires embracing the identities that people all over the world currently cherish, respecting them, and knowing that no matter how dearly people hold these identities, they are a temporary paradigm.

Reality will move us toward each other, our common bonds and priorities as humans, and our shared project of cleaning up and enjoying our planet.

M—

International Liberation Reference
Person for LGBTQ+ People

 


Last modified: 2022-10-06 12:41:20+00