Identity is a very complex thing.
You don’t ever have just “one” thing you identify as. For example, I identify as many things; cisgendered female, Australian, bisexual kinsey 2(-ish), INFJ, Whovian, expat, Cumberbitch, redhead, feminist, Pine Nut, artist, Trekkie, writer, opinionated, THE LIST GOES ON.
And your identity changes as you grow. When I was younger, I didn’t know what cisgendered was and I assumed I was heterosexual until I
discovered Karen Gillan researched more. PEOPLE CHANGE.
We all know we don’t identify as one thing, and no two people will ever identify the same way, even if parts of their identities overlap. For example, on my college program, I made friends with other Australians and New Zealanders. Some of these lovely people I worked with. For many other people I knew, they naturally assumed since we were both Australian, we either all knew each other already (spoiler: Australia is really big) or we had very similar backgrounds. Not so; I was born in Sydney and grew up in the NSW Southern Highlands. My other two friends were from Melbourne and Brisbane. Our backgrounds were very different, despite all identifying as “Australian”.
So why do we try and force people into boxes?
Just because I’m Australian does not mean I know the ins and outs of current Australian soap operas you might like. In the same way, just because I live in New Zealand, it does not automatically mean I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. (spoiler: I am. But don’t assume that.)
Some stereotypes are just niggling and slightly annoying, but I can live with them. I know I make these sweeping judgements about other people as well, even if I don’t mean to.
One of the main things that has frustrated me since moving to New Zealand around eight years ago, was people’s inability to separate myself and their opinions on Australians. I find some (not all) New Zealanders take the Australian/New Zealand rivalry thing too far and it’s kinda annoying, but I can deal.
The other thing that has frustrated me I only came to realise in the last year since leaving for the USA: I can’t be both.
I am an Australian who lives in New Zealand. My parents moved here. I went to high school and college here. I don’t want to move back to Australia, but nor do I have much desire to take out New Zealand citizenship.
But when I’m asked where I’m from, and I reply; “Australia, but my family lives in New Zealand now” I’m immediately boxed into “oh, so you’re Australian, then?” or “oh, you’re a Kiwi, then?” Neither one is accurate, but neither are they inaccurate.
I usually just smile and nod at whatever answer and move on.
But think about it, if I said “Well, my favourite comics are usually Marvel, but I enjoy reading Batman as well.” would your reply be, “so you only like Marvel then?” or “ok, so you’re a Batman fan?”
What? No, I just said I like both! Were you even listening?
The more we listen to people, and the more questions we ask, the better chance we have of understanding the people around us on a much better level.
If you don’t know what pronouns people prefer, ask! If you want to find out what Harry Potter house they’re sorted into, ask! (btw I’m Hufflepuff, yo) If you want to know more about someone, they’re the best person to ask. Don’t assume (but also don’t be nosy).
If they refuse to answer, don’t push the issue. Some people aren’t ready to share information on their identity. Sometimes the identity we present to the world and what we identify with in our hearts are different things, for a variety of reasons.
Remember, we are all beautiful individuals and we can share that with the world how we want to.
If you’re still curious, check out Sexplanations’ video with Nick about identity!