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I Can Understand How You'd Be So Confused: I'm A Little Bit of Everything All Rolled Into One

essietee's picture

As an English major, I keep thinking of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which the main character Stephen Dedalus lists his mortal presence as the following:

Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Clongowes Wood College
County Kildare
The World
The Universe

I am struck by the expansion of self to include countries, continents, and all that is known to exist (and even that which is not, as we do not know everything about The Universe). Eli Clare writes in Exile and Pride that “The body is home, but only if it is understood that place and community and culture burrow deep into our bones. (Clare 11). I am a product of my community, my roots stretch across the depths of the Atlantic to New England, the Garden State, and Philadelphia. Each of these places has contributed to my identity, with the people who have walked into my life each bringing something for and taking something from. I am more than my physical self, more than my physical womanhood and my decision to identify as a woman. It is just that: my decision. I choose how to present myself, but I cannot deny my roots and the places I have rested my head at night.

We are all a part of something larger than ourselves, larger than the confines of disability and gender.  However, it is up to us each as individuals to display what we have been given and what we have taken in shaping ourselves. Identifying as a female is not something that I think about in the morning when I put on Carharts and a men’s waffle-knit last Wednesday, nor was it something that I pondered as I put on perfume and heels last night.

In class, lwack and I had a passionate conversation about how we struggled with Foucoult’s theory that “Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are, but to refuse what we are.” If we are all constantly changing, what is lost in rejecting one thing in favor of another? Is it an act as simple as putting on a red coat instead of a blue one, only to later realize that we’d rather have the red one? What are the ramifications of this rejection or embrace? Can we change nouns like we change adjectives? I am not always “unpredictable, quiet, and pleasantly inappropriate;” what if I am not always a female or a male? I am what I am when I am it.