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Choosing A Label

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Antonia Aguilar Cole

Professor Dalke

Emily Balch Seminar: Changing Our Stories

4 September 2016

Choosing A Label

Human identities are shaped by the slight variations in stories and experiences that a person has, compiles, and presents over the years of their life. The “selves” people chooses to share with one another and the intricate web of feelings are often hard to label and define. I could tell you, reader, that I identify as a cis woman, but all that would be made know is that I have be assigned with the female genitalia. Nothing more can be read from this statement besides stereotypes and false judgments of mental capability, strength, and behavior. As child I was uncomfortable with this role. My boyish mannerism, my prepubescent body, and homosexual tendencies created both a toxic relationship with my family, friends, and ultimately myself. Much of a person’s identity comes from self expression and self identification which can not only be misinterpreted but also invalidated. Questioning these set roles and labels is often a large part of self discovery and self-actualization is an ongoing process. The questions “Who am I?” and “Where did I belong?” never seem to vanish.

My nuclear family has been privileged. Both my parents are intelligent and successful first-generation college graduates whose childhoods were filled with struggle and poverty. My parents made it a point to raise my brother, my sister, and I around art, politics, and culture to give us a life good life.  I was not given things, but instead made to work for the thing I wanted, but because of this I have never fully understood the extent of economic wealth that my family has had. Often our money was spend on traveling to other countries, private schooling, and a home in a good area not on luxuries or a lavish lifestyle. I not only raise to be independent but to appreciate educational pursuits in and out of traditional school.

I am an identical twin and have an extremely close friendship with my sister. For years, it was the two of us versus the world and anything I chose to participate; sports, music, academic goals were mirrored by my sister. We rarely were separated and this fragment of my identity had a major role in the shaping of my compatability with other and my social skills. Being a twin especially an identical is unique because of the need for biological inheritance.  My sister and I share both DNA as well as similar interests. This experience has been one of the most meaningful but confusing because I had both a soulmate but also a stunted personal identity. The two of us chose attend different colleges but this does not eradicate the need for personal identity apart from each other.

As a biracial child with economic standing I have often lived in predominantly white neighborhoods and had mostly white friends. Growing up I understood commands in Spanish and was taught how to cook Mexican cuisine, but that was the limit to my exposure to my Latina identity. As I got older, I became more proactive and joined inclusive groups and took classes, but I always had a disconnect from my racial background. Much of my racial conception came for personal inquiry and a desire to understand and ultimately love my bloodline. Fitting into a race, whether it be my Irish father’s side or my mexican mother’s, just become much harder being a “mestizo.” My first girlfriend whose goal in life was to be a hardcore Chicana and Latinx activist often made me feel out of place.

My parents divorced when I was a fifth grader and mother remarried. I was introduced to a stepmother and her three children. My family became the modern Brady Bunch. My experience shifted quickly and I was introduced to the queer community. I became less confined to the “traditional” roles of males and females. I had always been a self proclaimed activist, humanist, and feminist child but as I began to be more exposed things like a liberal concepts. I took on my church’s principles and inquired the mean behind dogma with my religious teachers. Much to the chagrin of my father, an ardent catholic, I dropped my faith all together and became a self proclaimed agnostic as an act of rebellion.  Later, I too came out as gay and took on the role of a member of the LGBTQ community by participating in activism and Pride parades. This help affirm my acceptance and pride in my identity as a queer female.

The word oppression comes to mind when the idea of identity is called into play. Primarily because much of identity has to do with what makes a certain experience more viable and the more the struggle it seems the more the need for a labeled identity.   June Jordan in her short story “Reporting for the Bahamas” calls out people who think that finding singular similarities, “as automatic concepts of connection” with one another because that is when it becomes the only connecting factor “race and class and gender absolutely collapse.” Jordan attest to the absurdity of seeing another human with a similarity and believing this means there is a proclivity for friendship or kindness between the two people. I am not the words that make up my identity but an eclectic incorporation of all the small details. Incidentally, there was an SAT question that very similarly asking the applicant to explain their person through the lens of a unique and personal identity. Is that possible anymore? I identify as a woman, as Latina, as homosexual, as an athlete, as feminist, as a democrat, but these words only capture parts of me. I identify with many qualities but saying that one is my whole persona is not only limiting but also in its own way deceitful.