What’s in an identity Or Who is Jessica Rae?
This is the thirteenth article in a series I’m writing on gender. Equal parts personal narrative and transgender studies I hope to explore topics that have, by-and-large, been nagging at me for some time, but that I haven’t taken the time to write about. What do video games have to do with gender? What do Tumblr, lexicographers, and transtrenders have in common? Why should anyone care about the personal stories of a girl from small town rural Georgia? This series hopes to cover all of this and more. Have a topic you’d like me to write about? Leave a comment or tweet me @JessieRaeFisher.
As a consequence of being an unapologetic tumblrina-ing transtrender and being raised on Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw and My New Gender Workbook, I have always found myself in favor of encouraging folks to find and use the identity language that works for them. In this series I have written in support of neopronouns and the proliferation of gender identity language. I myself identify as: agender, transgender, woman, and cyborg. I both jokingly and seriously use wa/was/waself pronouns (pronounced: “wah”/ “wahs” / “wah-self,” after Wario).
I have a pretty understanding and supportive group of people around me. When I said that I was going to adopt a second first name, people were really encouraging.
But for adopting as many pronoun sets as I have, and considering coming out with a third first name, the reality I have to face is a continued crisis of identity.
Graduate student. Writer. Activist. Hopefully-again-sometime-in-the-future Organizer. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Niece. Granddaughter. Friend. For all of this, I feel like I am floating. And I’m looking for something to ground me. So I’ll say, “Well, let’s use these new pronouns,” or “Let’s try this new name;” I try writing more fiction one week, the next back to academia, the next, journaling, the next, poetry; I try to be a more active and better aunt and sister, or daughter, or friend — but in the end, I’m still left with a feeling of emptiness.
“Well,” they say, “you can’t be extrinsically motivated,” and so I try to follow my heart and do the work that I want to do. But I’m a hungry, working class millennial. Come-of-age in the era of content creators and raised by a man who told me when I was still in elementary school that writing is hungry work. If my intrinsic motivation is to affect change with my writing, is it cheating or breaking the rules that I want to see evidence of my writings reach or impact (the answer is probably, “Yes,”).
Identity. When I feel this way I wonder if I’ll always feel this way. I often hope that medically transitioning will alleviate some of this (it is always worth stating and can never be overstated that medical transition is not the only way to be trans, but that I do hope to alleviate my physical, and maybe social, dysphorias with medical transition).
Commonly, a response to this is that physical transition won’t matter if I haven’t learned to love myself. Which has been said to me so often and for so long, that I don’t know anymore how to tell if I love myself or not. I would have to suppose that, at the very least, I give off the impression that I loathe myself. Anyone who might think that I loathe myself believes that I have a solid idea of a myself whom I could loathe. Otherwise, they know of the uncertainty, the lack of a me, or a my or a self that I feel, that causes what might come across as senses of loathing. I do loathe feeling lost. I do loathe that I can’t seem to find any place to set myself down in. I do loathe the sense I have that every day when I wake up I have to readjust to a corporeal existence. I know, as well as we think we can know such things, that this body that I am typing this with is my body, as much as I can own such a thing while living in a capitalist, transmisogynistic society. I try to love it as best I’ve been taught to love a body. I give it water, I feed it, I shower it, I walk it for mild exercise, I try not to over- or undersleep.
“It?!” the reader might ask, incredulously, “‘It’ is your own self.”
In the most existential way I can possibly mean it, who is myself? If I can not locate myself in or on the body which is supposedly mine, and I can not contain it within names, pronouns or other labels, then who or what is me who or what is myself?
I’m tempted to highlight an idea that each person I interact with sees me in their own way. In this way there are countless iterations of myself. But the problem doesn’t exist at the edges where differentiation may occur, but at the core. The problem, as it is, exists because I remain insecure about what comprises the core.
This is not something I thought to write on a whim. This feeling is not something that I have felt for a short time. It is something I have lived with for a long time. It might ebb and flow, but it never fully stops and it never fully ceases. I may make strides toward a fuller feeling of a me and a myself, a connection between identity and body, but I haven’t ever locked in in any way that has been permanent.
As I have written, and continue to write about identity, identity formation, the roles that video games, the internet, social media and digital media at large play in identity and identity formation, and as I consider the relationship between fleshy corporeality with techno-corporeality, it is infinitely important to make note of my realities as a writer, researcher, academic, etc. and the perspectives and frustrations that I bring to my work.
Have questions? Don’t be afraid to leave them in the comments below! Questions asked may turn into pieces written in the future!
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