I’m A…

Identity (film)
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I’m not wild about labels. On cans, sure.

But people?

Here’s an interesting Slate essay about the difference between Latino/a and Hispanic.

I met a woman recently who said she was a “moderate Republican.” It’s fair to describe my sweetie as a “devout Buddhist.” I know a woman, an artist, who could fairly say she’s a “passionate flea marketer.”

In an era of identity politics, when identifying as member of one group can alienate members of another, how “loud and proud” are we?

My first book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” is about the intersection of women and firearms in the U.S. I was fascinated — and depressed — to find that most people assumed I must be a gun-owner, user or even fanatic.


I’ve never owned one, nor plan to. I did shoot a bunch of different handguns as research, but am quite able, as a career journalist, to write about all sorts of issues without attaching myself to them emotionally or investing in that identity or personal allegiance.

That’s what being a traditional news journalist means — finding and reporting stories, not signing up for every cause or group.

Other than our work titles or job descriptions, or our family relationships (Mom, husband, sister, nephew), how do we choose to define ourselves to the wider world?

Words can have such different meanings to many people; one person’s definition of “conservative” (fiscally but not socially) might signal the red flag of a very different belief system to someone else.

I’m liberal in some ways, politically and otherwise, but quite conservative in others, like finances and the way I often dress.

I’m comfortable saying publicly I’m a(n):











I recently took the vows of a bodhisattva. Gulp. Big job!

I doubt I’ll be using that one in social conversation any time soon, but it’s a role I’ve felt strongly about for a while.

How about you?

What are some of your identities?

20 thoughts on “I’m A…

  1. I love this post. People are too intent on finding a group, a corner, or a crowd to identify with. My dad was shocked to hear that politically I tend to be more conservative. No one who’s talked to me, seen my tie-dyed wardrobe or knew me in my Nose Ring phase would ever suspect that!

    1. Exactly! One of the most interesting aspects of my recent eight-day silent retreat is that it removed the typical self-labeling we all do when we meet new people…It was up to us based only on visual information to decide who people were (and discover later how wrong we might have been!)

      I think people are like diamonds — multi-faceted and often revealing only a very few sides at once, or to people we do not yet know well enough to trust. But we read only that precis and go from there.

  2. jacquelincangro

    It’s sad that most people can’t distinguish what a journalist’s job description is. That journalists are supposed to find and report the news in an unbiased way must be a revelation to anyone watching television news today.

    1. No argument on that point. The problem is the word “journalist” is like the word “blue”….It can be a sleazy tabloid hack or a trusted resource who spends a lot of time and energy to get it right. When all you — a civilian — see or know is crap journalism, well….

  3. I love the term aesthete! And have never known it until now. I will surely be using it to describe myself in the future.

    There are so many things that do, in actuality, describe me well but I would always hesitate to label myself with due to the connotations people often associate with the labels. And often I find myself wondering why we feel the need for labels at all. Why can we not just meet people where they are an draw our own conclusions about them and how we should or can relate to them without the need for sociopolitical boxes.

    Thansk for the thoughts!

  4. I also like the word sensualist but it seems a little too erotic for me…:-)

    I am sad and miserable when not surrounded by visual beauty. It can be as simple as a sunset, but ugly places make me really unhappy..

  5. I am so not into labels. My Twitter says I’m a writer, reader, dreamer, traveler, coffee-drinker.

    I am also my father’s daughter, Sarge’s best thing since sliced bread, and the shrink my friends don’t have to pay.

    I believe in coffee, Democracy, Freedom of Love and Speech, The Universe, and the benevolent spirits of my Grandparents and other family members I wish I could have coffee with.

    And I sit a lot.

    (Please stop by for my blogivarsary, and tell me your favourite post! I mentioned you!)


  6. Phil

    Perhaps first and foremost, I am an enigma. I’d like to think of myself as a multifaceted rare gem, sparkling and radiating light and a valuable treasure. More likely however, I’m probably just a plain old disco ball – schmaltzy, dated, and while perhaps interesting, not as rare or valuable… πŸ™‚

  7. Wherever you’re getting your topical inspiration from, I want in. Also, “aesthete” is brilliant!

    I’ve given up on definitions, because what one person agrees with, another will pooh-pooh. Fraught with danger πŸ˜€ But I will give it a go. At the moment:

    1. reader
    2. writer (rusty, but present)
    3. enabler. I am just realising this particular bent in my persona. Have lately I’ve discovered that I can be pretty good at helping others realise their goals.
    4. free spirit

    Definitions of myself I would like to have (capitalized and all):

    Photographer – I’m still learning to say “i’m a photographer” with a straight face. I can’t at the moment, as i haven’t measured up to my own (reasonable, i would say) standards, nevermind anyone else’s.

    Writer – get good at this thing I am compelled to do with words. Make a semi-profession out of it.

    Story Teller – Making all the stories accessible to all levels of audience. That is the main goal, where all the others converge at.

  8. I used to be very comfortable calling myself a feminist, but then i felt like I got some backlash for not being feminist enough. Random observation, but the feminist culture should be more welcoming – don’t you want more people to identify as feminist? Don’t shame them into thinking they aren’t good enough. -End rant- πŸ™‚

  9. Lewis

    An excerpt of “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson:
    I am a part of all that I have met;
    Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
    Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever when I move.

    I see myself as perpetually evolving.
    Parameters continuously resetting, striving for more. Yet also cognisant that I am much like a jellyfish; their composition being mostly water- my composition mostly the people I’ve met and places I’ve been.

    1. Neat perspective.

      I recently did a Buddhist retreat that focused on the nature of one’s mind. I’m never quite sure who I am. Labels abound but how many of them really fit? Like you, I know I’ve been deeply affected, for better and worse, by some of the people and places I’ve experienced.

  10. Okay so being an Aussie with European sprinkles, I am amused by “traveller” (I use the British spelling) – in the UK, it’s more or less a gypsy! Anyway, just catching up with your fabulous blog after an absence and felt the need to comment here.

    I used to say “I’m European, just born in Australia”… Then I went to Europe and realised just how Aussie I am! I’m a writer. I’m a mother. I’m a social historian. I’m a thinker. I’m an exaggerator. I’m a perfectionist. I’m a critic. Gee, I find labels so hard too!

    1. I’m a big fan of social history — but do you exaggerate when you wriite it?! No……
      I’m also a perfectionist.

      I get the challenge of deciding where you belong. I left Canada feeling too American. In the U.S, though I always feel far more European than Canadian or American; I recently met a Swiss man at a conference and we hit it off in a way that would have been impossible with an American. It’s a way of thinking, I guess. I’m probably really a mix of all three.

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