Guest Post: Defining my Own Identity
Today, I am sharing the words of guest contributor Daki who is exploring her sense of identity as a woman of colour by adding her own definition: an 'Interbeing'. This might be a definition that you relate to or something you find challenging. We will be exploring different contributors' approaches to navigating their own understanding of identity with each of these posts.
Each guest piece will be shared with the intention of creating a safe space in which the contributor defines and uses labels that feel right to them. I encourage you to read Daki's story with an open heart and if you have an identity story to share, I would love to give it a home here. Drop me your idea via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels and me, we’ve been at war since the beginning. Like some phantom island, perennially confounding its would-be cartographers, I have stubbornly lived my life as an Interbeing, resisting categorisation, refusing the labels that tried to define and reduce my inherent diversity.
As a child, when family and culture tried to sever me into convenient tags-‘south asian’, ‘indian’, ‘sri lankan’,‘high caste’- the Interbeing Me saw only the indivisible wholeness of my inner human identity. My identity existed between and outside labels, without ever being defined or reduced by them.
As a young adult, when society and the pervasive tentacles of the media tried to trap me in more labels, ('brown', 'exotic', 'wide-hipped', 'full lipped'), I could still see only one reflection in the mirror. My reflection was that of an Interbeing; interconnected within my own diversity, with a sense of self that went beyond the social constructs that sought to discriminate and alienate me from other human beings.
As 16 turned into 17 though, I started to glimpse another world that my label-blind Interbeing self had been unaware of. It was a world of self-contained, self-policed, and fiercely insulated identities that firmly fixed a human being in terms of skin colour, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and all the other -isms and schisms we use to separate us from others. This was a world ruled by the power of an invisible yet very real set of laws: the Othering-Laws that governed the giving and taking of love.
When these Othering-Laws said that a frizzy-haired, chocolate-skinned girl like me was allowed to love and be loved, by someone from only specific categories, my Interbeing heart said no. I knew that my heart skipped a thousand beats for all the spaces in between those boundaries. I longed for hair, and eyes, and skin that is undefined by Othering categories too.
Upon finding love, the same Othering-Laws screamed out more clever labels like ‘race traitor’, ‘whitewasher’, ‘sellout’, and again, I said no. Loving outside the skin-colour I’m assigned is not an automatic denial of my own beautiful brownness. And so, label after label, this battle between my Interbeing and the Othering-Police took me, scarred and wearied, into my twenties.
Then, the election came with an impossible president, with an impossible face, skin colour, and heritage. The world seemed to tilt; the divide-and-dissect pillars of the Othering-Laws seemed to shake and crumble in the face of Obama's Whitehouse. In the wake of those 8 years of unparalleled visibility and validation for the maligned and marginalised I, like so many others who had resisted categorisation, stepped out of the shadows. It felt safe to love again; to love without boundaries and censorship, to love without being ‘othered’.
An Interbeing’s dream for a post-label future of true intersec(x)tionality suddenly seemed possible. I felt hope for a future where labels exist only as fluid, temporary identities that meld and merge and dance with each other, in an endless exploration of the diversity that truly defines the human condition.
Nowadays, as a dark-skinned single mother, raising two little girls in this Trumpian America, I feel, yet again, the maternal anxieties that arise in my Interbeing heart as I look at my babies. Being raised in their beautiful isolation of forest and woodland, as yet unbound by all the boundaries that society will stitch them up with. I dread the day they understand what’s being said when ‘mixed-race’ and ‘multiracial’ are slip, slap, slopped on their innocent faces.
Shall I teach them to politely retort, the way I do, with their own defiant label on something that should never require one? Or shall I teach them acts of more quiet resistance, of nurturing the skill of always seeing themselves from within, from that place where their indefinable uniqueness is never doubted, censored, or imprisoned?
Of one thing I am certain; their Interbeing future is mine to protect, and the battle is far from won. I am an Interbeing, I am a rebel, and I will live in resistance, as I have always done.
Daki is the writer, creator and designer at A Duckling Knits. She lives in a small rural setting where she raises her two children as a single parent. You can find her on Instagram as @aducklingknits.