This is kind of hard to write, because I haven’t talked about this a whole lot, but it’s a really really really central piece of my philosophy that I’m trying to put together. Basically I’m trying to talk about how a lot of people are completely incapable of forming normative identities.
This happens an ultralot with neurodivergent people, for instance lots of people on the schizo* spectrum don’t identify as anything at all, or frequently experience depersonalization and derealization, in which they’re not real and neither is anything else. Unstable identity is one of the diagnostic criteria of BPD, and lots of Borderline people will tell you how they feel like they don’t have personalities, or are made up entirely of other people with no identity of their own. When it comes to people in plural systems, it’s like, not even rare for us to be other people, or to be fictional characters or mythological figures — some never age, and thus have a thoroughly different relationship to time. Trauma-based and natural systems alike report having non-human members, or members with differing ability levels or gender identities or racial identities than the body, or who identify with experiences the body couldn’t possibly have had.
And the way identity is constructed in dominant discourse has nothing to do with science or evidence. It is purely a philosophical cultural meme. Which means? Person-body conflation is a social construct. The idea that the identity is devalued while the body is the ultimate authority on who a person or being or system is is socially constructed. The idea that there even has to be a coherant picture of who someone is, is socially constructed.
And that doesn’t mean that none of those things are real — I’m saying that to point out that anyone claiming that any of the claims in the first paragraph are illegitimate is speaking from a position of bigotry and social conservatism rather than any actual intellectual high ground.
And so since I can verify all those experiences — I or others in my system experience most of them, and the rest I can speak to through having met people who do — I can say that they’re all real as fuck, and they’ve caused us all serious distress or at least complicated our lives.
So when someone says they identify as a toaster, or they identify as say d/Deaf, and others reply with, “no, you can’t identify as a toaster, you can’t identify as d/Deaf” — it’s like, okay, plenty of my identities aren’t a whole lot more plausible than being a toaster and some of them are arguably less so, and they certainly seem less so to me.
I have to acknowledge that they’re talking from a bigoted, conservative cultural context in which they believe a person to be equal to a body, in which there needs to be a coherant picture of who someone ~is~, and in which they don’t really care about the way a person identifies — they know better.
And that is the basis of so, so many bigotries and oppressions throughout history, the idea that ultimately, self-identification isn’t the bottom line of who a person is. Oppression operates, fundamentally, by taking away a group of peoples’ abilities to define themselves, and deciding that a privileged group knows best. That is what oppression is. I feel like in order to fight oppression — pretty much any oppression, really, I want to really deconstruct the ability of people to say “no, you can’t identify as a toaster, I get to define both you and toasters, and I say you can’t be a toaster.”
Because when someone says that they can decide how someone else is allowed to identify it makes me feel like I can’t talk about my experiences of non-normative identity formation, and it makes me really hesitant to reveal my trans identity, and — it really intersects with a whole. lot. of different forms of oppression and is oppressive, basically no matter what.
It just makes me feel really gross for reasons related to ableism and neurotypicalism because there are lots of people whose brains don’t work in the same way and who *can’t* identify the way these same bigots want us to. And I don’t care why a toasterkin would feel that way, or why a bigot would say they can’t — it makes me feel how it makes me feel and I’m just being real right now.