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2023-01-09 · 791 words · 4 min

“it”

Thoughts on identity


Identity

Identity is a fascinating thing. It’s a foundation upon which to build an understanding of one’s place in the world; a powerful lens through which to analyze, justify, and validate one’s feelings and experiences of self. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s exceedingly difficult to think about identity without relating it to those very feelings and experiences.

Over years, a struggle with depersonalization​/​derealization slowly erodes one’s ability to think about themselves as an active participant in past events; it becomes harder and harder to identify what part of oneself, except the physical body, remains constant in one’s experiences. It denies a foundation upon which to build an identity.

I’ve eventually come to accept that as an immutable fact—that having an identity at all would be, for me, like “preferring to sleep on one’s back” or “having dark eyes”; a minor qualifier, an optional attribute which contributes to the whole of one’s existence for some people by random chance, and by that same random chance simply is not part of mine. It felt wrong to try and identify with a gender, a name, even an on-screen handle; “slavfox” is just a couple of nouns—“Slav”, “fox”—not a true Name like those proudly worn by most. In the past I’d gone even further in declining to attach a Name to myself, using Unicode code points (U+26B8 BLACK MOON LILITH) or even entirely numeric sequences as handles online.

The concept of identity was the uncanny valley of my experience of self. Never quite right, always just slightly uncomfortable, just slightly wrong enough for me to reject it entirely, to give up on finding “my place” and ignore the concept wholesale.

I’d never felt like identifying with any gender was appealing to me, either. I’d pick my characters in video games purely based on which voice actor, model, sprite, or storyline I liked better, treating gender much the same way as character class. In situations that involved my physical body—say, doing voices when playing a tabletop RPG, or even just the way I present entirely—I’d just default to my assigned gender, not because I identified with it, but simply because it was the path of least resistance; feeling an identity was not necessary or relevant to me, therefore it would have been illogical to spend any effort on nurturing one.

For that same reason I never had any pronoun preference; for pronouns to feel wrong when applied to me, there would have to be some that feel right. In the absence of those, I’d bounced between using any pronouns or just defaulting to they/them for convenience.

Then, one day, I had an encounter that planted a seed of curiosity in my mind; a seed which would take years to germinate, but a seed nevertheless.

It/its

There are probably as many reasons for which one may choose to embrace “it/its” as there are those who do so.

“It/its as an alternative to they/them.”
“It/its as a refusal to conform.”
“It/its like an object.”
“It/its like an animal.”

The one I met was something else. It not only refused to be described, but was empowered by that defiance, wearing it so proudly and naturally that it felt incomprehensible to think of it in any other way. Not just it/its like an object or an animal or something otherwise inhuman, but like gravity, like fear, like Hell, like nuclear fission. Like a concept.

For the first time, something about identity felt intriguing. The very act of rejecting its foundation by adopting the nonhumanity of it/its could serve as a foundation for understanding oneself.

Without the option of relating to other identities, experiences, feelings, first one must invent the universe.

Finding it/its turned something nameless, refusing to be described, irrelevant and decoupled from everything else, into a concept that exists in an entire system, entire universe of concepts to relate and compare itself to. Rejecting “human” pronouns grants so much power to something that previously was indescribable and abstract by providing a counterpoint to distinguish itself from; a starting point for the search for whatever a fox is.

In much the same way that it’s not quite possible to truly understand what it means for something to be “heavy” without first recognizing that things have mass and mass can be different for different things, it/its serves, for me, to recognize and affirm that the degree to which the concept of identity applies to someone is itself wildly variable. To enable one to build its understanding of itself from there.

And that feels right.


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