For a while, my standard bio has included “writer, artist, Maude activist and novice game-maker” and omitted the rest of my potential laundry list of identity labels. The labels I have used are about what I do — what I do by choice, or at least without too much coercion by necessity or social pressure. Most are self-explanatory, while my “Harold and Maude” reference is perhaps a bit oblique. If you’ve read “A God’s Life,” you may have gotten the clue in “A test.” When Harold asks Maude if she’s done with revolts, she answers, in part, “Still fighting for the Big Issues, but now in my small, individual way.”
Not that I was ever an activist on the scale of Maude. Being always a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, I was a bureaucrat activist, booking the visits to legislators and paying the bills, talking as little as possible to either persons or crowds but doing it a great deal more than I wished, doing it because I had to, for the sake of the cause, the demands of the position, or because I was the only person-of-oppressed-class-X handy. That last was always my very favorite. (Need I employ the sarcasm tag?)
Several things I think of as important to who I am align with various identity-based movements, but I’ve tended to be uncomfortable with identity politics, though I’ve involved myself in them on and off, in the past to a very active degree. Coming to identity politics for refuge from the larger world of being-expected-to-be-what-I-am-not, instead of being thus freed, I found myself subject to all new unreasonable expectations as the price of admission to the community, often as rigidly enforced as the usual norms, or more so. Not all the groups I’ve been involved with have been dominated by identity boundary enforcers, but none have been devoid of them either.
And yet there is a reason still to employ these labels at times, which I shall get to after that laundry list of identity labels you’ve so patiently awaited. I give it to you here with only a little more ado, or rather a part of it, the parts that seem most important at present:
- aspie/autism spectrum/neuroatypical
- atheist who used to be a Jew but doesn’t particularly think ze is anymore
- mentally ill/crazy/disabled
- possessor nevertheless of the privilege attached to being white and American
What makes most of these labels important is that they involve things people get denigrated for. Why should the fact that people’s genitals aren’t really a factor in my attractions be a matter of identity? Because I think knowing people who are X may do more than anything else to counter the idea that people who are X can also be presumed to be anything else not fundamental to the definition of X, or to being human. So I feel a duty to be “out” about such things.
Being a Maude activist, I try not to restrain any of my queernesses (though one is to be often so quiet very little of me is particularly perceptible much of the time).
These labels name things important to who I am, but they aren’t so important in determining whom I can relate to, or who’s likely to relate to me or my writing. Some of my closest friends are straight cisgender males! Though each part is important to me, none is me, as no part is the whole of anyone.
Being a Maude activist, I try to be my whole self at all times (though I often fail).