How many forms of identification do you have?

In my life, I have moved through many forms of identification. No, I'm not talking about laminated plastic, though I have had many of those too, from Jr. High school cards that let me ride the bus for cheap, to driver's licenses and modern big brother shopping discount cards. I'm talking about identification in the sense of identity politics.

While at times these identities were of primary importance to me, they have eventually been superceded or subsumed. Not completely rejected, in most cases, but integrated into new identities.

The first, after the default hetero (though rather asexual in my implementation) was gay. That served me well from the time when I was about 19 and tearfully confronted myself and wrote the word "gay" on my hand, identifying myself. (though not yet to the world -- I washed it off right away.)

The next, adopted the summer after college, 1988, was "faerie." I met Harry Hay and John Burnside and attended my first faerie gathering that year. I remember the internal debate as to whether I could call myself that. Was it too blatant, too radical? But if I could frolic naked in the woods, I could call myself a faerie.

Next was 1990, the year of the queer. Once again, the word caused debate, but I embraced it. "Gay" had come to mean assimilation, and I was not for that -- I was a queer national. (note the problemity of using a term suggesting nationalism for a movement that was supposed to be radically leftist.)

In about 1993, I encountered the first person I'd ever met who identified as a "chubby chaser." I recognized this attraction in myself, as I was (and still am) in a relationship with a fat guy, but I did not think of myself as a chaser. And I did not publicly identify myself with the phrase, though I did write a piece in my zine about being attracted to big men.

The post-identity politics of the zine Riot Boy intrigued me in the late 90s. I considered moving beyond gay identity. To identify as someone who simply slept with men. But I felt I'd invested too much in gay and queer identity. Some think of queer as an ever-broadening post-identity identity. The word still has freshness, despite its occasional use as a synonym for assimilationist gay.

Proposals have been made that all queers should identify as transgender. I do not so identify myself, though I do have trouble calling myself a man -- guy is more my style.

Another identity that has recently emerged is "Same Gender Loving" (SGL), but its originators would probably prefer that the identification be reserved for African American men. Whether other people of color, or even white people, choose to adopt that identity remains to be seen. Identities are like Bruce Sterling's avalanches, uncontrollable once launched.

Sometimes I just prefer the cold, scientific word with mixed language roots, "homosexual." Or even the playground taunt "homo." It's not an identity, just a word.


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