When asked what my identity is, I often have to pause and think. Which identity are we talking about? Are we referring to the identity created by social factors? Then I am a cis-gendered straight white male. Are we referring to the identity that sounds like a personality? In that case I am loud, friendly family man from a small-town. But this dichotomy is deceptive because everyone has multiple identities and everyone has one identity. An important concept when it comes to topics of identity is that of intersectionality. One’s identity does not come from looking at all of their identities in isolation, but rather looking at how each identity (male, white, straight, etc.) combines and intersects to define a person. So while I am a man, I am also a white man (and so on and so forth), and each of these definitions carries with it a bit more meaning.
Identity is a strange mix of what you are born with and personal choice. By this I mean that certain aspects of your identity, such as your ethnicity, are not up to your decision. But other parts of your identity, such as your profession, are determined by your own personal choices. Most of the big social markers that we think about, like sexuality, are those that we are given. Which makes it all the more unfair considering the world at large places great value on these traits. But remember, you are also defined by the identity you choose for yourself. While you people will always see and define you by factors beyond your control, people will also see and define you by your own chosen identifiers. Your personal identity intersects with your social identity.
Looking at my own social identity it is easy to see that I have the most privileged combination of all major factors, save for class. This greatly impacts both how I see the world and how the world sees me. All my life I have been shielded from prejudice and steeped in privilege; the world has been exceptionally forgiving of my errors. When I made a mistake, it was taken as a misstep on a path to high achievement, as opposed to an indication of some greater failing. Due to how kindly the world has treated me, I definitely see the world in a softer light. But because I can see that this kindness was also born out of my privilege, I know that I must turn a critical eye to the world. I must call out injustice and inequality in the world, and I must use the power that I possess due to my privilege to help rectify these wrongs. I have seen what a good life is like and I am optimistic that one day this will not be a privileged life, it will be the standard. But if you take one look around the world, you know that we are centuries away from this dream. One day, however, I believe it will be a reality.