My Identity

I’ve been in a few discussions recently where folks are quick to point out that I am a Cis-White-Male. They are correct on all accounts. (BTW: Cis means cisgendered or same-gendered.) I thought I’d write a little about what that means to me in terms of personal identity, as well as what I see as my own primary sense of identity. I also want to talk about my thoughts on why and how people use this in discussions. I’ll start with the latter.

How it comes up

The point of pointing out these things is clearly to say that I am in a privileged and dominant social position and that this colors my outlook on issues related to race, gender, and sexuality. They are not trying to define who I am as a person. At least that’s my take on it. Sometimes it is part of an argument to undercut my contentions, sometimes an indictment to get me to shut up, and sometimes to say my perspective is limited. On the perspective point, I entirely agree, we are all partly trapped by our perspective.

On the perspective point, I entirely agree, we are all partly trapped by our perspective. I can read about how others feel, but that isn’t quite the same as being them. I’ll likely never know first hand what it’s like not to be top of the social power pyramid. It doesn’t work well as a way to get me to shut up, the best plan there is to say, “Sig, please shut up, we don’t want to hear what you have to say about this.” That works way better than insinuating I’m not entitled to a voice due to my heritage or innate sexuality. As an effort to undercut an argument; I’m receptive to hearing it, but not highly likely to accept it unless a good reason is provided why my status mean’s I’m wrong, otherwise it’s a Genetic Fallacy and I don’t put much stock in it.

Sometimes the statement comes with a bit of animosity, and that I accept, though I don’t feel at all guilty for it. People who have been marginalized by the dominant culture, have a reason and right to be angry about that. While I may or may not be part of that culture (well get to that) I make a good stand in, especially when people don’t know me personally. While angry responses do raise my emotions, I put in the Emotional Labor to set those feelings aside and try to remain calm in the discussion, to accept the anger and move on.

Just how Cis-White-Male am I?

Lots, at least on the surface. From a perspective of social privilege, definitely lots. I look absolutely white, and while I’ve not been tested for genetic heritage, my family tree is pretty focused on northern Europe: Germany and England specifically. I tend to look like a big Viking and I presume that’s part of my genetic background. I’m male, and I have a very masculine physique and dress to accentuate that when I’m trying to impress. Even when I dress counter to that, the juxtaposition tends to accentuate my masculinity anyway. I’m married and talk about that pretty often, so again, outwardly plenty obviously straight. Cis doesn’t really speak to sexual orientation but it seems to stand in for straight in this context fairly often.

Internally, I feel I’m less of these things. They are more, “unremarkable realities.” Of them, Male is definitely something I identify with. I feel masculine and take some pride in being big and strong and a little scary. I like power and I’m naturally kind of aggressive, competitive, and the like. I like to think I have a feminine side as well but it’s not dominant. I’ve sometimes considered, “what if I were born, or magically became a woman?” My feeling is that I’d embrace that role for the most part. I’d enjoy femininity, though I might be a tomboy in due to that competitive and aggressive vibe. I imagine if I had a woman’s body I’d have a woman’s sex drives and thus still be heterosexual.

For me, being “straight” is purely a matter of biological and instinctive impulses. I’m attracted to women sexually, and not to men. The idea of gay sex with a man is a bit “oogy” to me. Intellectually, I’ve got no issue with homosexuality. I think male bodies are beautiful in their own way, I’m just not aroused by them sexually. I think were I a woman then, I would be and would feel non-aroused by women’s bodies, but would still find them beautiful. I’d describe my overall sex drive as kind of tepid, and as a result, it’s never been a huge part of my life or identity. Hormones I have, and they do their thing, but my observation is they are a much more powerful influence on other men when compared to myself. I’m aware of periods in my life where some friends suspected I was gay due to a lack of signaling being straight.

Being white comes last on my list of self-identity of the three. I just don’t give that a whole bunch of thought except for in the context of talking about race. Mind you, I talk about it pretty often as I am deeply offended by the idea that one person is less valuable as a human being than another based on their skin color, bloodline, or heritage. And again, culturally, I am well aware that I don’t need to identify as White to receive all the privileges that come with it in American society. I recognize that being white impacts my perspective and thus my thinking, but I try hard to escape that intellectually.

So what am I then?

The two things I most want to be, strive for and think of myself as are Thoughtful and Ethical. With “Thoughtful” standing in for a combination of being smart, clever, and wise or at least, striving for those things. Of the two, I’m a lot more likely to be embarrassed and concerned by not being Ethical. That is a core value for me and I try to evaluate my actions based on it. I know I don’t always succeed and the few regrets I have in life tend to center around unethical actions I’ve taken, especially those I knew to be unethical when I did them. Being stupid I am more apt to accept since I feel that part of wisdom is realizing you still have a lot to learn.

I also like to be seen as powerful. There is certainly vanity in that, but being honest, it’s one of the things I try to signal to others. For me, that power is not in the form of lording over others, but in having no one above me without my willing acceptance. I can readily give my fealty, but it cannot be taken by force. At least that is what I desire to be true and like to project. Put these three together and you have my archetype of the hero, the savior, the paladin and so on. And that is the aspiration of who I am. Throw in a little sage poet and clever trickster and you get the whole Sigfried self-identity package.

I’m also very much the outsider in my own mind. This one is in a strange contrast with reality, especially considering the whole privilege idea. I like to be thought of as Strange, Different, Exceptional, an Outlier, Weird, Eccentric and so on. I root for the underdog and identify with the rebel. I tend to be a little uncomfortable when I am considered to be part of the majority, or associated with whatever is popular. When I was a kid, I was pretty odd, and got beat up and teased for it often. But I never wished to be part of the gang or to, heaven forbid, blend in. I only wished folks would like whatever weird thing I was doing instead of mock it. As I got older, I learned how to make that happen in most situations. I’ve also learned to not try so hard to stand out day to day and just stick to whatever genuine weirdness is within me.

You may see how this desire to be different is a little in conflict with the whole Cis-White-Male reality of my life. Honestly, it doesn’t play out that way inside my mind. Since those aren’t a big part of my identity, they don’t have much weight in my conception of being exceptional. Since Thoughts and Ethics are somewhere in my core identity, it is there I tend to try to display my strangeness. Fashion has often been the place I can most outwardly stand out and be weird. The practicalities of my current nomad lifestyle make that impractical.

Once upon a time, my love of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and all things geeky was a good signal for me. But somehow, popular culture decided those things were really awesome and what was once a large but fringe pleasure became one of the cornerstones of popular American culture. Reality is conspiring to make me more mainstream every day of my life.

One thing I am proud of… if you google “Sigfried Trent” everything you find will be me. At least in terms of my name, I am unique on the internet, and therefore, in my view, the world. This makes me happy to be me.





One Response to “My Identity

  • James Thomas
    7 years ago

    This was interesting, Sig. I can relate to your perspectives. ~JWT