Finding Your Identity
According to psychology, identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks, and/or expressions that make a person. Unlike your skin color or eye color, your identity is not given to you by your parents. Who you believe you are and who you will become, those are for you to decide. Your identity is yours for the choosing - others may have told you what to value, where to go, and who to be, but really, the choice is yours.
Everyone has intersecting identities. Everyone has an identity or lived experience that is influenced by their racial/ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religious/faith tradition, family structure, geographic origin, socioeconomic status, and ability/disability.
The importance of deaf culture and a rising community has skyrocketed and therefore it is important to understand why deaf identity and culture matters. Studies have shown that there are four variations of deaf identity. Although deaf individuals are NOT limited to these identities (as are hearing people are not limited to ANY identity), these have been proven to be the most common identities among the deaf:
Hearing identity: the individual resonates with the hearing culture and hearing culture only and recognizes deafness as a disability.
Marginal identity: the individual does not identify with the hearing culture or the deaf culture. They remain neutral.
Deaf identity immersion: the individual has a negative perception of the hearing culture and strongly aligns and identifies with the deaf culture.
Bicultural identities: the individual identifies themselves to belong within both cultures, the hearing culture, and deaf culture.
These variations have stemmed from research surrounding the concept of identity within deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. (Hearforyou.com.au).
Why does this matter? Finding your identity is hard - there are so many options and so many influences. Finding one’s deaf identity is one of the biggest challenges that any deaf or hard of hearing individual has to face – alongside the difficulties of living with a hearing loss. Your identity is personal to you and should not be influenced by others! It’s important to respect and understand your own needs and wants.
LGBTQA+ individuals face similar difficulties as deaf individuals when finding their identity. People often seek out community-based on identities that influence their lived experiences. For example, LGBTQIA+ identified folks may find community in LGBTIQA+ organizations but if an organization is not inclusive in terms of people who are not white, then an LGBTQIA+ person who is Asian or African American may not feel welcomed. However, those same people may not feel welcomed in a predominantly Asian or African American community if that community is not inclusive of people who are LGBTQIA+ identified.
The concept of identity isn’t always easy to grasp, in part because your identity naturally shifts and develops over life as you learn and grow. It’s normal to have some moments of confusion or self-doubt. When you consistently feel unfulfilled or struggle to name your needs and desires, consider taking the time for a little self-discovery. Who knows, that journey may allow you to grow and develop parts of your identity you didn’t even know existed.