Sunday, November 25, 2012

Identity


In the fall of 2012 I saw the video of Lana Wachowski’s acceptance speech from the HRC.  This speech made me think strongly of my struggles with identity.  She had her own struggle based on gender identity.  I had mine with being defined by labels, some of which I was placing on myself.  I was defining myself based on my physical limitations, my cleft palate, lip and hearing impairment.  I am not my limitations; I am a sum of all my parts and experiences.  I stopped doing this years ago in my twenties.  After a long abusive relationship, I found myself identifying myself with my limitations again.  This is the result of putting so much of myself into the relationship.  I lost sight of who I was, I defined myself by being my ex’s caretaker and defined myself the way she did.  She defined herself by her illnesses and limitations.  As a kid I learned to stop asking what I could not do, but what I could do.  A long conversation with Kaebel Hashitani helped me rethink that pattern of thinking.  Being born with a birth defect I have found that my insides did not match what was outside, because of this I have often felt a kinship to the LGBT community although I do not belong to it.  I had also always felt to be an outsider looking in, just because of an accident of genetics.

One label I clung to was Geek and/ or Nerd.  I am so much more.  I am educated, resourceful, playful, irreverent, knowledgeable, perceptive and kind, at the least.  Like many in the Geek/ Nerd community I have my social quirks, most of those are due to being isolated from my peers at a young age due to hospitalization.  That should never be an excuse, so when I find I do something that is awkward towards someone else I do my best not to repeat it.  One of my gifts in handling my physical limitations is being able to read faces and body language, so I try to be less oblivious than when I was younger.  I also work to not allow my passions to over rule me.  Passions can become obsessions and unhealthy ones at that.  I may be a Geek and a Nerd, but that is not the be all and end all of what I am.  Recently I have found a home within the Portland, Oregon Geek/ Nerd Community.  A majority of folks there have made me feel welcome.  They have also helped me in healing my wounds from my previous situation.

My Racial/ Ethnic/ Cultural identity has been interesting.  I grew up in what appeared to be a standard Blue Collar Caucasian American household.  My neighborhood and hometown was more interesting.  My neighborhood’s ethnic make-up was 6o% Mexican-American and 40% everything else.  This was in the early Seventies during the Chicano power movement.  I dealt with anti-white sentiment from my peers very young.  I learned to overcome the animosity I felt from this period.  My hometown of Oxnard, California had a large and influential Japanese-American community as well.  I have a Filipino Aunt who taught my mother her culture’s cuisine.  When it came to food my household was extremely multi-cultural.  When my family moved to Oregon full time, I found myself in white bread land.  I soon realized how much I was impacted by Mexican-American culture growing up.  I learned both Square Dancing and Traditional Mexican Dancing in grade school.  My mom learned how to make homemade tortillas from the neighbor ladies.  So I find myself in Yamhill County and it definitely in the Eighties had very little Cultural variety.   In College and my Twenties I was introduced to Hawaiian culture by friends from that culture.  They embraced me and I learned that thanks to my Aunt we had some of the same cultural touchstones.  My Hawaiian friends taught me more of their culture.  Now, I do not claim any right to Hawaiian, Mexican-American, Japanese-American, Filipino and any other culture that has impacted me over the years.  I cannot speak for them.  My life however is richer by their influences upon me.

In my twenties I learned My Paternal Grandfather was Jewish.  I tried to learn about that part of my heritage, but came up against a few roadblocks.  First, it was on my father’s side of the family, according to many branches of Judaism the heritage follows the mother’s side.  Second, I was not raised in that culture or religion so had not clue how to behave.  I may have made some serious mistakes. I grew up being raised in a Protestant Christian household, not as strict as my mother or paternal grandmother; both grew up Pentecostal.  Third, I was viewed as an outsider by some and that did not help.  I met many folks who helped me understand.   I also found out when I was 11, than my paternal Grandmother had Native American heritage.  Learning about this was even more difficult.  Even though I resemble that side of the family, I appear to be totally Caucasian.  Native Americans have experienced a lot of crap from White Americans.  People with little Native American heritage have tried to tell Full Blooded folks what their culture was.  That burns after centuries have being denied their culture by the U.S. Government.  I am still trying to discover what that side of the family is so I can learn that heritage, because Native American is not one Culture but hundreds.  Although I appear to be very White Bread Caucasian, due to my experiences and heritage I am multicultural. 

My Spiritual path has been an interesting one.  I grew up in an Evangelical Christian household and I felt no matter how much good I did it would never be enough.  I tried to fit in, but the intolerance of people of differing faiths frustrated me to no end.  This was even worse because I had family and friends in those faiths.  In my twenties through the RPG Shadowrun I discovered Shamanism, it sang to me.  I decided to research the real stuff.  I found a lot of things I loved.  I fell in with the New Age and Neo-Pagan communities.  I started to research Shamanism from a Pre-Christian European point of view so that lead me to the Neo-Pagan Community.  When trying to learn about Shamanism among Native American Nations, I found it easy with books, but people were wary.  Too many Caucasian folks before me have taken parts of their spirituality without permission and then criticized those who lived and grew in that path.  I have tried to follow my path with respect towards everyone.  I had a mentor who taught me Wicca, I continued there till I saw my path diverging.  My personal path is a mixture of Celtic, Norse and Native American, much like my own self.  One thing I do is I refer to myself as a Shamanist not a Shaman.  This is on purpose.  Shaman denotes a Spiritual leader; I have never claimed to be one.  I may become one, but I am not comfortable with that title now.  Shamanist to me implies a follower of shamanism.  In the Neo-Pagan community many people use Shaman, Druid and Witch; those titles seem to me to be leadership roles.  So that community seems top heavy with leaders and lacking in followers.

I am also a Survivor. I survived Childhood Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Abuse.  I am open about the sexual abuse, but I try not to be too forward of it.  It was particularly difficult being a male Survivor of a Female abuser, I was six and she was sixteen.  Many male friends when I confided them about the abuse laughed and said I got lucky.  I never felt lucky about it.  I never felt shameful about it after I came forward to my parents about it.  I was lucky in the fact it was not a family member.  The trauma of it made it difficult for me to have sexual relationships; it also had me confused about my sexual identity.  Once I figured that I was a normal Heterosexual male and that what  my abuser did had little to do with sex and more to do with power, I was ready.  Before that I was able to have platonic relationship with women, but romantic ones were problematic on my end.  I had a few missteps with relationships and my first major one was abusive.  Now, since I only recently got out of that situation I do seem to bring it up quite a bit.  That is not because of the label.  That is due to the fact I am still trying to get my head around what happened and the fact I am finally out of it after fourteen years.  To my friends, if my discussing my Ex is tiring, I apologize.  Please be patient with me, even after a year it is still raw.  I am trying to figure out where I fit into this new life of mine.  I still question everything about the relationship, my exit, and my life in the last fourteen years.  From what I understand, it is normal.  Many of the Portland geek community helped me through this situation, with their podcasts.  The various live events gave me a clue what life without my Ex could be, I needed that spark to give me the idea to leave.  It also showed me how much life I was missing.  In many ways I had lost myself in the relationship.  This exercise is helping me reassert my Identity and who I am.

In the year since my big upheaval, I have had to reevaluate who and what I am.  I am still trying to figure out who I want to be.  I definitely know who I do not what to be: a burden, a victim, a know-it-all, a curmudgeon, a cynic, a pessimist, an abuser, a jerk, a sad sack, and pitiful.  I am rediscovering friends, joys, passions, laughter and myself.  I thought I would share some of that journey with folks.  Is this everything?  No, it is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg.  It is a huge start.  One thing I know is if I stop growing as a person, I must not be living.  I am still growing and cannot wait to see what is next for me.

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