This post has been on my mind for a while now- and I finally feel as though my thoughts, observations and understanding have crystallized into something coherent enough to put into words.
Master and I LOVE Indian culture. We enjoy the Indian aesthetic, Indian clothing style, spiritual views and language ( as is evidenced by my name, which is Sanskrit). I am often thought to BE from India – and while I have not done my genetic make-up as of yet – I know that neither of my parents were born in India. All of which is to say that while we have an interest in and affinity for India – we do not identify as Indian.
What does this have to do with the Lifestyle? A few things.
Lately there are many new identifiers to choose from. Each identity tag holding it’s own mystique and “coolness”. There are also more new people joining the Lifestyle daily, and while classes on technique are extraordinarily popular, education on the Culture of this Lifestyle, on what it means to be Leather or identify as a certain thing given from a place of personal relationship is becoming more and more scarce. The net of these two things are that I’ve observed identities being picked up and stuck on like velcro – often before there is an understanding of what an identity entails.
First – I looked at the word identity itself – what does it mean?
Webster says :
- 1a : sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
- b : sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing : oneness
- 2a : the distinguishing character or personality of an individual
When I read this and put it into my own language it boiled down to 2 things. A continuity of characteristics in different instances by which one can objectively identify a thing. Or a predominant characteristic or personality.
That gave a great deal of insight for me. In addition Self-identity can be summed up as collection of beliefs about oneself.
So what does this mean in the Lifestyle?
For me it means that when coming to a point of choosing to Identify as something – it makes sense to research it. Know it. And more importantly know yourself.
I identify as Leather. Why? Because having formed friendships with those who were Leather, researched the history of Leather, understood the value systems of those I respect within the Leather community, and then looked at myself- I realized that my world view itself is Leather. That I fully agreed with and believed in the Historic Traditions, sense of connection and community and would allow those things to Live on through me and my walk.
I identify as slave. Why? Having researched the definition of slave it answered the longing of my heart. It was and is reflective of the way by which I seek to go through the world in relation to my Partner. It is not something I do on occasion or simply find fascinating. It is internalized as a state of being that is lived day to day.
I did not always identify as either of these things. When I first came into the community I identified as submissive (I am still submissive in relationship to my Owner) and didn’t understand all of the “community” hoopla. LOL. Over time, research and observation I realized that these 2 identities described my path. They are descriptive – not prescriptive. They inform on, not just my behavior on occasion – but how I desire to go through the world.
A few months ago I was asked if I identified as a Leather girl. My answer was no. Someone asked why. My understanding of Leather girl is a feminine version of a Leather boy. And while I have observed the evolution of the term – it really doesn’t fit my personality or temperament. I’m feminine but not necessarily girly as a characteristic. I have an affinity for service – but for me that is not enough to identify as anything other than a person with an affinity for service. While I enjoy having fun- I can not see myself throwing myself into the activities described in this article.
And guess what? That’s okay! It doesn’t mean being a girl is wrong. That it’s “less”. It just means that it is not something that is a part of me enough for it be considered my identity.
I have a very close “twin” who identifies as a pig. When I heard her definition there was definitely some resonance, but I realized while at times I can behave sexually as piglet (lol) – it is not an identity for me. It is not a predominant characteristic in my sexual expression. It’s more of an occasional (very occasional) enjoyment.
I’ve also been asked if I identify as Pan sexual (I do not – although I find it interesting).
Gorean – Again I once held a huge interest in it, but it is not an identity.
Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu – Interest. Affinity and even previous identity – however the tenets and theology of these faiths do not permeate my being, world view etc; and therefore I will not dishonor them and confuse others by “claiming” that I am any single one of them.
So what’s the take away here exactly?
Feel free to explore the length and breath and height and depth of this Lifestyle. Feel free to enjoy whatever strikes your fancy – but if I may offer a bit of advice:
- Understand what you’re choosing before you begin to call yourself something. Words are containers for meaning. Identity matters.
- When an identity no longer fits you, feel free to let it go. There is no shame in owning and honoring your own self evolution and awareness.
- Be clear about the distinction between identity, affinity and interest. One is not better than the other. To quickly determine the difference I think of it this way: Identity- internalized as Self. Affinity – Leaning towards. Interest – Looking at
- If you’re not sure if something is your identity or not – Take your time! Research. Observe those who DO identify as that thing. Also pay attention to your Intuition- or inner guidance system
Finally we all seek belonging and acceptance. There is no shame in this. It is part of our experience of being human. Recognize your own worth. You are brilliant and valuable and precious. You are enough regardless of what you identify as.