February 28, 2009

Am I Possible?

Rebecca Walker famously asked of her black, white and yiddish self, "Am I possible?" This is one of the big questions of Third Wave feminism. With all our various contradictions and problems, are we, even on an individual level, cohesive people? Multiculturalism, sexual and gender diversity and religious pluralism are great, but when they intersect, what do they make? Who do they create? Not that identities and communities are becoming more and more fragmented in modern multicultural cities like London and Toronto, I must ask the question, am I the only person in the world like me?

Of course, we all learn in Kintergarden that we are special because we are all unique. But now I'm starting to think that's actually true. When I look around me, I can't find anyone else like me, even my siblings. I simply don't know another human being with Scottish, English, Irish and Armenian ancestry who grew up in the Anglican Church, was born in Canada but now lives as an expat graduate studies in Gender Studies in London, England. I don't know anyone even close. I know other Canadians, but they can't understand my personal individual contradictions and I'm sure I don't get theirs.

I feel really bad about Colonialism and my British family's participation in colonising Ireland. I firmly believe the potato famine was a genocide. I feel terrible guilt for being descending from people who were complicit in this genocide. I also, conversely, feel terrible self-righteous anger that the Turkish Government still won't ADMIT to the Armenian genocide that killed my father's side of the family. My relationship to this topic of genocide and colonialism is fraught and contradictory, as I am simultaneously positioned as the descendent of its perpetrators and its victims. I feel like I cannot even articulate the mixed emotions and sadness that the very word brings up when I hear it.

I am culturally Christian (though agnostic). This positions me as religiously privileged in Canada, where Christianity is the religion that has most influenced our culture, our laws, and when statutory holidays should be. At the same time, my dad's family came to Canada as refugees who were persecuted for their Christianity. They had to convert to Anglicanism, the dominant religion in Canada at the time, because it was simply the religion that was the most theologically similar to Armenian Orthodoxy. Thus, my privileged status as a baptized Anglican is also reflective of my only real historical connection with persecution.

I am a feminist. I believe in feminist values and that the sex-gender system is wrong. Essentialism is wrong. Assuming I want to be a mother and a nurturer because I'm a woman is wrong. At the same time, I want to be a mother more than anything. Do I prove this stereotype I so badly want to disprove? Am I sub-consciously buying into societal brain-washing? Can I be a feminist and also serve as proof of gender essentialism for anti-feminists? Sometimes I feel sincerely guilty about this dilemma.

I am very left-leaning, but I went to private school. I started when I was 12,and that was mostly my parents' decision, but I loved it and learned so much. I owe so much of my knowledge to my high school, which was private. All of my beliefs now, all of my knowledge, is influenced by these years of study? Can I separate my knowledge then from this debt to capitalism? I'm not sure.

I am straight and yet I don't like that label. I hate that label, in fact. It implies there's nothing unusual or different about my sexuality. Why should it be normalized by sounding so "Straight" and boring? I don't think it should be, but if I said I was queer because I feel solidarity with queer people, I would be appropriating an identity, perspective and oppression that doesn't necessarily apply to me.

I am a bundle of contradictions and the me that I see and understand is only located at their intersections. I am part of my impossibility. I don't know if that allows for me to have a cohesive identity. Who am I? What is me? Who are you? Are you possible? Are we all impossible? Could our impossibilities lead to the creation of new feminist possibilities for identity? Could being impossible be a radical feminist act? After all, if we're all impossible, who are we to say what's normal. Who are we to say what people should be other than impossible, imperfect intersections of various different aspects of identity?

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