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1.6: Reflecting on Identity
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- Which of these identities (one or more) is / are the most important to you at this point in your life – and has this changed overtime?
- Would you have described your identity / identities differently 10 or 20 years ago? In what way?
- Male, white, middle-aged, working class
- I get into difficulty when I try to describe my nationality. Being born in England of Irish parents, I was made to feel Irish when I was growing up – as a matter of pride from my parents and discrimination from others. It was an identity I didn’t talk about all through my 20s and 30s. Living in Ireland for three years confused my identity further since I could not relate to the culture ‘back home’. So now I’m London Irish or European and I’m happy with that.
- I needed to think about this question for some time as there are so many different aspects to my identity. I would describe myself as an African/Caribbean woman born in the UK. In terms of age I am middle-aged and I guess in terms of my current profession and location I am middle class but my parents were working class and migrated from Jamaica to the UK in the 1950s. I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend – which are all important aspects of my identity. Professionally I am a senior lecturer with The Open University.
- A woman, white (Northern Irish), born and brought up in the West Midlands, middle-aged, working-class background.
- The most important things to me are my job, and being good at it, coming from a working-class background in Birmingham, being a good cook, a vegetarian and an ethical consumer. On the negative side, I have a disability which affects my mobility, and I am single with no family.
- Parent would be more out front 10 years ago.
- All of these identities are important to me at this point in my life and the challenge I have is being able to give space and time to the competing demands that each aspect of my identity poses. My ideal would be to have a life that was completely balanced and allowed the opportunity for each identity to be fully expressed and actualised… Twenty years ago I didn’t have children and had a different occupation, working as a manager of health promotion services in the NHS, but I would have described my identities in the same way.
- Ethnicity is an identity that has taken on new importance. Although I am a Canadian, I worked for many years in race relations in California. Because I am white and talked like many other white people, I was indistinguishable from the dominant group there. Now living in the UK, I can’t hide my ‘accent’, my different background, views and values. For the first time, I have a more real understanding of what it’s really like to be different in ways you can’t hide. Being different, I have found, often means ‘less than’, because of assumptions that I am an American, about my intelligence, education, values – especially right now.
- Ten or 20 years ago I would have laid more emphasis on my role as a mother and nurse and midwife since those dominated my life. In 1990 I would also have called myself a full-time postgraduate student. As a younger mother after the birth of the second child, I would say that my identity was consumed by being a mother.