language and self-identity

Having time to think, I was thinking (watching some tv crap
about gays) and it occurred to me about the self identification of
people. For example, when asked to identify myself, I say,
Kropotkin, and if they ask for more, I might say, Californian,
or perhaps I might give my job or career. Now what about
people who self identify, as gay. Now they identify their
sexual orientation, but I would almost never self identify
myself as “hetero” (once in a certain club, I was practically
shouting it out) but anyway, If you self identify yourself, why
would you target your sexuality? And what is the purpose/value
to self identify that aspect of yourself? I don’t see my
self-identity in terms of sexuality. Does sexuality define
a person? I don’t think so. In fact, I would put it pretty low
on the list, somewhere after, do they clean between their toes?

So how do you self-identify and why?


identity is what seperates you from the next person walking by. in that respect, i can definitely understand why someone would use gay as an identity piece. since the vast majority of the population is straight, gay would narrow down the field pretty quickly as to what makes someone unique.

for instance, if a black man is in a room full of white men then one of the easiest identity pieces to use to narrow his individuality would be that he is black. i would almost expect that to be the first thing given. now in a room full of other black men, there would be no point, he should use a different piece of info.

for myself, i have always struggled with questions like “who are you.” mainly because most people tend to want to hear about career, jobs, family, etc. until very recently i did not have a career i enjoyed and therefore did not want to be identified by it. and family? i was single and never got along great with family. so what was left? physical descriptions? heck, those are useless when talking face to face with someone, which for me was the majority of the time. all in all, that left me with my name and association to whomever i was speaking (as in what we had in common).

bishop: identity is what seperates you from the next person walking by. in that respect, i can definitely understand why someone would use gay as an identity piece. since the vast majority of the population is straight, gay would narrow down the field pretty quickly as to what makes someone unique.

K: perhaps, but why sexuality? If you were really tall (i’m not
but I have a friend who is 6’7) would you say, “HI there, my
name is bruce, and I am 6’7”. Would that be the thing that
would seperate you from others?

B: for instance, if a black man is in a room full of white men then one of the easiest identity pieces to use to narrow his individuality would be that he is black. i would almost expect that to be the first thing given. now in a room full of other black men, there would be no point, he should use a different piece of info.

K: In a phone conversation, would someone identify themselves as
black? or tall? or a midget? I serioully doubt it. So why does
that one aspect, (sexuality) get mention?

B: for myself, i have always struggled with questions like “who are you.” mainly because most people tend to want to hear about career, jobs, family, etc. until very recently i did not have a career i enjoyed and therefore did not want to be identified by it. and family? i was single and never got along great with family. so what was left? physical descriptions? heck, those are useless when talking face to face with someone, which for me was the majority of the time. all in all, that left me with my name and association to whomever i was speaking (as in what we had in common)."

K: yes, we normally identify ourselves in terms of jobs,
but that is not right either. I don’t introduce my self as
“Kropotkin, I am married” either. So why that one trait?


Well, I’ll throw out what Tu Weiming said on this subject:

For those too lazy, this is the important part:

Social, relational self: we are nothing apart from our social relations, and our interdependency extends into the immediate world and beyond.

So, when we are defining ourselves, we are largely stating what our social relations are. Or, in many cases, what they aren’t, what seperates the individual (culturally). When someone says they are ‘gay’ they are pretty much saying, “I’m an active member of the gay community.” That is what they most strongly identify with. These people will conform to the sterotypical aspects one associates with ‘gayness’ much more strongly.

Similarly, race is another aspect which seperates us. Those who identify more strongly with their race are going to associate more with their race. shrugs That is purely ancedotal, but African Americans that I have known that strongly identify themselves as ‘black’ are conform much more to ‘black culture’ than those who identify as something else (such as gay, or geek, or or what-have-you).

It is human nature to identify that which is like us and that which is not like us. Height is usually not a metric for this (unless it is so extreme as to be a deformity. Little people have conventions on a regular basis and I know from my father that very tall people are more comfortable around other tall people). On the other hand, race, sexuality, religion, just about anything that can be attacked. I’ll put $30 on the table that sexuality would not be an issue if homosexuals were not ostricized.

self-identity is a little bit different if you’re self-identifying to someone else vs. the self identity that you hold for no one else’s benefit. i know a good many gay people, and i don’t think that “gay” is a part of their self-identity any more than “straight” is a part of a straight person’s. if they are trying to focus their self-identity into a description to give to another person in order to serve some sort of function or purpose, than “gay” may or may not be applicable depending on what said function or purpose is.

also, i’m not sure i’m clearly interpreting your post, but all of this was prompted by something you saw on tv? i’m asking because i’ve never met a gay person, said “tell me about yourself,” and had them say “well, for starters, I’M GAY.” i mean, never. the only time i can think of anything close to that is like if someone just came out of the closet and are, like, all excited about it. estblished gay people say “well, i love tori amos and make a killer goat cheese quiche,” or whatever. so if you’re basing all of this on tv gay people, you should maybe meet some real gay people, witness for yourself how they self-identify in sexuality-neutral situations, and then revisit this topic.

Perhaps they do it because that’s what they are used to being labeled as. Maybe they do it because they want to be upfront about an issue that is a sensitive one with a great many people. Perhaps they do it to ward off the inevitable questioning of their mannerisms. Maybe they do it because they are actually proud of it.

Homosexuals are individuals, and, therefore, their motivations will be distinct - as are the motivations of any other individual defined as a group.

I identify myself differently depending upon the situation. At a soccer game, I identify myself as a fan of x team. When asked how I spend my time, the answer varies depending on the context of the question - I’m an a, or I prefer to b, etc.

Personally, I think homosexuals define themselves as such frequently for political purposes, and as frequently for personal purposes. Some desire to receive a benefit, politically - though they do not perceive it to be a benefit, and, actually, it may not be. Others desire to be perceived as equals, ie, normal human beings, despite, and in spite of, abnormal sexual preference.

I find this a very interesting thread.

I enjoy Buddhist beliefs and one of them is to cease using the pronoun ‘I’. Now I find this immensly difficult coming from my background (although in other languages it is much easier like Japanese). I am a blackish man (at least in apperance but am a mutt) in appeareance so yes I would point that out in particularly over the phone etc.

Sorry to jump in but just was interested in the notions of self-identity.

We’re all mutts, Satori. Some of us just don’t realize it.

That doesn’t mean we can’t hold ourselves out as superior to those who are different, it simply means that most of the time when we do so we will probably be fooling ourselves.

Do you feel superior to the mass murderer BTK? Probably, (I would think ) in certain aspects - as in having the ability to refrain from torturing and murdering people. But, BTK is probably superior to you and me in his being able to complete those acts.

We identify ourselves as non-killers. He doesn’t identify himself as such. But at least he’s not gay.

I think a piece of it has to do with the fact that the “gay community” has pretty much attempted to fashion a battering ram to gain acceptance into society. Identify yourself as GAY and be PROUD of it sorts of stuff. Now, I’m not saying that is the RIGHT or WRONG way to go about it, but what it DOES do for me, and maybe to you is draw focus to a dimension of a person I don’t really have that much care to know about.

Real time dialogue:

“Hey, shinton, I’m gay!”
“Hey, gay person, so what are you telling me?”
“I like people of the SAME sex!”
“Yeah, but I’m GAY!”
“Okay…I’m not gay. Do you feel like you know me now?”
“Yeah, anyway, it’s been good talking to you!”
“(muttering) I don’t know much about that fellow, other than he likes other fellows…and check out that ASS! Oh Jesus, am I GAY?”

No shit. LMFAO

I echo this response.

Also, I think the reason why some subcultures use their identity in the group so strongly in identifying themselves is because of some reason often caused by the larger dominant culture.

I would assume that the most degenerate you are looked upon by the mother culture, the more strongly you resist what the mother culture values and the louder you stomp your feet in identifying with the subculture.

It is no joke that homophobia is strong in the U.S. (My principal in high school told me that he washes his hands after he shakes the hand of a gay person. ) If you can’t tell that homophobia is everywhere in the U.S. then we need to have a talk, or you need to pay a bit more attention to our langauage, and terms that youth use a lot, (like that’s gay, that’s queer, you’re a fucking queer, you’re a faggot.) etc etc.

Because homophobia is so strong, the counter responce of that subculture will be that much more stronger. (When others are yelling around you, you also have to yell to be heard. It sucks, but that is what happens.)

The more homophobia, the more gay parades. That’s the way it seems to work.

I have gay friends that wear homosexuality on their sleeves everywhere they go, and then I have gay friends where sexuality is very low on what they do and talk about every day. So, there is also great variability in such an individualistic society as the U.S.

Good to see I haven’t lost it. After all, I am here for your amusement.

One person.

People say ‘that’s so gay’ as a derogatory term, but they also say ‘that’s cool’ as a term of approval - does this mean they are marginalising and oppressing the hot?

No, of course it doesn’t. Your point is so very, very basic…

  1. Homosexuality is as old as democracy, and allegedly 1 in 10 people are gay/bi. Not really a subculture.
  2. It would be more accurate to say that because homophobia is so stupid, the response will be similarly stupid.
  3. It’s widely documented that homosexuals use ‘queer’ and other similar terms that were originally modes of abuse/homophobia, as a means of resisting precisely this sort of categorisation. See Foucault and Queer Theory from the Postmodern Encounters series.

This is untrue. When three children are arguing over a toy does the one who shouts loudest get the toy? No, not always. Not by definition. There are any number of ways of approaching such problems - shouting loudly and stupidly isn’t excusable just because what you are rejecting is loud and stupid. One needn’t become a monster simply because one fights a monster.

For the most part, yes. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Absolutely, though I find any particularly overt displays of sexuality either dull or just pathetic, whether we’re talking about homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, whatever. But particularly young gay men who like to cross-dress. Just seems like a loser crying out for attention; initimate sexuality hasn’t a thing to do with it.

so many things to respond to in your previous thread, but oh, I just don’t have the time or interest.

Homosexuality is as old as democracy, yes. 1 in 10 may be gay, yes. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot also be a subculture. Trust me, ask a gay person in a major U.S. city if there is a gay subculture, and they will let you know really fucking fast. Not all gays participate in various gay subcultures, but they are there as blatant as night and day. I know many gay people who almost exculsively hang out with only other gay people and ONLY go to gay bars. Comon’ gay folks on this thread, help me out here.

I have no idea why you would say that gays have no subculture, either you really don’t know many gay people, or some other reason I am not seeing. I would assume that you are not just arguing for the sake of arguing.

You brought it up…

When it is blatant, it isn’t a subculture.

Ask a gay person in a major US city whether they consider themselves ‘ordinary’ and they’d probably tell you ‘no, because of my sexuality I don’t even think straight’. People talk a lot of crap. Just because a gay person says something about gay culture doesn’t make it correct.

Blatant subcultures?

That’s an oxymoron.

That’s gay culture, not a gay subculture. I know plenty of straight people who only go out with other straight people and go to bars where the likelihood of a gay person being there is practically zero - does that make them homophobic, or just part of a heterosexual subculture?

Terrific. I disagree with you about gay culture and you come out with the classic ‘you probably don’t know many gay people’.

The truth: I don’t. I have little to no interest in homosexuals qua homosexuals. But I have eyes, I can observe behaviour. I don’t need to go to a bisexual karaoke night to witness this stuff. Homosexuality is mainstream. Get over it. It’s not cool or original or different or quirky or weird or hip or strange or otherwise or any of that ‘sanitised rebellion for the middle classes’ nonsense. It’s being gay, end of story.

you can most definitely have a blatant subculture.

the gay culture is not the majority, yet have their own ideas and/or practices, which make them a culture within the bigger culture, aka subculture. blatant or hidden, it doesn’t change the fact that it is a subculture.

the reference to ‘gay’ is a type of person. and also used in a derogatory phrase. cool, hot, sweet, etc, do not refer to a type of person. they are inanimate terms very unlike gay, queer, fag, or even other popular terms like redneck, hick, yuppie, which are also used in similar ways yet with less history.

unfortunately, homophobia is still very prevelant in our current society. while the example of the principal wanting to wash his hands after touching a gay person is more extreme than the typical homophobia, it does still exist albeit uncommon.

while the language terms may never go away even long after the last remnants of homophobia leave us, a better way to tell how suppressed/hated/looked-down-upon a group is by the way that they come together. support groups, rally’s, laws including them in hate crimes, etc. these things are not done by other groups like blondes. nor are there redneck support groups. no cowboy rallies. these groups may be made fun of, but most definitely not abused enough to have their names thrown in to hate crimes laws right alongside racial lynching, yet crimes against homosexuals is. that says something about the society’s homophobia.


Argument by assertion

Argument by reference to dictionary definition.

(this is a crap definition)

  1. This assumes that all gay culture is homogenous (‘their own ideas and/or practices’) which isn’t the case
  2. This assumes that the ‘majority culture’ of heterosexuality is homogenous, which isn’t the case

Apart from the actual sex (and since heterosexuals can physically do everything that homosexuals do, e.g. oral sex, mutual masturbation, anal sex, dildo play) I see no real difference between the people, and certainly not between the cultures. If anything, heterosexual culture is the subculture because it’s a pale, fragmented reflection of the ‘liberated’ homosexual culture.

Not exclusively. ‘Gay’ didn’t even mean ‘homosexual’ until the 19th century, to my knowledge. And even now it doesn’t just refer to people, you yourself use it to refer to ‘a culture’.

Not exclusively. And even if it were, it wouldn’t prove any homophobic beliefs or intentions on the part of the user. I call my computer a ‘big gay bear’ whenever it has a technical problem but I’m not in the least bit homophobic.

[size=75](this is where, if you’ve been following your script closely, you tell me that because I call my computer such things that I am homophobic, I’m just not aware of it)[/size]

They can, but like ‘gay’ they do not exclusively refer to people.

‘Gay’ is used to mean all sorts of things, ‘queer’ (and it’s variant, ‘queen’) are used by plenty of homosexuals (making them homophobic, it seems) and ‘fag’ can mean any number of things, from a cigarette to a younger student in an English public school (see Roald Dahl’s autobiographical Boy for a lengthy explanation of this use).

And what in the name of Michael Crichton do you mean by ‘inanimate’?

‘Hick’ certainly precedes ‘fag’ as a term of abuse. You’re just making this up as you go along.

So someone, for utterly stupid reasons, washes their hands a bit too often. Is anyone actually hurt by this? If this is the extent of homophobia then to be perfectly honest I think the queers and their sympathisers are making a mountain out of a molehill. Most (straight, bi or otherwise) people suffer worse treatment in schoolyard bullying…

Nope, that tells you how suppressed/hated/looked-down-upon that group feels about itself. It tells you next to nothing about how the rest of the world sees it. You are confusing the things homosexuals claim about themselves with what other people claim about them.

The presence of homosexuals in hate crime legislation has far more to do with pinko liberal politicians trying to gain ‘the pink vote’ than to do with the actual problems in the world.

An example of this same mistake is the blatant fact that virtually no crime against a white person in Britain is ever investigated as a racially motivated crime (even when all the evidence points to this) yet every single murder of a black person is said to be racially motivated before the police/judiciary have even investigated it, let alone convicted anyone. I’m not saying that there are armies of people from ethnic minorities out there offing whites in record numbers, but the fact remains that the only time a black person will be accused of racism in this country is when they are accused of being a pawn for white racism against blacks, and that’s a disgrace to the law, the judiciary, the police and so-called liberal humanist ethics. Echoing the hypocrisies of the past but simply reversing the names will get us nowhere. The ‘gay-friendly’ legislation is a bloody disaster…

Ah…homosexuality…sexuality…that big subject that wears no cloths!

Why do people identify themselves at all? Is the Self not over emphasised in wetsenr culture - from Fags to Hags to Grannies - everyone is trying to be an Individual!

There is a certain aspect of homosexual culture that in a very real sense promotes the ‘display of homosexuality’ to not be afriad and ‘shout it out from the poof-tops’. There is some reason in this - most western culture have grown more tolerate of homosexual behaviour.

As such it brings the pressure vavle loose on that area: those that where ashamed or affronted by such bevhaiour now have a chance to open up to it, get over it, put it out the way.

PK mentioned that sexuality is probably at the bottom of his list and I can understand why that is - sexuality is not the meaning of life - it is not the be all and end all! But for many people, and particularly young teenagers and adults, sexuality is at the top of the list. Thus using all sorts of signifiers to refer to oneself comes a kind of game of chance an experiment, perhaps a vain one at that, but it all comes down to playing with identity and sculpting yourself out of that.

We love to categorise in the west. perhaps everywhere. we love a good schema - it keeps us sane. it allows us to think clearly. the terms homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual are mere descriptors - if someone asks you your sexual orientation you’re going to use one of more of those terms.

But it is an interesting observation that in this day and age these categories have become more and more prevalent. In fact, when did heterosexual come into use? I imagine homosexuality was used before it, at least, homosexual would be used with greater regularity than heterosexual, because heterosexual is the typical leaning.

I’m sure your wife would agree PK. haha!

This brings up a lot of important questions.
Why is sexuality so defining for certain people?
Why does sexuality seem to be the unifying principle to personality?

this is called a topic sentence. it is where i state the purpose of the following paragraph. a little something i picked up in english classes in school in order to better organize and give others a better understanding into what i have written. while they may not agree, at least there is usually more understanding.

wow, powerful counter-argument. because you do not like the dictionary means that my argument is thrown away? interesting how your first two responses in your last post provide no actual value. they do not address the actual arguments on logical levels. what’s next? personal attacks? since you have no counter to the dictionary definition, and i cannot think of a logical reason to ignore the dictionary, i will continue using that as the basis for “subculture.”

neither of those two points needs or should be assumed. no culture on earth can say that every member is a clone of the next. yet there are similarities, not so many to call the culture ‘homogenous’ but similarities none-the-less. typically large ones in which people have strong emotional ties to and thus decide to identify themselves with. just a handful of strong identity characteristics in common can make someone a part of a culture. one additional difference can make you a part of a subculture.

i have no evidence to counter this besides my own personal experience in dealing with the gay community. i have seen the many similarities, besides sexual, that are commonly shared among them. sexual conduct alone cannot define a lifestyle, yet without a single doubt i would classify the homosexuality as a lifestyle choice because of the other culture differences so many of them have.

being that the primary culture has to be the majority of the population, you are saying that most of the earth’s population is homosexual? and by ‘liberated,’ are you saying that homosexuality is a punishment or imprisonment? this may be a different subject, but how does evolution justify the creation of a species that does not reproduce but the majority is gay?

good point on the use of ‘gay.’ however, did we as a society not wait to turn that word into a derogetory term until its association with homosexuals? while, in the past, it was used only to mean ‘happy,’ it was also a positive adjective. no one uses ‘gay’ to mean ‘happy’ anymore. i have only ever heard it in reference to ‘homosexual.’
as far as me referring to a culture instead of to people, in my meaning it was one in the same. the culture is made up of people. i should have clarified my meaning better originally.

it says something about the society which defines a word used to describe a type of people as derogetory. it doesn’t mean you are homophobic, merely that the society has its history. having, for instance, 10 words used to describe a culture and simultaneously having a derogetory usage for every single one of them is more than just a handful of people not liking that culture. its a prejudice against that culture by the society at that point.

interesting, this is exactly what i was thinking about your posts. yet i had the respect to withhold personal attacks as they take away from the point of the argument.

not by the actions, no. is a gay person hurt when this principal finds out about their sexual orientation and blacklists them from ever getting a job? or fires them for fabricated reasons? or beats them up with a few of the principal’s KKK cohorts? yes. people are hurt by prejudices.

I hate to barge in on the dialogue here, but I have a problem with this statement. I’m not sure “gay” has been “turned into” a derogatory term. It is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, but then again, lots of words can be used in a derogatory sense. For example: Suck my balls! I just made a whole string of words that are perfectally normal become derogatory. The only difference here is that there are no “ball people” who identify with the word “ball” and so nobody raises a ruckus.

A prejudice goes into a bar and beats up a Jew…nah…people aren’t hurt by prejudice, they are hurt by people who have prejudices. How do you stop people from believing an argument they find convincing?