What Are You?

I ran across this article yesterday.  I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I have been asked that question an inordinate amount of times in my life.

Like most people of mixed race and background, that is not a simple question to answer.  I cannot simply say something like German or Mexican or South African.  The answer is far more complex.  Even for people of a pure ethnicity I cannot image this question is simply answered either.  There is much more to what you are than the area of the world that your ancestors came from.  Your identity is made up of a wide variety of experiences, preferences, recognized orientations (gender or lack of a commonly recognized one, sexual preference, religious affiliation or lack thereof, etc.), familial groupings, and so on.  Although when people ask this question, it seems that they are looking for specific answers:  race, gender, and/or nationality.

I could answer this question in so many ways.  Human.  Female.  Bisexual.  Atheist.  American (not a particularly proud one).  American Indian, French, German, and many unknowns (my mother was adopted, we suspect based on our physical traits and other facts that we may be Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and/or African).  But I want to ask in return, why does it matter?  If I answer with anything but human I may be judged.  Apparently I already am anyway, so why would I tell you anything else besides human?

I have no issue discussing “what” I am with people I know.  My story is interesting and varied and has a lot of mystery.  But why does a complete stranger think they have a right to that information?

What do you think of this question?  How do you answer it?

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One thought on “What Are You?

  1. This is a difficult one to answer! There are so many “whats” that make up the “who” and most often those “whats” are based on subjective perception. I agree with you in that what you are doesn’t matter, if you are human than you are human. Think of the interesting stories that we can hear from people when we ask them “who” they are, and really care about their experiences, rather than the stereotypes that we may unintentionally conceptualize when asking “what” someone is.

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