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“I fear that posting this will have negative consequences for me, but I feel more strongly that I need to share this experience and raise awareness.”
It’s been a year and a half since I shared my story of Sexual Harassment in Tech & the Testing Community. It was an extremely difficult thing to do, but every time I think about it, I think about two things:
- How lucky I was to have the help and support of people around me
- How many people were impacted by my story and the awareness it raised in the community
Since then, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with speaking out, and I’m no stranger to letting people know who I am and what I’ve experienced. But I know it’s not just me who has a story to tell – there are many more stories out there that deserve to be heard, but they can be very difficult to share. I know that we can learn so much from the experiences of other people, but we don’t hear about them often enough. Whether it’s fearing the consequences, not having a platform, or just not knowing how to talk about something so personal, there are many reasons why these experiences are happening under the radar.
But we need to know about these experiences. That’s why I created Identity Stories.
What is “Identity Stories”?
Identity Stories is a collaborative blog series launched in April, 2019. The mission is to share diverse, personal stories about identity to lessen the danger of a single story.
Through Identity Stories, everyone will be offered the platform, support, and anonymity to share their stories.
There are two goals:
- To amplify the voices of others by providing a safe place for people to share their own experiences, thoughts and feelings about their own identity, without fear of repercussion
- To foster empathy and acceptance for others by providing a collection of diverse stories linked to identity, to raise awareness of the different experiences, thoughts and feelings of others, that might otherwise be unknown to readers
My hope is that, through Identity Stories, we can learn about the perspectives of others and become more aware of the differences that we face in daily life, understanding how one event, comment, or incident can affect people in very different ways.
Perhaps you’ll read stories that make you feel less alone in your struggles. Maybe you’ll be surprised by how differently someone else experiences a situation you’ve been in before. Perhaps you’ll read something that moves you in a way you hadn’t expected. Or maybe you’ll finally have a safe place to share your own story and be heard.
Here are some examples of the kind of stories that would be suitable for the Identity Stories series:
- The different treatment that a transgender woman has experienced pre and post transition
- How a Korean person born in New Zealand feels whenever someone brings up their accent
- A gay wheelchair user’s experience of trying to find accessible networking events
- A working class person’s experience of being the first person in their family to go to university
- A black woman’s feelings about her natural hair
- The impact that the notion “big boys don’t cry” has had on a man’s mental health
- How changing from tester to developer changed a Latinx person’s perception of themselves, and their behaviour
- What it’s like to be a recovering alcoholic when alcohol is served at professional events
What Is “Identity”?
“Identity is who you are, the way you think about yourself, the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you.” ~ YourDictionary
“Identity” could refer to a number of things, including: gender, ableness, age, race and ethnicity, social class, mental health, and sexual orientation. It could also include educational background, job title or function, immigration status, family matters, physical appearance, personality traits, and more.
There’s also the concept of intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality recognises that identity is not a single characteristic, but the combination of several characteristics of each individual, often linked to systems of oppression, privilege and discrimination. This is important because it considers the additional layers of complexity and circumstances which have compound effects on how a person experiences the world, and themselves. Think of it as a kind of advanced venn diagram which acknowledges that people don’t just belong in one group or another, or only experience difficulties with one thing at a time.
To oversimplify it, anything that could complete the sentence, “I am…” could be considered part of your identity. That being said, it’s extremely important to recognise that we have no right to decide what anyone else’s identity is; we can only know how we perceive them. Identity belongs entirely to the individual, and can also include the rejection of certain labels or categorisations.
To give you a concrete example, I am: a “woman-leaning” non-binary person, a tester, pansexual, someone with mental health issues, an intersectional feminist, a friend, a creator, sometimes considered controversial or a trouble-maker, Scottish, Chinese, not a “person of colour”, technically a millennial, someone who has spoken out against sexual harassment, an introvert. If you think that’s a long list, you’re right! And that only describes part of my identity; I could go on. Again, identity is not just one thing or one characteristic. Some identities might be constant in all situations, and others might be more fluid. Identity is complex.
With the help of Identity Stories, I hope we can gain a better understanding of identity, and close the gap between what we perceive as outsiders and what truly is, as determined by the individual.
What Identity Stories is Not
The most important thing about Identity Stories is that it allows people to share their own stories about their own identities. This means that Identity Stories should not be a commentary on anyone else’s identity, no matter how close the writer’s connection to the third party is. Further details on permitted content for Identity Stories can be found in the Conditions of Collaboration.
That being said, it might be interesting to hear from people about how they became more aware and compassionate of others, perhaps even as a result of this series. This isn’t something I’ll include in Identity Stories for the time being, but your perspective of how you were helped or inspired by someone’s story is a valuable contribution. I may hold these stories for a later date and publish them individually, or as part of a “companion” series. So if you’d like to write about something like this, please do, and feel free to submit it in case I decide to publish stories like this in future. Otherwise, you can always comment on the relevant blog, or get in touch via the contact form to discuss sharing your experience.
Here are some examples of stories that will not be included directly in the series at this time:
- A Christian mother’s reaction to her son being gay
- A retired man’s opinion on the contributors to the #metoo movement
- A cis woman’s thoughts on whether trans and non-binary people should be included in spaces labelled as being for women
- How reading about sexual harassment in the testing community pushed a conference organiser to rethink their code of conduct
- A working class parent’s opinion on immigrants moving into their home town
How to Get Involved
I need your help to make Identity Stories happen. I’m asking you: please share your story and help create a diverse collection of personal stories about identity.
Please also support Identity Stories by sharing this post and letting people know about this initiative. Be sure to share the blog posts too, once published.
Thanks so much, and I look forward to reading and sharing your stories.
Special thanks also to everyone who helped review and give feedback on the launch materials for Identity Stories. I’m grateful to have had so much support, and hope to give some of that back through this series.