When does being an outspoken and activist member of a minority group cross over into pathology? That’s what I hope to figure out in my latest research project I’m working on with a couple of classmates. We’re looking broadly at the idea of identity development, and specifically on the “identity of victimhood,” whether that victim status comes from some kind of abuse or trauma, or whether it comes from being a member of a persecuted minority group.
I’ve never particularly understood the need to feel pride in some way that you were born. Okay, I get that persecuted groups need to assert themselves and demand treatment as equal human beings. But pride? That’s not really for me. Why would someone feel pride in being gay? Should straight people be proud that they’re straight? Wouldn’t that typically be labeled as homophobia or heteronormativity, or some other such term? What about “black pride?” Should people then also feel proud of being white? Most people would say, “Of course not!” There’s a fine line in my mind between feeling pride in being some kind of minority group, and having that become a pathological need to keep being persecuted in order to not lose that identity. Yes, there will always be homophobia, but if gays get marriage equality rights at a federal level, and homophobia eventually becomes as socially taboo as racism, will gays still feel proud that they’re gay? Or will it be so normalized (which, ultimately, is the end goal, no?) that it will cease to matter? That’s my hope. Have identity politics already outlived their usefulness and just do nothing but drive more wedges into the dialogue? (Does that really need an answer?)
Identity politics and the pride taken in being persecuted are great when you’re in college. That’s what college is for. But at some point, shouldn’t you begin defining yourself more by what you do than by what you are? It’s a topic that I feel is controversial and could offend a lot of people, especially when you start talking about survivors of abuse and/or trauma who consciously or unconsciously have to keep reliving that abuse over and over until it becomes pathologically ingrained as part of their personality and they’re unable to forgive and let go and move on. Thus, they use trauma to define themselves and remain forever a slave to it.
Eh, I don’t have many more thoughts on it beyond that. But I think it’s an interesting topic of discussion and research.