What is Identity Erasure?

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Our identity is fundamental to who we are as individuals and to our existence. There are structured societal binaries and our identity allows us to stand out from the crowd and feel closer to a particular group. We can create our own identities or choose the ones already in existence. It’s true that identity is an evolving phenomena. This is because we’re always experiencing new things and as we live through them, our identities also change. One vital thing about identity is the agency it comes with. As we continue growing and having more experiences in life, it’s essential to remember that we have the choice to either stick to the identities we were given at birth or choose the ones we feel resonate with us the most.

Levels of Identity
Keep in mind that there are two levels of identity:

  • Personal Identity
  • Social identity

Your personal identity is made of your thoughts and the personal experiences that shape who you are. Your personal identity comes from yourself and your life. If you choose a certain identity, you can connect with groups that identify the same way you do.
Your social identity comes from a sense of belonging and community. For instance, class identity, national identity, and racial identity are all examples of social identity. 

Identity Erasure
When a person’s identity is removed so they can fit better into societal constructs and structures, identity erasure occurs. It may sound like a simple thing to do but it is a complicated event. Think about it this way: Since we may identify as a few various aspects, people who don’t live within the same margins that we live in find it easy to erase a part of our identity in ways that are only beneficial to them. Identity erasure can occur in different ways and can be personal or social in nature.

For example, when the British colonised India (and other parts of the world), they erased so many parts of the traditional society and culture. As a result, identity erasure in this circumstance came in the form of colonialism. What occurred as a result was cultural erasure where the British gradually removed customs and tradition of the Indian society and changed them to ways that they preferred.

One of the groups in the LGBTQ binary that faces identity erasure is the bisexual community. You may find that straight or other people in the LGBT community prefer to see them as either gay or straight rather than an ‘in-between’, or who they naturally are.
When we erase someone’s sexuality, we encourage personal identity erasure and these people aren’t able to stand out and take their personal space within a crowd. Erasure takes place when someone says, ‘she’s not transgender, she’s just confused’. Or, ‘he’s not bisexual, he’s just greedy or doesn’t know what he wants’. It can also happen when you’re expected to hide essential parts of who you are just so you can be socially accepted.

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