Identity erasure is a process that occurs when parts of a person’s personal identity are erased or removed just so they can fit into societal standards and expectations. It might be a little odd that this may still happen in 2021 but the fact is, it still does. It doesn’t matter that the society we live in is more progressive and presents itself as more open-minded.
Why would people expect others to hide their identity? Why would people doubt why some identities exist? If an identity exists, why can’t we accept the person for who they are? To be honest, while these may look like valid questions, we shouldn’t be struggling to find the answers in the 21st Century. Let’s try to understand why this happens.
We know that erasure takes place because society or a group of people think that something is dangerous because it’s outside the norm. It’s unchartered waters. This, by itself, enrages and instills fear in certain people and is due to the fact that our society is divided and we still have to deal with thoughts of “us vs. them.
We know that anything other cis-het will cause people globally to think twice and raise their eyebrows. Minorities in Indian society have to always struggle to ensure that neither their history nor their identity is erased. Most times, minorities are also considered as the enemy. Take for example blacks, muslims, or even Dalitis.
When people erase other’s identities, it’s because they want to dominate them. The worst thing is that identity erasure can be done in subtle ways that one can ignore. We have multilayered identities and due to this, people want to erase one part so they can benefit their narrative or interests.
One excellent example of identity erasure is translated poetry written by Rumi. There’s no mention of Islam in his translated poetry. Bear in mind that this poetry was translated by white writers such as Coleman Banks. While Rumi’s poetry is the very epitome of love, many people fail to remember that religion took an important place in his poetry and that the main object of his affection was God. When translating happened, they instead replaced this affection and made it seem like it was the love of two people. As a result, a major part of Muslim culture, his legacy, and history was erased.
Most of the time, identity erasure can lead to cultural appropriation. Dominant groups are obliged to inappropriately take over cultures and customs from minorities. When dominant groups can profit from a minority group’s customs and cultures, it’s called cultural appropriation.
As we’ve brought to light in this article, identities may become political. As a result, the mental health of a group or community may become political. Identity erasure can cause mental health issues. The rates of mental issues such as suicide, anxiety, and depression are higher in the LGBTQ community more than any other.
Erasing anyone’s identity will have a significant effect on their mental health. To stop this, society should take initiatives to make room for systemic changes that promote inclusivity for minorities and more specifically, the LGBTQ community.