via Creative Commons
I bet we've all experienced at least one of the following:
(1) Being told we don't "belong" to a group we think we belong to.
(2) Having someone assume we're part of a group with which we don't actually identify.
(3) Hearing someone else identify with a group to which we belong, and being annoyed because we don't consider them a part of the group.
Where does identity "policing" come from? And why, in the LGBTQ community,* of all places, does it seem to happen so often? I was pondering this the other day and came up with a short list of possible (no doubt interrelated, and no doubt often subconscious) reasons:
As I've talked about before, I'm no fan of identity policing. Nonetheless, I can understand the impetus behind it, and I bet I've unintentionally engaged in it. I hope I've caught myself, questioned myself, and asked where the impulse was coming from.
Of course, identity policing and boundary-drawing doesn't just happen in the queer community. It happens with regard to age, race, class, and just about every other social group we can think of.
Nor do I mean to suggest that identity policing always arises from bad motives, or the intention to exclude others. I suspect we'd all agree that it's important to have social and psychological spaces where we can understand ourselves, question our assumptions, and feel at home with people we believe are like us.
What do you think about all of this? Have you ever seen, experienced, or engaged in identity policing? Do you think it exists in the queer community?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.**
* I was recently a guest speaker in a queer studies class in which several of the students suggested that calling LGBTQ folks a "community" is false and s
** If you feel the urge to write, "Why do we have to label ourselves at all?" or "We're all human beings," or something similar, please read this first.