Jay Paul, CC BY-SA 4.0
Self-identification is the attribution of certain characteristics or qualities to oneself.
Being a teenager in Generation Z, it is often difficult to understand what self identification means. Nathaniel Thornton is a senior at University Preparatory and is openly a part of LGBTQ+ community.
Over the years, he believed that there has been plenty of progress on changing this world we live in, but not quite enough. “I’m glad to say that progress is always being made, I noticed that, but it’s nowhere near what I’d say is enough. It’s the whole argument when people say, especially people that do not understand the concept of racism, ‘Oh, people nowadays are not as racist and there is no segregation. How can there be racism?’ That was less than seven years ago. In the same way for free people, things like the Stonewall Riots, that was in 1969.”
On June 28, 1969 in New York City, the Stonewall Riots took place, lasting for six days. City police crashed into the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village. The raid from the police started a riot with employees, members, and even neighbours near the area. In the 1960’s, LGBTQ+ members were not welcome, as same sex marriage was still illegal and they were still seen as not normal. Members of the LGBTQ+ community went to bars and places where they could be among themselves peacefully. Law enforcement shut down gay bars with people who were, or accused of being LGBTQ+.
There has been hate for the LGBTQ+ community and Thornton talks about the unfairness of it. “We’re in the limelight for all the wrong reasons, sadly and we’re seen in a way that I don’t personally like. I wish we were seen as more positive and deserving.”
Hate crimes for the LGBTQ+ community have been high and don’t seem to be increasing or decreasing. The Daily Gazette shares the most recent rates of hate crimes toward this community. Statistics from 2016 to 2019 shows an increase from 1,076 to 1,195 people targeted because of their sexual orientation.
He talks about the difficulties of being confident of his identity, “It’s really hard to be proud for being queer because of the societal standards that people put in place. Things like heteronormativity and internalized homophobia are really big problems, but I urge everyone to educate themselves on that.” Thornton tries his best to stay out of arguments and to be happy with himself and not care what others think.
He talks about internalized homophobia, which is the self-hatred caused by LGBTQ+ people being convinced to see themselves in a negative light, due to societal pressures. This makes them believe that they are unwanted and irregular. People in the LGBTQ+ community question themselves, and their identity, due to being pressured by the oppression of them. LGBTQ+ members with internalized homophobia (internalized biphobia, transphobia, etc.) are heavily affected by this, because it can cause denial of their sexuality and the ones they love. It can also cause them to force others to ‘stay in the closet’ with them in fear of the way they are seen. While Thornton believes that internalized homophobia is a big issue, he also believes that heteronormativity is also a very important situation to change. The Queer Dictionary says, “Heternormativity is the belief or assumption that all people are heterosexual, or that heterosexuality is the default or “normal” state of human being.” When people believe in heteronormativity, they assume the gender or sexual orientation of a person. This can be hurtful to members of the LGBTQ+ community, since it makes them feel as though they aren’t what society wants them to be, that they aren’t what someone sees as ‘normal’. Heteronormativity can come from both members of LGBTQ+ community and people who aren’t members. Rewriting The Rules describes the dangers of heteronormativity, such as being ‘attacked, oppressed, and discriminated against.’ People who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community are also affected by heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is portrayed by non-members as well, leaving a heavy effect on everyone around them.
Coming out to friends and family is a very difficult situation that can lead to different directions. Nathaniel Thornton describes what this is like, “There’s two sides I think of coming out. Like a coin, there’s one side of it where you’re your own individual and the other side is how comfortable you live. In terms of analogy, when you come out you want to be able to flip a coin and land it vertically up . . . Are you willing to fight for your individuality but give up your comfortability, or would you rather not express yourself as an individual but live comfortably?”
Coming out could even lead to dangers of abuse and death. Many teens have even been kicked out of their homes by their non-supportive family. Thornton even explains how one in three queer high school students have self-harmed. On NCBI, an article shares ‘Reports of maltreatment during childhood in a United States population-based survey of homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual adults’. They compare maltreatment experiences of 2,917 heterosexuals, homosexals, and bisexuals from the ages 25-74. They conclude that members of LGBTQ+ had higher rates of maltreatment from guardians compared to people who are not members.
He also shares a coming out story of himself, “I came out on Valentine’s Day. I think I was a freshman, I was 13 or 14, my mom asked me if I had a girlfriend or a valentine . . . I was like, ‘Yeah I have a valentine but it’s a dude.’ and she was like, ‘Oh, word okay’. It was funny that it really fit the whole love is love thing, that I came out on Valentine’s Day.”
Thornton often contributes to changing the thoughts of people who look down on the LGBTQ+ community. He says, “I think it’s really important that we need to start the dialogue because if we don’t we’re going to end up in a rabbit hole farther than we already are. It’s sad to say this, but homophobia and the hatred of queerness is not a brand new thing, it is just being recorded. In the same way then with the events happening last year in June 2020 with the Black Lives Matter Movement, it’s nothing new, it’s just been caught on camera.”
He explains how movements happening now aren’t new, people just want to contribute to it because it’s ‘trendy’. “Now people want to start a dialogue about it, people will gradually forget about things like that. Things like Black Lives Matter is sort of a trend, so to keep the conversation alive you have to actively decide if you want to make changes. It really sucks because it takes away from people on a personal level because to make change you actively have to sacrifice pieces of yourself to make change for the rest of humanity and the world.”
Over time, LGBTQ+ members became more open about their self-identity. Thornton shares his thoughts on how he believes that there are still events in this world that shouldn’t be happening, “One statistic that I can think about off the top of my head is about Black trans women. Their life expectancy is 35, because of the rate they get murdered and the rate they kill themselves. I would definitely say that we’ve progressed, but it’s not anywhere near the point where there is equality for all people.”
The National LGBTQ Task Force talks about how the ‘attempted suicide rate for multiracial transgender people is thirty-three times higher than general population’. They describe the mistreatment towards transgender people, “Multiracial transgender and gender non-conforming people often live in extreme poverty, with 23% reporting a household income of less than $10,000/year.”
Self-identification is the attribution of certain characteristics or qualities to oneself. It is often difficult to understand what self-identification means. Whether it meant being female, male, something in between, or neither, self-identification of oneself is something that is necessary. Self-identification is who you are, who you love, and what you do. It is being yourself. To the LGBTQ+ community, self-identification is important in our society because it allows you to express yourself. Self-identification is a blessing and curse in itself, it can make you more confident or tear you in the opposite direction. Trying to find self-identification is trying to understand who you are.
It isn’t easy. Nathaniel Thornton says to the community and readers, “You need to be very careful because there are so many instances when queer people, especially queer kids and teens, they get either abused and in some cases even murdered. Sometimes it can lead up to a lot of queer kids committing suicide. For anybody that is reading this you can always talk to me, if you want. I like to be someone you can become comfortable with, as an individual, if that place isn’t your home.”