Being an artist is a super core identity. I think it’s as core as your gender. Just like you know if you are male or female or neither or both, you also know if you are an artist. That’s what I am. My gender is art. As an artist, I have to make things. Largely, the things I make are pictures but I also make art out of words. Art is a way of recreating reality. Art is fun. Art is tragic. Art is hell. Everybody likes it.
What is an “identity”, and what advice can you give someone who is discovering their identity?
Identity has two I’s in it, just like most faces have two eyes. That’s because identity is an “I” statement. It is who I am. It is who people think I am. Feeling weird about your identity is okay. Feeling unsure about your identity is okay. Arguing about your identity is okay. Protecting your identity is okay. Changing your identity is okay. Our identity changes with time. Have fun with your identity. Let your identity play with other identities. Try on new identities. Fantasize about all the identities.
When has your identity been compromised, and what advice can you give someone whose identity is being challenged?
Having my ethnic identity challenged by strangers is one of my gnarliest pet peeves. It usually happens like this. A stranger asks, “Are you…?” They name an ethnicity that I am not. I answer, “No.” I explain, “I’m Mexican and Polish.” The stranger looks at me with perplexed eyes or suspicion. They say, “Are you sure you’re not …” and we are back at the beginning. Part of me wants to laugh because how can they know more about me than I know about myself? Stupid. Sometimes, if I’m in a compassionate mood, I’ll give the stranger a detailed explanation of why they might be confused about my identity. I explain their ignorance to them. I explain why I count as a Latina even though they don’t think I do. This has a lot to do with my face. I make sure to emphasize to the stranger that they are confused and I am not. I understand my identity. Their job is to try to understand it and to do this they have to widen their understanding of what a Latina looks like. If I’m in a bitchy mood, which is often, I just unfriend them.
What actions and/or tools do you use to remind yourself about the value of your unique identity? How can someone be proud of who they are?
I have self-esteem issues so I’m totally unqualified to give this kind of advice. Read bell hooks.