I have spent most of my thinking life thinking about identity. I am confronted with the disconnect between who I know myself to be (take my name, for instance) and what various developers of various websites and services consider to be a valid entry in a form. Some parts of the US Federal Government will allow a hyphenated first name, some will not; the ones that don't might concatenate, or they might introduce a space. None of them appear to talk to the others.
You are more likely to be aware of your identity if other people are constantly challenging it.
Vos papiers s'il vous plaît.
Last year I spent several months trying and failing to persuade Bank of America that I was who I said I was, that I did indeed live at a given address, that my social security number was indeed mine, that the money they allowed me to transfer into a new account and then sat on for three months while they accused me of being a "fraudulent person" came from the employer listed on the multiple pieces of documentation I presented to them.
We couldn't verify you are who you said you are.
Tech companies are built on identity policing, and despite the protestations of its more fervent adherents so are concepts like the blockchain. Tech companies demand "valid" names and "legal" names and "real" names; as Mark Zuckerberg so famously said, "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity."
Sometimes having two identities for yourself is an example of survival.
The blockchain demands an immutable identity: this is how you were known, this is how you shall be known ever more and in every context.
But you don't need a concept like the blockchain to enforce identity stasis. The New York Times has consistently declined to update the "deadnames" bylined on stories by trans employees published before they transitioned.
"Opinions do not represent the views of my employer", we will say, even as we have spent all the months since March 2020 engaging in navigating the disappearance of the line between work and home, between who we are
in the the office and who we get to be outside of it. Who are we when there's no outside? Who are we when we are not working? Who do we get to be, despite whatever employment contracts and compliance policies demand?
Assigned female at birth; assigned immigrant on leaving Trinidad; assigned - wait, but where you are from from?
I love questions. It is possible I love questions more than I love answers (though not more than I love having the answer). What questions we get to ask are so often a function of who we get to be; what answers we are expected to offer are always a function of who are perceived to be.
It is a luxury beyond compare to have an identity that aligns with the status quo. But it does tend to lead to a fundamental lack of curiosity about everything and everyone else.
There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.
— from Who Said It Was Simple by Audre Lorde