Identity is a funny thing. What exactly is an identity? Is it your personality? Is it how you look? Is it who you think you are, or is it who everything thinks you are?
I spent a lot of time thinking about identity. For a long time, I had no identity, and whatever identity I could muster up I loathed incredibly. I was an ugly, unskilled, discard of the gene pool who could never do anything or get anywhere because I had no personality and no interests. That was only one of my problems, but it was a big problem.
I’m not sure why I hated myself so badly. I think it was because I thought I had an inferior identity. I was inferior and I had accepted that fate, instead of pushing out and having something to prove. I was inferior to other people, especially other men, and I couldn’t do anything.
However, I learned. I learned that identity isn’t necessarily what you think you are. A lot of people think that what they think they are is their identity, but it isn’t.
Near the end of it all I dissociated so bad I had to be hospitalized. I was put in the acute ward where I was crying to Dr. Nagel that I thought I was dying. He said, “Don’t sweat it Asher, we’ll have you fixed in a week.” In that dissociation before I went to the hospital I was crying every night because everything was changing. I couldn’t have my own train of thought, my own perceptions. It was horrible, I couldn’t even watch TV or play a simple video game.
I mention this because one of those nights I said something powerful to Maus. For a long time, while I was having difficulties, and even before really… for a long time I said that I wished I was someone else. Anybody else, just not me. I wished I could be anything but me.
Well, when I dissociated I got to have the experience of not being me. I was completely divorced from my identity, I was somebody else. Maybe I was nobody else, but either way, I wasn’t me anymore. I turned to Maus and said, “I know I’ve wished I was someone else, and now I know what it’s like to be someone else. I was wrong, I want to be me.” I haven’t wished I was someone else since. Identity is not necessarily who or what you want to be.
During that time the best moments of my life, the one bright spot in my life, was when I’d dress up as Willy and go entertain people around town. I did it in my mountain town, in Boulder, and in Fort Collins a lot. When I did that I could be someone else. I could control my entire identity, from how I looked, to how I acted to how others interacted with me. Some people thought I was strange or looked down at me, but I saw the smiles on everyone’s face and I knew that was me. Something had come out of my head and I made it a reality.
One time I was walking down the street to the Northern Hotel Starbucks as Willy and these couple guys passed me as I turned the corner. One of them pointed at me and said, “See, there’s somebody who’s lost his man card.”
I thought about that, as I was apt to think about such inferiority issues, and I realized… no I hadn’t. In fact, I was probably more of a man because I was willing to put myself out there, I was brave. I had the guts to take something in my head and make it a reality in this way. I saw a beautiful thing in my mind and I made it.
I never believed in the mind/body dichotomy. I don’t believe my intellect is separate from the body I’m in. The mind and the body are one integral inseparable thing. But, what is this thing? I think we forget that like this integration, identity is what we are. So it’s not what we want to be, it’s not what we think we are, it’s not what we look like or what everyone thinks we are. It’s everyone of those things at the same time. It’s your values, your history, your desires, your dislikes, your physical body and strength, your sense of humor, your actions and your love. In a way, it’s your beauty. It’s what you are.
What you are is very powerful. You have the ability to change your entire life with such small actions. We like to think that we are helpless in the events of our lives, but if you think about it, it would only take one small negative action to alter your entire life. Maybe you do something to go to jail, or you say something that upsets your entire family. Think that you have the power to not do that. It’s a great power indeed. In the same vein we have the ability to shape and use our identities to change our lives in a positive way.
I was thinking about identity because of my fursuit Isaac Homebrew. Like I said before, when I’m in a fursuit I’m able to define my entire identity in any way I want. I love that freedom. My mother and Maus are concerned that I’m going to get ‘lost’ in my fursuit and have that become me instead of me. Nah. They ask, “Are you going to wear it all the time?” My response is that, “If I make my own fursuit and own it as an adult, I can wear it as much as I like.” I’m not running away from anything anymore. I’m not trying to be something I’m not anymore. I’m not trying to establish some freedom from sanction. I’m just who I am, and this is part of who I am. It always has been. I didn’t discover furry and then think it was cool. I was ‘furry’ before it ‘existed’. I have been building and wearing fursuits and costumes since I was little. Fall, October and Halloween are my all time favorites. So, Isaac Homebrew, Kadar Falcraft, Willy the Red Husky, Larry the Lab Rat, Gary the Green Husky… these are all expressions of me. Some people role-play, some people write, some people fashion model airplanes, I create identities.