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Embracing Identity: The Struggle and Strength of Being Yourself in 2024

June 3, 2024

Even in 2024, the simple act of being yourself can still be fraught with challenges and dangers. In extreme cases, this could mean being subjected to violence fueled by hate. This fear of being targeted has led many marginalized people to hide their identities to navigate a world that doesn’t always accept them more easily. Join us as we shine a light on this phenomenon and, more importantly, empower everyone to take pride in who they are, even when the world makes it difficult.

Opting for Androgyny to Stay Safe

Transgender individuals, one of the most marginalized communities, often face significant societal pressures and risks, leading some to adopt a more androgynous appearance to mitigate the threat of hate-based violence. This strategy serves to protect them from misgendering and the potential dangers of being visibly transgender in an unaccepting environment. However, this defensive measure also entails suppressing their true gender expression, which can be emotionally and mentally taxing.

“I am coming out into a world that sees my existence as a matter of legitimate debate,” says an anonymous author of a 2020 article in the Guardian.

For trans individuals, navigating their identity amidst societal stigmas and prejudices poses immense challenges, emphasizing the urgent need for safe, inclusive spaces that affirm and support their identities.

Passing as White to Evade Persecution

Similarly, despite strides in civil rights, many Black individuals historically resorted to passing as white to evade the threat of hate-based violence and racial discrimination. This practice, born out of a necessity for safety, better opportunities, and respite from pervasive racism, exacted a heavy emotional toll, often fracturing their sense of self and eroding familial and communal ties.

A 2021 study by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University revealed alarming statistics on the prevalence of Black men passing as white during the Jim Crow Era. Approximately 1.4 percent of Black men under age 55 were found to have opted for passing per decade, with estimates suggesting the actual rate could be as high as 7–10 percent. Though less common today, the act of passing underscores the enduring legacy of racism and the persistent systemic challenges faced by marginalized communities.

Concealing Behind Masks to Avoid Xenophobia

The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional layers of prejudice and fear for Asian communities. To avoid xenophobic attacks and discrimination, some Asian individuals resorted to wearing masks and sunglasses, further concealing their identities. This not only served as a physical shield but also a psychological one, protecting them from the hostile stares and comments that sadly became more frequent during the pandemic.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, 1 in 3 Asians worried about being targeted had changed their daily routines out of fear, a 2022 Pew Research study found. These adjustments were not merely inconveniences but necessary precautions to navigate a society fraught with heightened tension and hostility. Despite the resilience displayed by these communities, the toll of constant vigilance and the burden of navigating spaces where one’s very identity can be a target underscore the urgent need for concerted efforts to combat hate-based violence and discrimination.

Hiding Religious Symbols to Avoid Antisemitism

For Jewish individuals, expressions of their faith such as wearing kippahs or displaying mezuzahs can make them targets for antisemitism. As a result, many choose to forgo these visible signs of their religion, blending in to avoid harassment or violence, a practice that occurred as early as the holocaust and is continued today in the face of rising antisemitism following the October 7 attack on Israel. This concealment, while protective, can also feel like a denial of a core part of their identity and heritage.

“I shouldn’t have to feel brave in America to show my Jewishness, but here we are,“ writes Arielle Kaden in a 2023 article for Forward, the most widely read Jewish newspaper anywhere.

This sentiment reflects the heartbreaking reality that even in a country built on principles of freedom and diversity, Jewish individuals are forced to navigate their identity with caution, facing the constant threat of discrimination and violence simply for practicing their faith.

The Path to Pride and Acceptance: Embracing Every Identity

While these examples highlight the lengths marginalized people go to protect themselves, they also underscore the importance of creating a more inclusive and accepting world. This Pride Month, let’s commit to understanding and supporting each other’s struggles. By raising awareness and fostering acceptance, we can help ensure that everyone feels safe and proud to be themselves, regardless of their identity.

Empowerment comes from community and visibility. One tool that can help is Sayfer, a free hate crime reporting app. Sayfer enables individuals to report incidents of hate and discrimination anonymously, providing a safe way to document and address these occurrences. By using Sayfer, communities can gather data to push for policy changes and increased protections, helping to create a safer environment for everyone.

Let’s celebrate the courage it takes to embrace who we are and stand in solidarity with those who still face challenges in doing so. Together, we can make a difference, ensuring that everyone can take pride in their identity.

In 2024, let’s make pride not just a month-long celebration, but a year-round commitment to embracing and uplifting every identity.