When I was a child my father told me of the wonder of going to a new place. Each time you moved to another town or spent time at a summer camp where no one had met you you had the opportunity to reinvent yourself. They would have no idea of who you were in the last place you were. You could start over from scratch. As I have grown into adulthood both my parents seem to be worried that my identity is insufficiently popular. If only I could give the people what they wanted then I would have success in career and love.
There is something to this–as far as it goes. You can leave behind past mistakes and you do have to start new relationships. Your fashion sense need not be a core part of your identity and if it’s not then you can take advice from people on how to be more trendy and express the messages you want to send with the clothes you choose. Sometimes it is wiser to hold your tongue and it is often wiser wait for the right moment instead of blurting out whatever is on your mind.
However, if you are always being blown about by the desires of others then you will lose your sense of self. If you can only remember what someone else wanted you to wear and cannot fathom the concept of what I want to wear then you have a problem. Besides, a lot of what makes up a person is significantly harder to manage then clothing choice. Can one be more feminine or more masculine simply by desiring to be so? In addition to gender expression, is there a subconscious sex, as Julia Serano suggests, which underlies the qualities we expect our bodies to have?
If everyone were pragmatic and making conscious choices about their identities you might see everyone trying to become White, heterosexual males. After all, who wouldn’t want to gain the most privileged position in society. Yet, there are events unforeseen by a rational pragmatist. Gay men remain gay despite efforts by themselves, their families, doctors and society to make them otherwise. Despite marginalization, stigma and violence their are trans women who persist in their desire to be female. How much of who we are remains regardless of societal pressure?
I know that I desire to be successful and liked by those around me, but I still find who I am returning to the surface. Sometimes I do find that I can no longer remember what I desire, only the recommendations of others.