Rip it up and start again

Identity has always been a social construct largely based on how others physically perceive you. Be that gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality or faith, others base their assumptions on their own inherent conscious and subconscious prejudices.

The rise of the online digital persona makes this subjective identity increasingly irrelevant – and self-identity implicit.

Now you get to dictate how you want to be perceived by naming your message, your personal communication style, and how you present your own identity. You can affiliate to the digital tribes you wish to, and fracture and fragment the narrow strictures of identity construct.

However, post Brexit the external physical self symbolises to some people the “other”. Post Brexit, ethnicity, race and faith are used to catalyse xenophobic stereotypes.

‘Taking back control’

If in an online world you can self-identify, how can we embrace that in the physical world where your ethnicity marks you out as something to be demonized by a narrative that’s used to exclude? If we can self-identify online, how can we do so physically in order to break down barriers and prejudice?

We need to rip it up and start again.

We need to reclaim the notions of diversity and equality where self-identification is respected and valued, and in turn subvert a narrative that doesn’t represent those who live within a global community. We need to embrace the past – both long-term and recent – and decide how we wish to interpret it.

We can embrace the ethnography of communities created in online spaces and harness the concept of virtual communities who congregate around shared themes and interests to celebrate a commonality of humanity.

Self-identification fractures the concept of othering. It doesn’t require you to approve or condemn. It’s not asking for permission. It returns the ownership of identity to its owner.

In doing so you reduce the power of othering, make external perception an invalid response and weaken the value judgements made by others.

The new ‘normal’

So we create a new normal – one where difference is celebrated and the nuances of identity are what make civic-minded and diverse communities.

I am a Sri Lankan, Tamil, Catholic, Brahmin, British Citizen with 26 pierces and 10 tattoos. I live to defy gender, race, religion and image stereotypes.

How would you describe me?

[Guest post by Lara Ratnaraja, Cultural Consultant, Consultant Director – Creative Warwickshire]

Title credit: Edwyn Collins and Orange Juice

Image: courtesy of Stuart Miles via