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How To/ Keywords: Defining Identity

Identity can be a very hard topic to discuss, especially as we don’t tend to consciously think about what makes us who we are. Camille helps introduce some keywords that can be used in ideas of identity and normality.

The concept of identity is an ever-changing landscape. The words we use to describe ourselves – and those around us – are heavily influenced by society as we know it. One of the key themes within identity that is almost invisible to us, is the idea of normality. What is it to be normal? What are the things about you that define what normal is to you?

To help get your ideas flowing, here are a few words that you may come across when looking at the themes of identity and how we talk about ideas of normality.

Feature Image: Lookbook imagery from Maromas Londres


Credit: 4077734 © Francisco Turnes –
Something described as non-normative usually goes against what is considered to be normal. For example, a non-normative approach to dressing children could be boys only wearing pink and girls only wearing blue. Next time you find yourself in the toys and clothes department for babies or children, pay attention to the colours that are assigned for these two genders to suggest normal gender identity.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

Gender identities refer to how an individual sees themselves in relation to their gender. They may be male, female or non-binary (this word is defined later on). Gender identities also expand to cis and trans, to be inclusive of those who identify as either the gender they or born into or not. What is important to note, is that gender identities and sexual orientations are NOT the same thing. Some of the key words that you may be familiar with can be found below:


Someone who identifies with the gender that they were assigned at birth.


The belief that male and female gender identities and heterosexual attractions to one another are considered the ‘norm’.


Being attracted to the opposite gender.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning. The ‘+’ communicates that the community expands to other gender and sexual identities. This acronym highlights and represents those who do not identify with either heteronormative or cisgender identities. The LGBTQ+ acronym may also be seen as:

  • LGBTI (I = Intersex)
  • LGBTQIAPD (A = Asexual, P = Polysexual and D = Demisexual)
  • LGBTTQQIAAP (the second T = Transsexual, two separate Q’s for Queer and Questioning, and a second A = Ally).

Intersections/ Intersectionality

Credit: Roxana Crusemire on Unsplash.
A theory and term created by Kimberley Crenshaw in 1989 which expresses the varied elements that make up a person. E.g. Age, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, social class etc. Think about the different intersections that shape your identity.

Binary/ Non-Binary

Credit: Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash.
Binary can be used in relation to a few areas of identity. With regards to gender, it’s used to describe either being male or female. Non-binary genders are those who do not feel that either male or female assignments expresses who they are. Another term which expresses this is third-gender. Binary with regards to race/ ethnicity, is suggestive of a relationship where ‘whiteness’ is considered the dominant racial group of society, with ‘blackness’ as its immediate opposite or ‘other’. Non-binary discussions around race/ ethnicity embrace ideas surrounding all racial and ethnic groups beyond the black/ white binary.


Credit: Matteo Paganelli on Unsplash.
The fair treatment of all. The Equality Act (2010) stops employers, service providers and providers of education from discriminating against, harassing or victimising individuals with protected characteristics. Protected characteristics are; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Feminism/ Womanism

Credit: Arièle Bonte on Unsplash.
Feminism is widely known as the fight for equality between the binary genders, or the equality between men and women. Due to this movement in 1903, you may know of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of The Suffragettes. What is lesser known, is that feminism captured at this time was not representative of all women across ethnicities, social classes, religions etc. Enter Womanism, a term coined by Alice Walker in 1979 to evolve feminism to a place that represents women across all marginalised groups and intersections.


Credit: Jennifer Wu via Flickr
Stereotyping is the characterising or labelling of an entire group of people as sharing the same behaviour and features.

Interested in finding out more?

Check out these creatives and researchers who are challenging normative ideas and practices:

Stuart Hall – Cultural Studies Sociologist

Sonya Renee –

Grayson Perry –

Joseph A Adesunloye – YouTube

Laura Kirwin- Ashman – YouTube

Sahara Henson – Miss SaHHara’s YouTube Channel

Charlie Craggs – Video Picks: Charlie Craggs

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