Magazine article The Christian Century

Identity Search

Magazine article The Christian Century

Identity Search

Article excerpt

When George Bush Sr. was campaigning for president, he made a stop at a North Carolina nursing home. When he came upon an elderly gentleman bent over in his wheelchair, Bush leaned over to ask, "Sir, do you know who I am?" The man looked up and responded, "No, but if you go to the nurses station, they can tell you." I have no idea if the president-to-be followed up on the man's suggestion and, if he did, what identity some nurse assigned him. But the story opens the door to remembering the many ways in which all of us search for identity during the course of our lives.

Identity quests are not reserved for the lost, the odd, and the weak. All we have to recall is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in his own centered and faith-filled life wrestled with identity questions, expressed in his poem, "Who Am I?"

For some people, identity questions revolve around appearance, social acceptance, or vocational discernment. For others, it's economic status or the anxieties accompanying relationships. For still others, questions of gender identity loom large.

If you aren't acquainted with any transgender people, I think you'll find the stories in this issue of the Century enlightening. Transgender identity is one of many issues that we at the Century believe are too important to leave in the realm of ignorance or misperception. In covering this often overlooked population, we are not aiming to offer a version of a narrow identity politics that ends up perpetuating a group's marginalization.

In thinking about interpretive handholds for reflecting on gender identity, I'd begin with the recognition that gender is exceedingly complex. …

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