Identity in Politics

Happy Pride!!! This seemed like the right moment to talk about identity and share a bit of who I am.

I’ll expand on what led me into politics, and how I got here, another day. In short, I found the world completely unsatisfactory, and I could no longer sit by and watch as people suffer because they don’t have enough political power to help themselves. So I ended up choosing to run for the Green Party – a party that allows me to be myself and put my constituents before the party line. I was hoping that I could run on policy only and leave my identity out of politics. I don’t want someone to vote for me because I am young, or a POC, but rather because of what I can do for my community and the country. My identity doesn’t define what I believe in, or what I want to work on. Really I am just me, Amita Kuttner, a human like anyone else wanting to help others. But it turns out I am stuck with my identity and my lived experiences. I carry them with me, and they inform how I look at the world and relate to the experiences of others. Like anyone else, I view the world through the lens of who I am and what my life has been. I see now that so many parts of my identity are underrepresented; I feel unrepresented.

From working on diversity in the sciences, I learned that representation matters. It seems to be the same in politics. That does not mean that someone who does not carry a certain identity cannot effectively work on policy that doesn’t affect them directly, but rather that seeing people like ourselves in politics makes it more welcoming. From my experience, not seeing anyone like me makes me feel like I don’t belong, that I am not supposed to be there, and that it would certainly not be acceptable for me to participate.

So for pride, I want to share that I am non-binary, genderfluid, and feel agender a lot of the time. I am pansexual. I discovered my identity over time as I watched friends come out and began to explore my own relationship to gender. Most of the time, I don’t feel like I have gender, but sometimes I do; sometimes I feel an overwhelming relationship to my body, either that it’s right, or wrong, that I am intrinsically woman, or man. I also found that gender is not a determining factor when it comes to who I am attracted to. And this has nothing to do with gender norms, or even how I present myself. I am grateful to be able to exist most of the time without a strong sense of dysphoria, but I often find the world pretty exclusionary, only working and making sense for cis people. I acknowledge my privilege of being assumed to be a straight, cis woman (okay, there are problems with that too), but the gendered assumptions still grate on me. For a while, I pushed back against the idea of needing to identify at all, but eventually I found terms that encapsulated my experience.

On the policy front, we have a long way to go. We are still working on building a society that is truly inclusive of everyone. Backlash against SOGI education is terrifying to me, as it feels like both a personal attack, and an attack on what should be core Canadian values. At the moment, we need stronger policy to ensure that more gender identities and sexual orientations are welcome, showing more people that they are part of their communities, and part of their country. Some things to start with are support for SOGI education, and safe spaces to reduce the violence still perpetrated against gender-diverse people. We need to ban conversion therapy at every level of goverment that we can. I also want to see government documentation move to gender neutral pronouns, as well as a neutral option on IDs. Use of they/them rather than “he or she” or “his or her” in documentation ensures that no one is excluded, as pronouns should be able to refer to anyone.

My gender and sexuality are just a small part of my identity, and I feel other aspects of who I am much more prominently when I interact with the world, such as being a person of colour, or having survived trauma and living with the mental health challenges that came from it. I have many privileges, I acknowledge them, and I want to use what I have to make our country a place where everyone has a real chance to express who they are, and do what they want with their lives. I share my experiences of identity with you because I want to be honest about who I am, and to encourage open discussion of issues around gender and sexuality.