On Servants' Wings
A gynandromorph butterfly with the transgender pride flag for the front wing and the rainbow pride flag on the rear wing On Servants Wings
Resources and Reflections by Ari Leigh


Identity Map Activity


Print Version

Matrials Needed

  • A pad of sticky notes for each participant
  • A pen or writing utensil for each participant
  • A blank wall large enough to space for at least 10-15 sticky notes per participant
  • Space to sit for the presentation and discussion
  • Copies of the activity outline for each participant

I) Introduction

II) Workshop Norms

III) Story Time

A long time ago, in a distant land a child was playing alone. As the child played a question formed, echoing unspoken with the child's soul. Leaving their toys aside they raced to find their mother.

"Mama, Mama" she called. "Yes, my daughter" came the soft, gentle reply. "Mama" the child repeated, "who am I?" "Silly girl" the mother replied, "you are my daughter, is that not name enough for you? Now take your doll and go outside to play".

The child, while not questioning the mother's love was not satisfied with the answer she had given. So he raced to his father. "Da, Da" he called. "Yes, my son", came the deep, resonating response. "Da" the child said again, "who am I?" The father sighed, then smiled. "My son, you are my son, is that not name enough for you? Here is your ball, why don't you go outside and play while it is still light".

More conflicted than ever the child went to the two wisest people around. "Grammy Dee, Grammy Fee" the child called to two people who had watched over them since they were young. "Can you tell me who I am? Mama says my name is 'daughter', Da says it's 'son', but I just don't know." "Child" spoke Grammy Dee, "Your name is something that you alone can find". "Here", said Grammy Fee, "take this basket and see what you what you discover." The child took the basket and after settling the doll and the ball carefully inside they began to roam.

First he went to the sea, the immense waves crashed against the shore, showering him with a cool spray. The water went on forever, blending with the light blue sky above. As he walked along the ragged edge of the shore he found an old green bottle, fastened securely with a cork. Carefully he opened it, thinking for a moment that perhaps his name would be written inside and his quest ended. Finding it empty he set aside his disappointment. Then he filled the bottle with water from the sea before replacing the top carefully settling it into his basket.

From the ocean's edge she then journeyed to the prairie. Here too the world seemed to go on forever as she stared out over the endless stream of grasses. Dancing through the fields, delighting in the beauty that surrounded her she plucked a sunflower from it stalk, and nestled it gentle with her other treasures in the basket.

Next the child came to a garden, long neglected but overflowing with flowers of all shapes sizes and colors. They delighted in the chaos and in the faint hints of neglected patterns. As they circled the garden each circuit revealed new treasures. Finally they selected a fallen butterfly, rescuing it from the dirt. They gave the creature a place of honor among the items they had gathered.

For a time the child wandered from place to place. In each place another trinket was gathered, a small thing to remind them of what had been, seen and done. In time fatigue set in, and the child began to miss the place once called home. Still the journey continued as the child was determined to not return until a name, and not just any name, but a name that fit perfectly, had been found. Just as the child had nearly given up a crossroad appeared on the horizon. Standing in the middle of the road a creature of brilliance stood, watching. Light flowed out of the being, which towered over the child. Gathering what courage remained the child approached.

"Bright one, I seek your aid". The radiant giant knelt to meet the child's eyes. "Little one, what is your request?" "I seek my name, to know who I am and where I belong" the child answered, voice shaking. I've been wandering for so long, but all I've found are these trinkets. The being glanced at the basket, now overflowing with stones and flowers, acorns and tufts of fur and smiled before speaking, "Perhaps what you seek, you already know and carry." With that the creature of light rose, bowed to the child and then vanished as though never there.

Reluctantly the child let out a sigh before moving to the side of the road and flipping over the basket. Stones plopped, leaves blew and a bit of fur nearly escaped before a small hand quickly snatched it from the air. Feeling the softness off the tuft the child found themselves sinking slowly into memory. With touch, smell, and sight the whole journey was re-lived. Each perfect dawn, each cold night of terror, the moments of peace and the ferocity of the storm were remembered. In the wave of memories a pattern began to emerge, carried on the tide of awareness. A sense of selfhood, of being that was not limited to the experiences spread over the ground, but deeper.

I, the child thought am not the sum of these experiences, yet these are a part of me. As for my name, what name could possibly reflect such a full journey? If any one place, beautiful or horrible, had been left out, then my understanding would be completely different. As they looked on a sense wonder rose within. A new appreciation for the journey filled every inch of the child's body. I know my name, the child thought. It really is quite simple. I am the basket and all that is inside it. I am the doll and the girl who played with her. I am the boy with the ball and the child with the butterfly. I am the one who stood on the mountains and played in the sea. I am, and because I am I can also become. Warmth filled their body, love and respect for each part of the journey, each gift of experience. Slowly the items were gathered and placed reverently in the basket. Then the adult picked up their treasures and turned their path toward home.

IV) Defining Identity

Iden-ti-ty

  • who someone is : the name of a person
  • the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others

From Merriam-Webster

Identity is the word we use to describe our being. Our identities are nouns which we attach to the phrase "I am" in order to describe ourselves, our experiences and what we bring to an interaction.

V) Introducing Intersectionality

Our identity, who we are, were and are becoming, is impossible to consider without reflecting on how different identities overlap. One's experience as an American overlaps with one's experience as a Kansas for instance, both of which would be entirely different experiences depending on the race of the individual.

Here are a few examples of some of the identities we all have which interact with each other.

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Socioeconomic Class
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Physical and mental abilities
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religious or Spiritual Identities
  • Age

While some of these are constant, others may change over time

  • Someone who identifies as a child may over time change to that of an adult
  • A wealthy individual may find themselves living below the poverty line
  • An person who is able-bodied may have an accident and find themselves paralyzed

VI) Building the Identity Map

  • Each participant is asked to write down five identities they have on five separate sticky notes
  • Participants will take the sticky notes with their identities and place them on a blank wall
  • They should be instructed to form categories as they see the other identities people around you are posting. For example if someone lists "American" as an identity it might make sense to put "Kansan" in the same area.

    Participants are also instructed to not move the sticky notes after they are posted

  • During the exercise, participants are encouraged to write down additional identities and add them to the wall.

The intensity of this activity is largely driven by participants. If they stick to commonly known identities (gender, race, nationality, hobbies), the activity is fairly light. A group may chose to share more complicated parts of themselves (such as abuse history, mental illness, recovery from addictions). So the facilitator must be prepared to adjust and ensure a healthy space regardless of the tone set during the activity.

VII) Reflection Questions

This section should be adapted on the fly depending on the flow of the conversation. Each of these questions is a resource to restart a conversation if a reflective silence grows uncomfortable. If a group doesn't respond to one question, either reword it or try a different one.

  • Would anyone like to open with a reflection, question or comment?
  • Before we started this activity how many identities would you say you have? How many now?
  • Were there identities you found easy to share? Difficult? Why so?
  • How did it feel to see people share identities that were the same as or similar to your own?
  • How did it feel to see people share identities that were different than your own?
  • How does this exercise change how you view yourself? The people you interact with?
  • Outside of this event, where might an activity like this be useful?
  • How might you apply what you've learned in this exercise to your daily life?

VIII) How to Lead This Activity

IX) Final Questions & Conclusion


Context Note: This activity was developed for the Leadership session of Camp Aranu'tiq in 2014


Copyright © Ari Leigh 2019