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"What I am" and "who I am." Two different worlds of being. What I am implies that I am a thing, not a person. What I am is the labels that are assigned to me, what I am is male or female, child or adult, Muslim or Christian or Shinto, disabled or abled, black or white or hispanic or Asian, straight or gay, pedophile or enalikophile. These are things and not people. I cannot walk up to disabled and shake its hand or be its friend or get to know it in a way that nobody else knows it in the spirit of true friendship.

Who I am is completely opposite. Ask a person "who are you" and they may say many things, about their history or beliefs or hopes for the future. Who I am is a unique person with a set of ideas and notions unique to me that I apply to the things I see happening around me in a unique way. Who I am is colorful and varied and interesting. Who I am is not a category; it is an individual in whose skin and soul I reside. You can give me a million labels but you'll never know who I am until you talk to me, get to know me, expose yourself to my world. It's easy to tell if I'm black or white but it's impossible to tell the whole essence of my individuality--or that of any other person on this planet. "What" I am is a dehumanizing term, reducing me to an object or category or simple, easily-grasped notion; but who I am is who I am.

People talk about what they are all the time, and it always bothers me because people aren't objects. What a stone is, is a stone. What a person is, cannot be put into words or categories or really even adjectives. I'm not funny or somber, but I can act in funny or somber ways depending on my mood and what's going on. I'm not gay or straight; I love who I love the same as anyone else--note that I said who I love and not what I love. What I love would be a man or woman or intersex person. An adult or a child or a teenager. Who I love would be an individual who I found to possess beauty.

I want to liberate myself from the notion that I could introduce myself and all my individuality in answer to the question "what are you." I want to liberate myself from the notion that I am a thing and not a person. I want to liberate myself from the simplicity that has been forced upon my being by the creation of categories like religion and sexuality and race. Because, in truth, I am like anyone else in these areas: I honor what I feel has spiritual value; I love people who I love; I have skin. The real essence of a person does not lie in such categories.

David's story
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