Identity: Through experiences and one’s own reality

by Erick Yanzon

Identity is such a simple but complex term. Identity changes throughout time and life’s journey. It’s the experiences in life that make a person who they are. One’s identity evolves through the places they go, the people they meet, and the environment they are in. Parents influence their children in so many ways. Religion and sexual orientation are the two identities that usually either relate to or contradict with each other. This essay will explore the possible change in one’s belief based on the reality of who they really are, and how one’s perspective can change from how they were raised to figuring it out on their own.


What are you and who are you supposed to be? People always ask us what we are, who we are, and how we identify ourselves, but how do we know that? How does our own personal identity shape us as a person? We all have our own unique identities, which what makes us who we are. We are all different, yet we are all the same. There are certain identities that we are all born with, but one’s identity as a whole can change over time. The people, the surroundings, and the experiences one has, may influence one’s identity.

One identity many people may be struggling or confused about is gender and sexual orientation. When you are in public, it may be easy to distinguish if someone is a male or a female. Our gender identity is the one most often used by others when describing us. We were taught since we were little that gender is only between being a man or a woman. Gender may be perceived as obvious but it is actually very invisible. Only one can truly tell what their own identity is. We always assume from the physical traits whenever we try to distinguish someone’s sexuality. In reality, gender is not binary. One could identify themselves as transgender or gender-queer. There are also a lot of other sexualities more than just being straight or homosexual, including bisexual, pansexual, and many more. This is what makes it hard to distinguish, because we always tend to base gender and sexuality with our biological sex.

Many people are not aware of the variety of identities someone can identify themselves as. One can never truly know what it feels like to be someone they are not. I think that is something we all need to understand, that not everyone came from the same background. This is important because everyone has a different experience, and that leads to how our identity makes up who we are.

Our personal identity changes based on the people and surroundings that influence us. For many, they are only aware of the identities that they learned as they grew up. Our parents influence who we are the moment we are born. I mean, we came from them, right? Parents have a huge impact on our behaviors, attitudes and beliefs. Some parents may want their children to grow up and be raised the same way they were raised. Some may want their children to grow up in a totally different way than how their parents raised them. Perhaps they want to keep a good tradition, or perhaps their own views and attitudes changed over time and through the experiences they encountered, and that’s how they want to teach and raise their children. These influences include religion and politics. Even more so, their view on ethnicity and sexual orientation can have a huge impact on a child’s point of view.

One may have been raised in a very religious household, but as they grow up and go off on their own experiencing the world that is out there, they may start to realize that what they were taught as may not necessarily be what they really are. They may not necessarily change their religious views, but they may question certain beliefs based on their personal choices which can be influenced by their surroundings. This relates to the essay, “I Stand Here Writing” by Nancy Sommers. She talks about her journey and how her point of view changed throughout time and her experiences. How we identify ourselves depend on how we view the world and what we have overcome in our life. As a mother, she felt that it was her duty to understand everything that is going on with her daughters. But her daughters do not identify the same as her, especially at the social aspect. This means that her daughters get to choose whatever they want, and they might see it differently than her. Same goes with identity, you may know or understand what someone is going through or how they identify themselves, but you would never feel the same way as them ever. Identity is just a unique thing we all have. Her essay also relates to identity, because she focused a lot on uncertainty. There are certain points in our life when we question our own identity. We might have grown up knowing a certain thing, but this might change because of the environment we are in, the people we talk to, and our ever so developing mind and experiences we have that make us grow as an individual.

I, myself have a personal example. I grew up in a Catholic family in the Philippines. Many believed that man can only love a woman, and a woman can only love a man. It was not until I moved to America, as I explored my surroundings, and finally figured out who I was, that I became comfortable with my sexuality. I realized that what I was raised to become, is not who I am. My views of religion has totally changed overtime, and there is definitely uncertainty in there. Just like Sommers, I questioned authority. I questioned what I was taught. I did all on my own for me to be able to really figure out my own identity.

One’s religious affiliation may change from something they were raised as, to something that others influence them, because they were kept from actually being what they identify themselves, like their sexual orientation, as a person. A lot of non-heterosexual identifying people were raised in a certain religion with the gender binary. As they keep growing up, and start to experience and realize who they actually are, the change in their religious belief may then factor in. “Bringing the Rhetoric of Assent and the Believing Game Together” by Peter Elbow can also relate to this issue. As he may agree to some of Wayne Booth’s essay, “Blind Skepticism versus a Rhetoric of Assent,” he questioned some of his arguments and made his own conclusion. Elbow believed that everyone should experience both of the extremes of dogmatism and skepticism, and that there is not a “middle way,” in order to have a decision. One has to understand, perhaps believe and doubt, all relevant aspects of every identity. It is not until then that one can truly identify themselves. Elbow argues that he tilts “just a bit toward disagreement, divergence of opinion, difference, the ability to see differently, and the individualist dimension.” This goes back to what identity is all about. It is flexible, and we need to let ourselves see differently, and that even when we may be similar to one person in a way, we make up our own identity, and that is what is important. We deserve to have our own opinion and own decisions.

Identity is very important and is definitely a journey for everyone to figure out for themselves. It defines who we are as we grow up, as we mature, as we believe and doubt, and it changes over time. And like what Mary Louise Pratt said in “Arts of the Contact Zone,” cultures meet at contact zone. Once you find that place where you feel comfortable and safe, then you can call it a safe house, as she refer to it as the “social and intellectual spaces where groups can constitute themselves as horizontal, homogeneous, sovereign communities with high degrees of trust, shared understandings, temporary protection from legacies of oppression” (116). Finding a community of the similar identity is important. Religion does not define one’s sexuality, neither does one’s sexuality define what religion they want to believe in. The way our parents raised us may have a huge impact in our lives; our experiences and surroundings may have influenced how we view certain things, but it is solely up to us, to really define who we are as a person

The Retrospective-Prospective Project

Looking back

Just like any piece of work, it takes a lot of time and effort and revisions until its final product. This web portfolio is a culmination of the work I have done in the Writing and Critical Inquiry Course, English 101. We started the quarter by watching the film Stranger With a Camera, and reading essays from the textbook. After getting an introduction and a feel of how the class is structured, I started getting ideas of what my paper is going to be about.

For the first essay cycle, there was never really a clear prompt of what we were going to write about, which I did not like. We were told to basically write anything we are passionate about and relate it to the film and the readings we have read so far. During this time, I was questioning a lot of things about myself and other people, and what makes us who we are. So I chose to talk about identity, as it is something we all have, and have something about it we are struggling with. The way I wrote my essay was basically my thought process about identity. I kept writing what I was thinking about without really caring about the structure, and really just let it all out. When I had my first one-on-one conference, it turned out that it was okay just rambling, as it was the roughest version of the essay will ever be.

Throughout the second cycle, I really worked on being specific with my critical inquiry questions, hypotheses, and thesis statements. I had a really hard time working on this and being as specific as I can on what my final claim will be. My instructor really helped me find what topic I would be mostly passionate about and go about that topic. The evolving thesis bubble sheet also really helped me a lot with finding complications with my claim, and making it as concrete as possible. I ended up going into the topic of how one’s identity can change throughout their experiences in life and the environment they are in. Specifically about religion, which is something our parents would have raised us to believe, and how our beliefs evolve as we find our true gender identity and sexual orientation.

I really learned in this class how to put my ideas together and write a concrete essay about it. I have improved on writing thesis statements, and learned how to complicate them and make it as specific as possible. Throughout the quarter, we also had to do readings that were supposed to help us with our writing. These readings really helped me support my evidence, and getting my point across. Almost all of them had a relation with my topic because of how dynamic identity is, and how it can relate to almost anything that has a story. The fishbowl discussions we had in class were also really helpful. Even when I did not participate in any of them, it was good listening and hearing what other students think about the texts we were reading. It helped me gain a better understanding about what was going on.

Moving forward


There are a few things I am going to take away from this class. As it is my first writing intensive class in college, this class will help me farther in my academic career. I learned that there is not one way to write an essay. You can get your point across no matter how you want your essay structured, whether it is inductive or deductive. I learned how to better argue, and become really specific with your claim. You have to keep complicating and questioning until you get down to a very explicit thesis.

Another thing I learned is that you can write essays about essays. For example is Peter Elbow’s “Bringing the Rhetoric of Assent and the Believing Game Together” was about his different opinions and some common grounds about Wayne Booth’s essay “Blind Skepticism versus a Rhetoric of Assent.” He explained how there is an extreme form of dogmatism and skepticism, and how you must experience both of them.

An advice I would give for future students that have to take this class is that even when nothing is graded until the final portfolio, that they should not wait until the very last bit to do everything. Do all the requirements as if they would actually be turned in. This would just help them gather and put everything together in the end. It would also just decrease their workload during Dead Week, where they could be using their time for their other classes. Also, really pay attention and ask help when needed. Take advantage of office hours. Knowing what is going on, recognizing that we make mistakes, and need assistance at times, is a crucial factor that is better learned earlier in college. This introductory class is just to help prepare students for even harder courses later on.

DESIGN best conveyed my presentation essay in many ways. The continuous scrolling down in one page indicates our continuous journey as individuals. The different topics and images are the things we experience in life and how it influences us. My goal as an author is to persuade my audience that identity is something that is not set in stone. It can change over time, but just like this site, it’s still one thing. Even when we go through a lot in our lives, we’re still the person who we are despite of all the changes we make for the better or for the worse. As for my audience, I want them to see something new. I want them to experience the use of this new form of medium, and how this will impact their choice of conveying their own information.



The Evolving Thesis Bubble Worksheet has really helped me finalize my thesis. All the complicating questions and anticipating objections also helped build up my essay, along with the supporting evidence and reasoning that goes with it. The questioning part really helped me narrow down and be specific with what my thesis statement was going to be.


This sticky note along with my first essay cycle draft during my first one-on-one conference was very helpful for my presentation essay. My instructor steered me to the right direction, and made sure that my thesis was not too vague. Even when my second essay cycle draft also had problems with having a specific thesis, I referred back to this note about really focusing on one specific topic instead of a general one. Especially that identity is such a broad idea, it needed to be so that I wouldn’t be talking about a lot of things, and just getting off tangent.


This is the very first piece of Issue, Situation, and the Critical Inquiry Question we did in class, for the film Stranger With a Camera. Even though I didn’t really use this for my presentation essay, this really helped me know what a CIQ is and how to do them, and where can they come from. This is where all the initial ideas of what my presentation could have been.


This outside of class artifact is from my HLED250 class. We were talking about the topic of violence and hyper-masculinity. This also helped me with my paper, because just like all the other things that we learned as a child being binary, this illustration shows how there’s a spectrum of identity one can be in. The aspect of hyper-masculinity relates to my essay with how little boys are taught that they have to be tough and aggressive because they are boys. We were bombarded with these ideas since we were little, and it is not until when we fully grow up that we realize that this is wrong.

Works Cited

Elbow, Peter. “Bringing the Rhetoric Assent and the Believing Game Together — and into the Classsroom” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. 45–54. Print.

Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. 104–116. Print.

Sommers, Nancy. “I Stand Here Writing” Participating in Cultures of Writing and Reading. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. 123–130. Print.

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