Pride Rainbow Crosswalk

Finding My Pride: Who Am I?

By Isra Pananon Weeks

At the age of 38, I’m still wrestling with my identity. Who I am, where I come from, and the communities I belong to are constant questions running through my mind. As a young adult, identity didn’t mean much to me, nor did I ever think to look up the definition. It wasn’t until I attended social work school that I had the opportunity to explore the various parts that make me, me. 

One of my favorite exercises from school was from my Practice with Groups class. My professor would assign us a partner at random and make us ask this question to each other (over and over): “Who are you?” So… who am I? I am Thai American. I am a woman. I am a citizen soldier. Environmentalist. I am a patriot. I am queer. Wife. Veteran. Daughter of immigrants. I’m an athlete. Dog mom. Godmother. I’m a future social worker. 

The ability to be introspective and have the space to dig deep into who I am is a privilege. For many people, this is not a reality in their personal and professional lives. And it wasn’t always a reality for me. Exploring identity makes me think about my time in the military pre-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal. And while it was only a matter of two years, it was time spent in silence. I also think about the many networking events early on in my career and how I’d allow others to see my other identities, but not see me as a gay woman. In the office I’d do the same; I spent a lot of time hiding myself from others for fear of reprisal or disdain.

These experiences made me realize that being fully present is a privilege. It also made me recognize that organizations are not always equipped to welcome my presence or facilitate discussions about identity or full selves at work. In 2021, it’s not enough to pass nondiscrimination laws, we must live and breathe openness and inclusivity. We must make inclusion practices a part of our DNA. We must all strive to be Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Officers. 

By being myself, I met a consultant and facilitator who saw me, and all of me. She’s the reason I am writing this and have signed up for circle keeper training next month. Peacemaking and restorative circles are powerful tools to facilitate deep listening and belonging. I believe we have the power and agency to change the workplace and how we interact with our colleagues. I also believe that seeing each other – all parts and identities – makes us stronger, more connected, and eventually, closer to any vision you are working towards.

So, who are you? I’m here to listen.