Do You Define Yourself By Your Causes?

On, May 14th Minnesota became the 12th state to make same-sex marriage legal. 
On May 13th, I met up with my friends Jess and Cadence at the capitol so we could watch history take place and mingle with all that awesome.
To say the atmosphere was emotionally charged is something of an understatement. There was cheering, impromptu sing-a-longs of Don’t Stop Believin’ and Seasons of Love. There was yelling, praying, and watching TV monitors with baited breath.

For a long time, marriage equity has been one of the causes that I hold closest to my heart.  Lots of my friends are gay and, honestly, it seems patently ridiculous that anyone be prevented from making a commitment to someone they love.

Like many of you, one of the ways I stay optimistic is by choosing my battles; I’ve got three causes that I’m totally committed to.  I’ve got my window clings, I’ve got buttons on my hoodie, I donate money, and I can articulately, respectfully argue with you for hours on the topics of LGBTQ rights, refugee/immigration policy (I used to be an ESL teacher), and reproductive rights.

And in a way, I define myself by my stances on these topics. I’m Liberal. I believe that we should help people who need it.  Not everyone votes or donates or thinks the same way I do (which is 100% okay!) and a small part of who I think I am is defined by that difference.
When I moved to New Zealand for graduate school, I was thrilled and surprised to discover that all of the causes that I was so busy crowing about?  They were foregone conclusions in the land of the long white cloud.  Civil unions for same-sex partnerships? Legal in 2004. I never met a single Kiwi who wanted to make abortion illegal or redefine immigration or refugee policies.
And while it was 99% awesome to be surrounded by so many like-minded people, it was also ever-so-slightly weird. You don’t want to talk about UNHCR policies? (Though, to be fair, I’m not sure anyone in Minnesota ever really wanted to talk about that either.) We don’t need to raise money for Planned Parenthood?
Of course I got over my tiny little identity crisis (mostly because I was too busy going to school and working two jobs) but it made me think about how we tie ourselves to our causes and the ways that we’re different.

What are your causes? Do you define yourself by them? Have you ever lived somewhere where everyone is like-minded?

all photos by Cadence Cornelius

24 Comments

Amy

Massively – not by specific causes, per se, but being a feminist is kind of my thing. It's what I know myself as, and what other people know me as as well. It's not that I think that my friends are anti-feminist, but they aren't stridently or vocally feminist so I think that sets me apart and definitely defines my place in the group. However, when I'm around other feminists where I don't have to constantly explain and define my position – I actually feel *more* myself, even though I'm not different. It's really awesome, I love it.

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Angie Bailey

For me, it's LGBTQ issues as I am a lesbian and my wife is a transgender MTF lesbian. So obviously, it's hugely important in my life and something I support, for us, and for all others. I am also passionate about animal rights, and certain places such as Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and finally, I support Child's Play. <3

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Kylie

Ohmygosh! Minnesota! I couldn't believe it when I saw the news. (I mean, I could, but it's just so fabulously exciting!)

When I was just growing into my activism, my causes were absolutely at the forefront of my identity. Now, I think that the actual qualities I believe in are more central to me. For instance, I try to infuse compassion into everything I do. The causes are now more fully integrated into who I am/have been, and they kind of peek out when they need to.

This post made me happy.

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Maggie

I think I can juuust see my mom in one of those photos 🙂 she was there in her pastor get-up with her "VOTE YES" sign! We are ALL ABOUT gender and marriage equity at our house. We even have a rainbow flag.

My personal caust: animals. I eat a vegan diet, I volunteer at a local animal shelter, I foster cats from said shelter (there's a three-legged cat shedding all over my furniture as we speak), and I'm planning to spend a week at an animal sanctuary this summer, just volunteering. My purchasing decisions, my diet, and how I spend my free time are all defined by my love for animals.

I'm also a bit of a tree hugger and have found myself thinking about "Story of Stuff" a lot recently. Inspired by this pretty cool MN blogger I follow, I've started buying more and more second hand. It's a process but a fun one! I scored a J. Crew plaid dress the other day for like $30! Plus I recycle like a madwoman and am totally that person with 800 reusable grocery bags (one of them is made out of an old dog food bag).

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Grace B.

I would have to say I define myself almost solely by my anti-abortion stance. I have a huge passion for knowledge and understanding in general, which definitely translates over to my pro-life mindset. I am very willing to enter into respectful dialogue on the subject, as well as very committed to finding reputable and scientific resources. I especially enjoy finding resources from more atheistic or liberal sources, as the pro-life cause is generally associated with the religious right. I think this is one of the largest human rights violations of our generation and I am willing to commit my time, intellect, and financial resources to ending this injustice, as well as providing assistance to women who choose to avoid this painful ordeal.

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Mollie @ Jennings Brae Bank Farm

I don't think I define myself by my cause, but it is a huge part of my life. Being a young farmer, I'm passionate about local food. The more I've learned and worked on this cause the more my ideas have changed. Our food choices can have huge impacts for small farmers. While I still enjoy a well-made veggie burger, I also know the work and care local farmers put into their animals, and that meat can be just as enjoyable. It's also interesting living in an area where this is a new movement while knowing that it's old news in other parts of the country.

Also, way to go Minnesota!!

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New Wave Domesticity

I love this post. It always makes me so happy to see these beautiful celebration photos and feel like marriage equality is just a bit closer. At the same time, it makes me slightly sad that this is not a right that is granted without question and that there would need to be celebration for something that seems so obviously basic and and right of all.

My causes definitely define me as well. Gay rights and reproductive rights have always been something that I hold very dear to my heart. I am also really in favor of animal activism and I volunteer at my local shelter as much as I can because it makes me feel part of doing something that is so important to me.

The other cause I am passionate about is size positivity – I am sad that we live in such a body obsessed culture where eating disorders are rampant & women so often feel like they are not good enough. I think it is important for our generation to get past hating people for their size and the unhealthy diet methods and most of all the self hate. It's a cause that both helps me feel like I'm helping myself to recover from all of that fat hate and gives me support, but it is also a cause that I hope can touch others.

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Anonymous

Three cheers for Minnesota! This is a thoughtful and interesting post; thanks for sharing. That being said, my first thought is not to chime in about what I'm passionate about — my first thought was "Wow, I want to move to New Zealand." I don't think it would be boring at ALL to live where no one thinks it's outrageous to have a different way of life than your own. Where women's reproductive rights are never even questioned. The only thing that keeps me sane some days is to remember that the pendulum is swinging to a more liberated way of thinking, however frustratingly slow it seems to move sometimes.

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Deirdre

I love this! That would be fascinating to be in a place where the most *heated* topics of our country aren't even a conversation piece. How I long for that day in the US 🙂

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Girliest Nerd

I am definitely defined by my causes. I know I am lucky to just have been born here in Canada. I know I have a privilege I didn't earn by being white, able-bodied, and straight. I am fortunate to be secure and stable enough that I can devote a lot of time to taking action for specific causes.

I completely understand what you mean about New Zealand. Growing up in Canada and having us already tackle things I would have been more passionate about has left me free to focus on what I think is the biggest issue – women and children's rights in the poorest parts of the world.

However, living in Canada gives me free access to American views on things like women's reproductive rights and gay marriage and I kind of have to avoid it a bit because I can't vote or do too much about it and it just enrages me.

I have a lot of hope though. I absolutely love Americans! You guys have so much awesomeness. I know you will work it all out for the better.

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katie d.

Yes–feminist and reproductive rights causes, animal treatment causes, the marriage debate (no longer a debate!), and I can feel children's causes coming on now, too. Not only do I define myself around those things, I know that other people do, too. If someone says something unsavory around me, people all look to me to have an argument for it, or say "Oooooh, don't say that in front of Katie!" Which is funny, since I don't really like confrontation much. I never thought about how that would feel to live without needing to rush to those topics…I'm sure I'd find something else. 😉

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Rachael

I turned 18 years old during the 2000 election year, and registered to vote specifically to vote LGBTQ rights here in California. Between that and reproductive & feminist causes, these are the motivation behind all of my political activity.

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Samantha Kimble

Congrats Minnesota!! Washington state joined the list during the last election and I can't be prouder to say that I live in a state where we support equality and believe you can't control others lives or decisions. During the 2008 election I was in California when Prop 8 was being pushed. The place I worked had many closeted gay workers and many of the the employees supported Prop 8. The hate speach they had to listen to was endless and made it quit clear that during when I was in the building that regardless of personal feeling I will not tolorate hate speech of any kind. If anyone was caught talking about how evil gay people are and how they should be "reprogrammed" than they would be written up the same if they spread hate speach against anyone of a different reiligon or race.

My causes fuel me. They are very much who I am.

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Rita TOMORROWtoday

i love this post. as a fellow minnesotan, i was motivated to get involved with the fight against the amendment last fall, and i also watched in awe this week as equality was granted for all. i used to define myself by my career/status/etc. and have learned in the last year that the only thing that truly defines me is what i do for what i believe in…

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Roselie

Go Minnesota!
There are three causes that I are dear to me, LGTBQ rights, animal rights and women's rights and yes I think that defines who I am and what I do. The closest I 've been to what you describe is when I visited Brighton England, the gay capitol of England and a vegan paradise…

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Mel

I am a also a proud Minnesotan! I can't believe how this issue backfired on the Republicans!
I have two sons with autism – so naturally disability issues are my cause. Also education and libraries and health care for everyone.

I enjoy reading your blog!

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Kirsten

Yes. The older I get and the longer I live in Utah I define myself more by my causes. I know we'll never have same sex marriage until it becomes federal law. I do cheer loudly for my home state of Minnesota! Out here I have to cling tightly to my birth control and I am so angry that we have to wait 72 hours to have an abortion – like we need more time to think about it! It is exhausting most days and I'm trying so hard to move back home so I can have a breather.

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Keryn Banks

So proud to be a NZer, even though I now live in Scotland. We are campaigning on the Gay Marriage issue in Scotland at the moment as well, I think it will go through.

I work for an international development charity so naturally my causes relate to eradicating poverty in the developing world. However, having spent 3 months recently as a human rights observer in the occupied Palestinian territories, that region is very close to my heart. Justice and equality for all!

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Abby

Oh Sarah Von (who I've never bet, but Imma gonna call you by your nickname anyway). You just made my little gay heart burst with weepy glee over these PHOTOS!

XO
Abby

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Grace

Totally. When I was little I was incredibly passionate about animal rights (I wrote to THE QUEEN to say I thought fox-hunting should be banned…) and that has translated to being massively interested in protecting and promoting human rights. I'm a proud socialist, feminist and huge supporter of refugee rights. My career and life are pretty much dedicated to anti-racist education and working with young people.

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Sarah

Man that last photo gave my chills. My city has the biggest concentration of LGBTQ people in Michigan and I love that businesses around here fly the rainbow flag freely.

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