Presenting the Identity Tier List!

An Identity Tier List is a way of displaying how important various aspects of someone's identity are to them; it can also be useful for figuring that information out in the first place!

I had the idea for Identity Tier Lists as a result of trying to figure out how to word a comment on one of Liana K's YouTube videos that involved aspects of my identity that are distinctly less important to me than other parts. Creating the Tier List and filling it out for myself has helped me process my identity quite a bit. I'm hoping it can do the same for you!

I'll present and give an overview of an image template for making Identity Tier Lists in a moment, but first...

What Is a Tier List?

My first experience with Tier Lists are the ones used with Fighting Games (such as Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Mortal Combat, Smash Bros., Tekken, Soul Caliber, Marvel vs. Capcom—look, there are a lot of popular fighting game franchises out there). These are games with many characters for players to choose from; however, not all characters are created equal (oftentimes despite developer efforts).

These sorts of games attract a lot of highly competitive players, who wanted a way to quickly and easily communicate how powerful they think the characters in any given game's roster are. Thus the concept of a Tier List, where more highly ranked characters are considered to be stronger than lower ranked characters, with characters in the same tier being considered of roughly equal strength. Visual representations of this have made quickly communicating rankings easy to do!

In fact, these visual representations are so useful for communicating similarly organized tiered rankings that people started using them to rank things other than characters in fighting game rosters. So much so in fact, that there's actually a website that allows people to easily make Tier Lists for a wide variety of things!

The concept with my Identity Tier List is more-or-less the same, where more highly ranked things are more integral to your identity than lower ranked things are. To make this clearer, I've used descriptive labels rather than the standard A, B, C, etc. commonly used to label tiers in Tier Lists.

The Identity Tier List


I'll show you my (mostly) filled out Identity Tier List below as an example, but before I do, let's discuss the various tiers. Of course, please feel free to download this image to fill out for yourself!

Core

The Core Tier is for the most important parts of your identity. The way to think of it is that things in this tier are critical to who you are, often because other aspects of your identity flow from them or because they shape your worldview. Things that will commonly belong here include core personality traits and fundamental beliefs (such as political or religious beliefs).

Aspects

Aspects are who you are. They don't shape you in the same way Core does, but rather are significant characteristics. Examples of things that go here are how you receive and express love or how you desire to be. If Core is how you see the world, Aspects are who you want to be in the world, even if you don't feel you can fully express them.

Passions

Passions are things you absolutely love doing. For the purposes of this list, they are also things you are capable at—you do them enough to have built up skill. Notably, these are things that you want to also continue to get better at and pursue doing so. Many hobbies can fit in here if you are sufficiently serious about them.

Interests

Interests at first may sound similar to Passions, and in some ways they are—they are things you are capable at that you enjoy doing. However, they also are secondary skills, ones that you've built up as a result of pursuing other things. A useful way to differentiate a Passion from an Interest is how you want to get better at it: do you seek to learn and grow in it because you love doing it or because doing so will help you better do something else? The latter are Interests.

This isn't to say you can't enjoy these activities for their own sake or feel satisfaction with your skill in doing them, of course! Just that you have generally developed your skills in these things as a result of pursuing something else.

Aspirations

Aspirations are things you'd like to be good at, but you haven't yet put in enough time to actually build skill at them. These are basically proto-passions or proto-interests.

Okay

These are things that are part of your identity, and you're cool with that, but they just don't matter that much to you. So while things here are an active part of your identity, they also aren't so important to making you who you are that you'd feel like you were no longer yourself if they were to change on you.

Present

These are things that are part of your identity that you don't dislike, but that are either less generally notable in your life (you usually aren't thinking about the impact these traits have on you) or are less important to your sense of self than Okay things are. You may think about them some, but the most likely reason for you to do so is either for some contextual reason (such as contextualizing a lived experience) or because someone is tagging people that have at least one of these things as part of their identity, which means you know they're talking about you (though often in general terms).

Basically, you probably aren't particularly attached to these things as part of your identity, but you don't mind that they're part of it, either.

Some Final Notes (Before My Example)

As an important note, you'll notice there are no negative tiers. I thought about whether or not to have any, but in the end, I decided they ultimately do not make sense for this exercise, which I want to be a positive celebration of who an individual is. Furthermore, given the idea that these will be shared publicly, I wanted to avoid encouraging people to open themselves up to identity-based bullying any more than sharing one of these already may do, given that such bullying is sadly still far too common.

Also, before looking at my personal Identity Tier List as an example, I do want to warn people that it will venture into TMI-territory for some. If you'd rather avoid that, this is the place to stop reading. Also, I don't think that my list is 100% complete—figuring out what things are part of my identity and where they go in this list is an introspection-heavy process that takes time. Still, I think it can serve as a good example for those who want one (or want to know me better).

Example: My Tier List

Sientir's Tier List (everything gone over in more detail below)

Here's the list, so let's go over it!

Core

I currently have four things in my Core category, all of which shape my worldview.

I have "Christian" listed first for good reason, as my faith is very important to me. It can also be very difficult for me to discuss, because so much of the language I'd use to describe my faith has been defined to mean very different things than what I would mean by those terms. I'm also keenly aware (for a variety of reasons, including personal ones) of the reputation Christians have for being judgmental and self-righteous. This is a reputation that has, at least in national discussions, been well-earned, much to my great sorrow.

For me, my Christian faith does shape my values, but I find myself very hesitant to call them "Christian values" because of the baggage that comes with that phrase, especially in the United States, where I live. I'm not going to get into all of the details here, though—if you want to know more of my thoughts on Christianity, you can check out an entire playlist of videos I made that are on YouTube discussing them. Most videos are around 5-10 minutes in length, though there are a few outliers.

I will state that I don't believe in trying to legislate morality. The entire Old Testament is proof that it doesn't work when God does it, so why should it work when humans give it a go? I also don't believe in the concept of an earthly Christian nation (prior to the Millennial Reign, but let's not get too much into eschatology here, eh?). And frankly, I believe Christians shouldn't be trying to force the world to be a more moral place; rather, they should demonstrate by their lives that living according to Christian values is actually a better way to live—not just a different one.

There's a lot I can say (and have said) about this, so I won't go on much longer. Just know that I take John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." [NIV]) seriously. That love does not exclude anyone, regardless of their identity.

Which brings us to "Sultai," a strange word for those unfamiliar with the trading card game Magic: The Gathering. For the purposes of this article, all you need to know is that "Sultai" is a way of describing my personality. I actually made a video discussing how being Sultai affects my Christian faith, for those who want a deeper dive into that (it's basically a podcast with Guild Wars 1 footage in the background, a thing I was trying for a while). It'd also be good to listen to if you want to know more about the origins of Sultai as a concept.

The basic summary is that my goal is to perfect my nature, which I believe is found in the pursuit of Jesus through my Christian faith. However, it also affects the way I view morality (as an entirely subjective thing, by-the-by, even if many people agree on certain points generally speaking), what I think of tradition (informative, but that's about it), and much more.

If you look up Sultai on the Internet (a fine thing to do), aside from the cards associated with the clan with that name, which then gave it to the color combination of Blue, Black, and Green, you'll discover a lot of discussion about how those three component colors operate and what their goals are. The thing that is important to know is that their goals are all dependent upon your understanding of reality. Blue seeks perfection; my Christian faith defines for me what "perfection" is (having the Divine Character). Black wants power (for the purposes of caring for the self); what greater power is there than God? And what more reliable source of caring for the self than One who loves me more than I can love myself (given how poorly I can even know myself)? And Green wants things to function according to their nature, but what if you believe that nature has been corrupted? You then seek a corrected nature and the proper order of things.

This probably gets a bit confusing. I'm happy to chat about it if you want to, over on my Discord (you can find a link to the side).

We then come to Heterosexual, which is one of those things that simply is. It definitely affects how I see things, as I think all attractions will. They're important, and often have a lot of interesting nuance. I've toyed around with writing about what specifically I find attractive, simply because I feel that my preferences aren't always represented super well (for example, I'm not a big fan of high heels and despise stiletto-heeled shoes), but this is hardly the place to get into all of that.

Then there is Aromantic, which I include here because I just don't get romance. The clearest example of this is I cannot understand (and I mean this in a very literal sense) why shipping is a thing. (For those who are unfamiliar, this is pairing hopefully fictional characters off in romantic relationships, hence the term—doing no research, I assume "shipping" is short for "relationshipping.") I don't understand this drive or the motivations behind it, at all. Similarly, I don't understand the appeal of dating.

So, while I very much desire a sexual relationship with a spouse, to me, that relationship looks like best friends with benefits. I'm not quite sure what else it could be. Thus, this also strongly affects my worldview.

Aspects

Like I said, these are more about who I am than how I see the world (which is what Core is about). Some of them are easier to discuss than others!

Let's start with the two that are easy to talk about. First, I'm a thinker—I have a hard time taking short showers because I get lost in thought. Heck, I get lost in thought while brushing my teeth! Second, I'm a snuggler. I love hugs and snuggles. I express affection physically in this way (which has caused me difficulty because men are socialized in America—at least when I was growing up—to not be physically affectionate: it was unmanly to be physically affectionate towards other men and inappropriate to be physically affectionate towards women).

And then we get to the first one that's hard to talk about: nudist.

This one is difficult to talk about because of the expectation of judgment from others when discussing it. A lot of assumptions are made about nudists, and understandably so, as they are violating social norms around clothing. For me, being a nudist has mostly to do with a combination of aesthetic preferences and a rejection of arbitrary social norms.

There are quite a few things I find I like aesthetically. I like strong contrasts, especially with lighting—for example, contrasts between bright sunlight and areas of shadow are appealing to me. I like the look of the evening sun, when the world is gilded. But these are styles, not subjects. When it comes to art, my favorite subject is the nude human body. I think God's design is beautiful and amazing, both aesthetically and functionally.

However, this isn't just aesthetics. I became a nudist when I realized the reason I felt I had to clothe my body was due to societally installed assumptions. While I can't say this is true for everyone, I came to realize that part of why we clothe ourselves is the belief that other people believe we don't want to be seen naked. This is a confusing sort of circular logic. There are two important questions here: If you want other people to be clothed, why? And if you don't want other people to see you naked, why?

By examining the logic involved, I realized the fragile, arbitrary nature of it. From a personal standpoint, this doesn't lead to me wanting to waltz around naked everywhere, but I do like being naked at home, in private.

However, this norm negatively affects me from the aesthetics standpoint, because it forces the hiding of nonsexual nudity (as arbitrarily defined as female nipples and the genitals and buttocks of either sex). As a consequence, admitting that you enjoy the way people look naked often leads to negative judgments. Additionally, I could rant at extreme length about my frustrations for how this affects art and media, but that belongs elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I would like to see nonsexual (i.e. not engaged in explicit sexual activity) nudity be mainstream and normal, especially in art and media.

This then brings us to the very bizarre Vulva Aficionado. This is perhaps a bit of a continuation of the last one, and something that I find strange, yet I cannot deny it, nor that it belongs at such a high tier of my identity. I do think it is the best way to label this trait, however. First, though, for those unfamiliar with the word, "vulva" is the proper term for the external female genitalia. The vagina is the tube that goes from the vulva to the cervix, which separates the vagina from the uterus. If these sentences don't make it apparent, I find the full anatomy of the female reproductive system fascinating.

I'm not quite sure why this fascination exists within me. I suspect many people will think it is sexual, and while I will not deny an element of that, it is but a part. I find vulvas beautiful and visually comforting. I find the anatomy of the full reproductive system fascinating. In the end, I cannot but conclude that God gave me this fascination for a reason; that somehow it will bring Him glory. How that can be so, I cannot currently see.

I think an example for this is useful. In the game Path of Exile, there are statues that animate and fight you. This game uses an isomorphic perspective; that is, one that is from a camera above the scene and looking down and locked to a specific orientation within the stage—it cannot be freely moved or rotated, but rather follows your character around, looking down at them from a specific angle. You can zoom the camera a bit closer to your character, but the general angle remains more or less the same. Thus, for the female versions of these nude statues, you cannot easily see whether or not they have vulvas. However, on some occasions, their death animation does make it possible to see that they, in fact, do.

These are vulvas that are mostly hidden by the presentation of the game. No attention is drawn to them. However, the mere fact of their existence makes me incredibly joyful, in a way that I intellectually find perplexing.

Vulvas are typically hidden and ignored. I feel like media has drawn a false equivalence between male genitalia and female breasts, pushing vulvas into a deeper shadowland than penises and testicles (both of which can be seen on male statues in Path of Exile, as an aside). Thus, having vulvas' existence be acknowledged makes me happy!

As a final note, I find the parallel structures between male and female genitals to be a really cool element of the design of the human body. The fact that the same tissue can become a penis or a clitoris, testes or ovaries, labia or a scrotum is really cool to me. I love the efficiency of God's design with this!

Passions

My passions can be summed up as video games and worldbuilding, which often overlap quite a bit. Making video games, playing them, thinking about game design and worldbuilding (that is, creating fictional worlds)—these are some of my favorite activities.

I've been playing video games since I was pretty young (around 5 or 6 years old), and they've always been a significant hobby for me. I love exploring them, sharing experiences with friends, and building my skill at a game to experience mastery. I think one of the things I love most about video games is their ability to realize not just a story, but a world—to bring settings to life.

Thinking about how games work is also something I find really engaging, which leads directly into wanting to make games, to creatively explore something I thoroughly enjoy—to consider how I might remix elements of games to create something new, and contemplating what sorts of worlds I might bring to life.

Worldbuilding itself also extends into thinking about how our world works for a variety of reasons. For one thing, by examining how the world works—the different cultures, societies, and civilizations that compose both the current era and history—I'm able to better build fictional worlds. However, the way the world is can also be analyzed through a worldbuilding lens, which I find both equally enjoyable and frustrating to do.

Interests

Most of my interests are things I engage in to help me pursue my passions. Learning computer programming (well, a segment of it—the field itself is enormous, covering a variety of languages to solve a wide variety of problems) helps me with making games, as does mathematics. I also enjoy the problem solving nature of both—finding solutions to problems is satisfying. Meanwhile, streaming is a way to share both my love of playing games and my enjoyment of discussing them and their design. YouTube is similar, allowing me to share the things I care about.

These are all things I enjoy, but I don't have the same passion for them. They are often means to an end, not an end in-and-of themselves. As such, they aren't nearly as important to me and my conception of myself and who I am. Like, yeah, I'm a programmer, but I don't feel that I'm a programmer with the same emphasis as someone who would have it at their Passions tier of identity. The same is true for the other things in this tier.

Aspirations

These are all things that I'd like to be better at, but I've just not put in the time yet to develop my skills to the point where I feel like they are able to actually be higher parts of my identity. With Illustrator, I want to be better at drawing visual art. I've put some time towards this, but not nearly enough to feel like I'm anything more than a novice. I feel similarly about Storyteller. I want to tell stories (and have for a while on my Patreon), but I also feel that I've not put enough time and dedication to this one for it to rank higher, either.

So, while I'd like both of these to be higher ranked someday (probably Interests tier for Illustrator and Passions tier for Storyteller), I don't feel they're there at the time of this writing.

Okay

As described in the tier list overview, items in this tier are things you're fine with having as part of your identity, but they aren't super important to you. That's how being Male is for me. Yeah, I was born a man, I'm fine with that overall, but it just isn't all that vital to my sense of self.

This actually makes it really hard to understand people for whom their gender identity is important. For example, I have a hard time understanding the dysmorphia that transgendered individuals experience—that is, why the mismatch between brain and body matters so significantly to them. I also have a hard time understanding cisgender individuals who feel they have to prove that they are their gender (see: man card). That impulse just isn't a part of me.

Honestly, I think I'd be mentally fine if I woke up tomorrow to find I'd been turned into a woman—well, aside from an entire host of potential social complications. And I wouldn't be thrilled about menstruation. But as far as feeling like myself? At least from a thought-experiment standpoint, I'd be fine with it because me being male just isn't all that important to me—it isn't critical to making me, well, me.

Present

These are parts of my identity that I know are there, so when people tag a group based on them, I know I'm included. However, these are things that aren't generally all that meaningful to me. Unlike being male (which is an active part of my identity in very tangible ways), these are things that I generally don't think about.

The first is being a citizen of the United States of America. Simply put, the U.S., like many countries, has its positives and negatives. There are other countries I'd be happy to live in (generally ones in Europe for reasons related to the Nudity Aspect of my identity). There are also many countries I decidedly would not want to live in. In the end, though, my national allegiance is strongly given to the Kingdom of God, not any earthly nation.

I was born into being an American, and there have definitely been benefits to that. I'm not going to pretend otherwise. Being white is similar—I didn't make that choice, but I have undoubtedly benefited from it. But like being an American, it isn't something that has a lot of meaning to me.

Part of the reason is that "white" is, like...the most generic thing. It's so origin-less, being one big amalgam of a variety of mostly European cultures. In the end, it feels like what culture "white" has to it is very shallow, mostly based on traditions developed in the United States. That said, thinking about being a different race makes me really want to do something about racism...

With both of these, I know that when people talk about Americans or white people, I'm technically included. I don't begrudge being either, but neither is particularly important to me in terms of defining who I am.

That's-a Me!

I hope that the Identity Tier List will be as helpful for you for understanding yourself as it has been for me understanding myself, and I hope that by using myself as an example, you can get a better idea of how to evaluate your own identity.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you some healthy and helpful introspection!

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Guild Wars 1 Skill Review Project

A New Player's Guide to Guild Wars 1