Since when did the phrase “identify as” become synonymous with the label that follows it? (Don’t worry, I’m not going into a diatribe about identity politics, just some of the terminology used.) Why say “I identify as a man” when you could use the stronger “I am a man” despite what you were biologically born as? I’m not making any judgement call about anybody’s alternative lifestyle. I just don’t see the need for the extra words. They feel like a way to soften the blow to others, or even for the person using it—as they’re still nervous about announcing said identity to the world.
I only use the term when I refer to identifying something that I’m not. I’m asexual, but for many years I identified as heterosexual by mistake. (For those keep track for whatever reason, I still haven’t fully realized my romantic orientation, nor am I likely to in the near future.) I’m not saying that I believe that anybody who uses the term “identify as” is using it as a mistake. But in my case, if I use it for the mistake it feels like it weakens the statement about what I am if I use it in that case as well.
There are cases when the phrase is useful. I was just reading an article in The New Yorker about a female lawyer who fought for women’s rights, and about two-thirds of the way through the article mentioned that she “identified as a man.” That’s fine—it was intended to show the contrast between her fight for women’s rights and her biological sex with her identity. In that case, the phrase is almost clinical. I only take umbrage with the way that the phrase gets tossed around a bit too freely.
Don’t mind me. I’m just in a picky mood this morning. “Identify as” could be nothing more than a quirk of contemporary language such as “that’s a thing” or those of use who slip the word “like” into sentences where it doesn’t belong (I’m still working on it, I swear).