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Every cell in our beautiful and amazing bodies contains the whirling wisdom of the universe. This is the journey of one witch remembering that, and celebrating the sacred and divine in beings of all genders and manifestations.

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Identity, such an elusive concept/construct.  

Who are you?  

Who am I?  


Are we our bodies?  Our family background? Our personality quirks?  Are we who we love?  Who we hate?

Are we what we do?  Or simply who we are?

Are we who we see ourselves as?  Or as others see us?


In the past three years as I have worked as the campus pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, I’ve thought a lot about identity/identities as I came in contact with students, staff, and faculty from a diverse intersection of race, gender identity, spiritual practice, faith tradition, sexual orientation, temperament, geographical origin, relational/family configuration, physicality…the list goes on.  It has been a rich and powerful experience having my own perceptions of who each person is expanded as I worked with them in community and one on one.   Frequently, one person’s perception of who another person is/was based on one aspect of their identity, made for challenging, even painful, conversations or situations.  Other times the unexpected revelation of an aspect of identity created a moment of delight, deeper understanding, personal bonds.


Who are you?  Who am I? 


Recently on Facebook I asked my wide range of friends if any of them backed Donald Trump in the US Presidential election.  I asked if they would be willing to share why, not to convince me, but to help me understand.  A high school friend living in a very economically depressed conservative area said, “He’s a business man who can fix our economy.”  A hard core Anarchist friend said, “This country needs to be completely destroyed and he’s so arrogant, incompetent, and divisive he will inadvertently do that.”  Neither of my friends have personal experiences of Mr. Trump, but to their minds have a clear, if not completely convergent, sense of his identity.


Who are you?  Who am I?


In their brilliant piece “Who Am I Where? Quien Soy Donde? A map of contingent identities and circumstantial memories” from “Infinite City A San Francisco Atlas” writers Rebecca Solnit and Guillermo Gomez-Pena explore who they are, based on where they are.  


Here’s an excerpt:

She writes, 

“In the Japanese Tea Garden I am always six years old.”  

“In the Excelsior, I am some chick from the Mission.”  

“In Pacific Heights, I am the granddaughter of Trotsky’s flag boy.”


He writes, 

“In the Castro I am an older gay gentleman.”  

“At Sixteenth and Mission I am an Indian “pinto” a local loco, and I fuckin’ love it.” 

“In the Kaiser Medical Center at Divisadero, I am a regular asthma patient whose tattoos perplex the doctors and the nurses.”


Who are you?  Who am I?


I love Solnit and Gomez-Pena’s concept of contingent identities. Here are some of my own:


In my backyard I am a barefoot dancer.


When I lived in the Fillmore District in San Francisco in the 80s I was that white girl catching the 24 Divisadero bus every morning.


At the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market I’m just another old Earth Mother.


On Facebook I am a Christian Witch who writes compassionately about how my heart sees the world.


In middle-school I was someone my friend’s mother didn’t want her associating with because I had “wild red hair.”


The hair - always I am the hair.


Who are you?  Who am I? Who is the person we are or aren’t voting for?  Who is the person next to us on the street?


Blessings on all of us in our contingent identities.



blog image mixed media by Reena Burton

Last modified on
Tagged in: gender identity witch
Lizann Bassham was both an active Reclaiming Witch and an Ordained Christian Minister in the United Church of Christ. She served as Campus Pastor at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley working with a multi-faith student community. She was a columnist for SageWoman magazine, a novelist, playwright, and musician. Once, quite by accident, she won a salsa dance contest in East L.A. Lizann died on May 27, 2018.


  • Elizabeth Creely
    Elizabeth Creely Thursday, 26 May 2016

    You know, I own and have read "Infinite Cities" and have read Solnit and Gomez-Pena’s piece on contingent identities, but didn't really "get" it til now. Now I'm going to move through my day and think about who I am in all the places I inhabit. What a great mind exercise.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Thursday, 26 May 2016

    I know, I love the whole book/atlas, but that one in particular was so sweet and wonderful to think about....

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