One of the main aspects of my social identity that feels especially meaningful to me in my gender.  Being the only girl with two older brothers really exposed me to some of the harsh realities of being a woman in this world.  I used to watch my brothers be able to do things, but when it came time for me to be able to participate it was always different because I am a girl.  I am not blaming this on my parents – they were simply protecting me and teaching me the ways of the world.  However, the world itself and society puts these barriers on women and tells them that they cannot always do all that men do.  If anything, I am grateful that my parents and family taught me how to push past those boundaries and do more than is expected of me.

One of the aspects of my social identity that is not as meaningful to me is my sexual orientation.  As a heterosexual woman, I have never really had a deep awakening in terms of my sexual orientation.  In our society, it is still normalized to be heterosexual, and so I never had any real experience that adds meaning to my sexual orientation.

Different cultures place value on different social identities, so when integrating into a different culture it is important to understand their values and how they might differ from my own.  For example, in Israel, a large part of the country’s social identity rested on religion.  In the United States, being Jewish is definitely part of my identity, but it is not something I think about all the time. It surfaces really only around the holidays, when I am often celebrating something different than my friends.  Otherwise, I really don’t think about it much.  But when I spent the summer in Israel, I was acutely aware of being Jewish all the time.  Their work calendar is based on observing the Sabbath, so every decision I made whether to travel or simply go to the market, reminded me of being Jewish.  Visiting some landmark places, like Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall, felt more meaningful as a Jew.  Israel is the country of my heritage, and I couldn’t help but by feeling more connected to my religion there.

I think recognizing differences is the key step when ensuring that people with different social identities are welcomed and valued.  I believe it is often easier to try and pretend as though we are all the same and as though those differences do not exist, but in reality, acknowledging those differences is much more important to making others feel valued instead of ignoring them.  I think by sharing traditions and participating in differing cultural customs with friends helps show others that even though this is not your tradition or custom, it is worth your time to partake.  I also think asking questions shows a curiosity and a willingness to learn and accept.  Knowledge is power. It is ignorance that can often lead to hatred and suspicion. I think engaging others by participation and questioning is an important step to show acceptance.