Whether it is a social movement or a secret society, humans love to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Novelist Sarah Henstra looks at what we gain from group identity – and what we lose

Two years ago, I drove eight hours south from Toronto with two friends to participate in the Women’s March on Washington DC. That night we hand-lettered our posters (“This pussy grabs back!”) and stitched up the final seams of our pink knitted hats. In the morning, as we descended an escalator to a subway platform awash in pink, we soon realised the march was way too big – 500,000 people – to take its planned route along the National Mall. It was too big to march at all; instead, for seven hours, we stood packed in, shoulder to shoulder, chanting and cheering and straining to hear the speeches from the stage.

In some respects, it was the most exciting day of my life. Borne along by the crowd, I felt incredibly powerful; I felt my voice mattered, that my concerns were recognised and shared and my actions were making a difference in the world. I felt lucky to be part of something so massive and important. I was wholly present in the moment: This is the future and I’m helping to make it happen!

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