“Don’t label me.”
“I don’t want to be put in a box.”
These are things I hear, or see, every other day. Whether it’s someone objecting to being labelled Gay, Trans, Black, White, Asian, Disabled, Top, Bottom, Pos, Neg… Whatever! The funny thing is, as a a gay man, you’d expect me to be of the same opinion. The truth is, I’m not. In fact it’s quite the opposite. I fully support labelling, but before you start getting all judgey on me and throwing Molotov cocktails at my house, let me explain my reasons.
For starters labels help people who might not otherwise have an understanding of who and/or what you are. It helps them to form a basis for their understanding. While that basis may not always be accurate, and be laced with incorrect assumptions, it is a basis nonetheless.
Let’s take a Gypsy, for example. Where I come from the first thing that someone would assume is that a Gypsy lives in a caravan. That’s not the case, some Gypsies live in houses made of bricks and mortar, but it opens a dialogue. It gives the opportunity for you to learn more about someone that just their label. So many people see labels as a negative thing, but they don’t have to be. A label is only negative if you interpret it that way.
It can also give you the chance to learn more about a culture, lifestyle, ethnicity or sexuality. You can learn beyond your own, or their own, assumptions. It gives the opportunity for mutual personal growth.
Another reason is that it opens a gateway to smash stereotypes to pieces! Just because someone is Gay doesn’t necessarily mean they’re camp. Many a time I’ve been out to bars with friends and it’s found its way into conversation that I’m gay, much to the shock of the macho straight guys with their pints in hand. As if the fact I’m stood there with perfectly coiffed hair, freshly shaped eyebrows and a strawberry daiquiri in hand wasn’t a dead giveaway! I’ve heard “I couldn’t tell” many a time. Do I see this as an insult? No. Do I see this as a compliment? No. I view it as an observation. An observation and a victory in that there is another person in the world whose experience with what someone who is Gay has just evolved.
That being said I do not believe that, under any circumstance, that is it acceptable for someone to disadvantage or negatively judge someone, in any way, based on their label. I do not believe that a label defines us… It just gives a rough sketch! Additionally, I don’t think that everyone should have to label themselves. If you don’t want one, don’t have one. But just take what I’ve written into consideration the next time someone asks you about yourself. They’re showing an interest and in that comes an opportunity. Don’t ruin it with self-righteousness.
At the end of the day, when it comes down to it, we’re all the same; blood, flesh and bones. We’re people. We’re allowed look, feel, walk, talk and think differently. We may not want to be “put in a box”, but let’s face it, boxes can be pretty useful sometimes.