With me writing this article and there only being a small profile picture at the top of the page. It makes it difficult for you to label me. Although still from looking at it you may unconsciously start.
Let me do it for you. I have brown hair, I wear glasses. I am a woman.
The interesting thing is I have attached all these labels to myself relatively easily, without questioning them I accept them to be what society places upon me. I accept I have brown hair and wear glasses. I am not questioning reality.
But the label I am a woman, yes biologically I am female, and I do identify with being a woman. Yet the connotations that come with the label 'woman', some apply to me, but then those change. I am constantly in motion as a human being, and I feel a label can be like a static sticker.
Why does it matter?
Audrey Mason-Hyde’s Ted Talk poses this question “Why does it matter to you whether I’m a boy or a girl?” “For those of you who say, No I’m totally comfortable not knowing” “Well that’s impressive. It’s hard to do. Just try and talk about someone for a minute without using gender terms.” Audrey describes that we want to know because of our language and in their experience because boys and girls are treated differently.
"Why does it matter to you whether I'm a boy or a girl?" - Audrey Mason-Hyde
If we look at heteronormativity in society, I was brought up in an open household. Despite this growing up and going to school I believed firstly the normal thing is to grow up get married and have children.
However, society places these ideals upon you. Once I realised this it opened up more possibilities of what my life could be like. Then apply this to the fact that love is love, and that it’s not limited to just a relationship between a man and a woman. And that our perception of ourselves can be different to how our external body presents us to the world. The possibilities of our life can begin to outweigh the normal ideal society designed us to believe.
Then where does society fit into our life, or where do we fit into society? Do we need to fit in?
And how does the world treat those of us who wish to break free? – Ted Talk Geena Rocero
Do labels work?
“Labels are for cans, not people”- Anthony Rapp
There is the term “no label” in the LGBTQ+ community which “is used in the lesbian community to define a person who does not consider themselves to fall into the stereotypical categories”. Perhaps this approaches the point made in the article by Forbes that labels can “take an all or nothing meaning” and “when you deny people and yourself the privilege to change and move in a different direction, you are denying a sense of what makes us human”.
There is also the label "queer" which started to be reclaimed in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s by activists and community groups in the LGBTQ+ community. It's “becoming a label that encompasses the fluidity of identity, or the lack of alternative suitable terminology”. I think this poses the question: are labels a suitable terminology to describe human beings?
When a new label is created, some people think that individuals who identify with this label didn’t exist prior to that moment. Some gay people worry, according to Slate, that too many identities can become a "target for mockery". This reaches the route problem with labels for me. Is it a mockery if we have too many, yet are we displaced if we don’t have one?
"Is it a mockery if we have too many, yet are we displaced if we don't have one?"
Labels are a form of social control that categorize people. Audrey states the difficult experiences they have had with male and female toilets, when they don’t identify with either gender. They state “the world is so desperate to define by gender”.
But what if the labels male and female, boy and girl didn’t exist when we were born? How would society be, and would it change all other labels?
Love is love
In fairy tales you are told to follow your heart. If only it was this simple.
I will not label whether labels are good or bad. It’s not as simple as that.
Everyone has their own individual experience of labels, and if I were to group a label onto labels then I’m just becoming the labeller.
"If I were to group a label onto labels then I'm just becoming the labeller."
I ask are you the labeller of your own labels, or do you not have any?
In this month let’s try to not be a labeller and let everyone be their own storyteller.