In recent years, many have become annoyed with personal labels, especially in the area of one’s sexuality or political and philosophical views. Some people don’t like being labeled or using labels, whereas others love using labels. I think we need to find that healthy balance between absolutely no labels and way too many. It’s true that labels can sometimes be annoying, but labels can often be a good thing. Personal labels, when properly used, are usually meant to communicate things about ourselves to others. So I’ve never really minded labels as long as they define me accurately.
I have many wonderful labels that I’m actually very proud of. For instance, I am a male, a human, an Earthling, a brother, an uncle, a pantheist, a moderate Democrat or centrist. I’m an artist, a writer, a philosopher. In the past, I’ve been a student, a graduate, a teacher. So all these labels have helped to define me and communicate my views and identity to others. But I understand the concerns and fear many have with personal labels and how they can be problematic, especially when they are used in a derogatory way as an insult, and they can complicate our language or dialog with one another, but we can’t avoid personal labels all together.
In terms of classifying our sexuality, we used to simply label ourselves as either straight, gay, or bi. But over the last few decades, it’s become more and more complicated. There are asexuals, those who have no strong sexual feelings or desires towards others of either sex; demisexual, those who do not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection or bond with someone; and then trysexuals, those who will try anything–animals, food, the ground, you name it, as long as it feels good. Then someone came along and created the term LGBT, which most of us know is the acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender to consolidate many of those preferences or conditions into one term. And so all these terms are starting to annoy people. But think of it like a tree of labels. You have your main broad branches like straight, gay, and bi, but then branching off of those are smaller branches that become more specific. There are many who want to communicate those subtle differences to others, which is okay in my view. Though, I guess we need to try to avoid getting overly complicated if and when possible, to balance that out.
In case anyone is wondering, I’m straight. That’s not to say I can’t look at another guy and think ya, he’s really got it going on. I can appreciate attractiveness in all beings—even animals. You know, I’ve seen some good looking deer in my time! But I don’t have any strong desires to be sexually intimate with another guy. I don’t care how good looking he may be, I just don’t need to poke him. I might want to give him a firm handshake or a hug, but that’s where it stops for me.
Some erroneously think that if they avoid labels that they do not apply to them. For example, when it comes to the political spectrum, many may not want to have a particular political label attached to themselves, such as Liberal or Conservative, or Progressive, Democrat or Republican, Socialist or Capitalist, but that doesn’t change the fact that each and every person does fall somewhere on that political spectrum, whether they like it or not, depending on their personal views. So the next time someone calls you something, simply try to determine whether or not that label accurately defines you. If it doesn’t you can politely correct the person or proudly own it.
I should also mentioned the problem many face with having to change their labels, which is another huge reason people fear the use of labels–they don’t want to feel “boxed in” or “trapped” by their label, because we are all constantly changing and evolving as individuals. Personally, at the present moment, I am an introverted, straight, human, male, Earthling, dialectic monist, pantheist, moderate Democrat or Centrist, artist, writer, philosopher, novice musician, student, and teacher, and much more. We all have many labels which are subject to change at any time, so I warn everyone not to ever chisel them into stone, but rather write them down in soft or hard wax so they can possibly be altered or exchanged later on. Who knows how many labels each of us will adopt or exchange over the course of our lifetime.
Labels are great communicators. For instance, the label ‘gay’ communicates that one prefers to be sexually intimate with the same sex only. One who is willing to be sexually intimate with both sexes is in fact ‘bisexual,’ whether he or she announces this or uses the ‘bisexual’ label or not. If someone scores on a political questionnaire in such a way as to be positioned on the far left of the political spectrum, then he or she is what the population would consider a ‘Liberal,’ whether one prefers that label or not. But labels can be very problematic when used irresponsibly. A lot of false preconceived ideas and expectations and stereotypes are often attached to labels. A label can at times accurately describe that which it refers to but at other times may fail to adequately define it. This is an unfortunate reality and problem. Although labels will never be perfect or fully capable of capturing the flawless truth behind that which wears it, they can get very close and can be very helpful tools for healthy human interaction–if and when they are not abused. Unfortunately, like most things in the cosmos, labels do have their drawbacks. They do have their pros and cons. Even though they do have their downsides, they are needed and have their upsides.