Monday, January 10, 2011

Labels Are Labels, But Let’s Get Real

I’m aware that some labels are perceived to be negative and therefore, some wish to avoid them at all costs, but the reality is that some labels merely give the communicator a means to describe the person in question.

For example: The Latino man walked out of the bank.
For example: The Black man stole the bike.
For example: He is bisexual, but prefers to date women.

Now, we can argue until we turn blue in the face and chances are that the labels used to define us would still exist. Is it necessary to use these defining labels in all our communication? Probably not, but sometimes it is necessary to give our reader or listener the ability to get a picture of who we’re talking about or the perceived motivation(s) for someone’s actions.

Years ago, I was amazed to hear a story about men in the Dominican Republic that slept with men for cash – tourists specifically – but they identified as straight and usually returned to their wife and children at the end of their “work day”. It kind-of made me think of a woman who stands on the street corner, sells her body for cash, but doesn’t identify as a prostitute. Does how we identify change the true label of what we are? Does it matter that we may not care for the label associated with who we are or our behavior?

It’s 2011 and labels and check boxes are a bit outdated, but they still serve as a means to define people, situations, preferences, etc. What needs to change FIRST is our associating labels with anything negative and just seeing them as a means to have a clearer vision or picture of the world around us.

So now when you see a statement such as, “The gay man suddenly felt an attraction for his housekeeper,” you should simply get a picture of who we’re talking about, why the story is relevant and how the subjects of our sentence came to know each other. Although I suspect that until we learn to stop judging, we’ll have folks looking at the labels as a means to draw conclusions based on negative perceptions for certain labels.

Keep passin’ the open windows…


Tim said...

Happy New Year!

You know, to some people labels are used just as commonly as verbs. To some people labels (whether they be racist, confining or otherwise) ARE verbs to them. It's a sad part of life.


Very insightful and eloquently written :) ...Great Post!!

thegayte-keeper said...

I think people send TOO much time thinking about what things mean. Take you want from a label and leave the rest, either way only YOU can define you!