Labeling; a reboot.
Call, characterize, designate, name, style, tag, term . . . label
In 2008, I was in SF and I had a conversation where I discussed the ideas of how we, as humans, are almost instinctively bound to label and categorize not only things but also people. I used to teach high school (insert sympathy here, please) and for a while, a few college courses. In my classes, I talked about this same subject. Labeling, compartmentalizing, and categorizing. We do it, it is a necessity, and I understand that. I tried to get my students to look past the labels and accept thing more for their what they are and less for what we call them. Now – here is the irony. Are you ready for this?
Humans are idiots. (See the irony? I labeled all humans. . .) We have a propensity to do what is bad for us. It didn’t start out that way – I just think it has just turned into that over the millennium. With food, for example, we started eating what we needed to survive, that turned into eating for comfort, now we eat obsessively. We started eating natural, season specific foods, then went to agriculture, so as to eat what we want when we want, now we eat foods that are so processed they are killing us from the inside out. Idiots.
With regard to labels – I believe we have evolved to do what is bad for us in that, too. Historically, we labeled for survival. Labeling time, for example – wet v. dry season, migration periods, etc. We labeled people and animals and plants for survival – friend v. foe, edible v. inedible, hunter v. hunted. Now – however, we label everything. By doing so, we cause more problems than benefits. We are idiots. When we label people, we do so to emphasize what is DIFFERENT about us. This does not seem the healthiest way for us to live in communities. I think we should embrace each other because of our similarities, not segregate because of our differences.
As an example, “Are you homosexual or heterosexual?” is actually a question that is asked of folks. My question to you is, why does it matter? Am I gay or straight? What if I say neither. I am me. That’s all I want you to know. I have two children, I was married to a woman. The majority of my past relations have been with women. Does that make me straight? Not at all. I may find a man attractive. Does that make me gay? Again, nope. So – what am I? I must be bisexual. Really? I believe everyone is bisexual – EVERYONE can find attraction in another human, regardless of genitalia. Some just refuse to admit it.
I have my own hypothesis regarding spectra of beliefs. Apparently, there is a “Kinsey Scale” that does the same thing. Way to go, Alfred Kinsey. Using a spectrum, I am neither straight, nor gay. Everyone falls somewhere on that spectrum. As a man, if I have feelings of love for a man, does that mean I am gay? If I have feelings of love for a woman, does that mean I am straight? I do not believe so. I believe I have feelings of love. I believe my specific sexuality does not matter.
I have a friend, “Ron”, with whom I used to discuss all manner of topics. During one discussion, we focused on sexuality and labels. We were at a local club called Bricks, it was a place we frequented, and it was quite fun. One night, I stated, “I could be gay.” I do not remember what spawned that comment, but it was, at the time, posited in good fun. Ron’s reply was, “You cannot just put on your ‘gay hat’ and be gay.” At first, I found that amusing, then I got annoyed. That was one of the first times I realized how damaging labels can be. If I see a man I think is attractive, it’s just that – I think that man is attractive, but does that make me gay? The same hold true for me and any particular woman. I find women very attractive. If I see a woman and think, or say, “I find that woman attractive,” does that make me straight?
We all go through life having to label our sexuality. It is a part of what we do – and we do it to make our lives easier. Do I like boys? Do I like girls? Do I like both? To be able to understand us, as sexual creatures, we need to answer those questions with labels. However, does it REALLY matter? As was the case with the examples I gave at the beginning of this piece, I will conclude labeling is bad for us. It just is. It does not allow us the ability to get to know each other, nor probably ourselves. How many of you think you need to act a certain way, talk a certain way, look a certain way, all because of your alleged, “sexuality”? Are you are gay – or straight? Well, you shouldn’t have to be anything other than who you are. Sexuality is your personal characteristic to be embraced and enhanced. Not labeled and pigeonholed. You do NOT need to act any certain way because of your so-called sexuality. You DO need to allow yourself the freedom to live how you want, without reproach.
So, good luck finding out if I am gay or straight, because I am unable to answer that question, myself. If I find a man attractive, that does not mean I am “gay.” If I find a woman attractive, that does not necessitate I am “straight.” I will not let you label me. AND, to set the record straight – if I have labeled myself in the past, you do not have permission to use that as an argument to tell me what I am. I take it back.