Labels are not only a form of categorization; they also, in some cases, form part of one’s identity. But what if people don’t conform to the labels given to them, what if they adopt new ways of identification, or even, imagine a situation where individuals do not want to be labelled at all?
I was recently eavesdropping on a conversation between three of my colleagues in class recently. The interesting part about it was that it focused on sexual orientation. In one instance, one of the girls exclaimed, “I don’t want to be labelled, I am just a girl attracted to other girls”. This argument, reminded me of the one made by Raven Symone in her interview with Oprah two years ago, when she did not want to be labelled either as gay, or African American. In response, her friend argued that she was also attracted to other girls, and that there was a name for it. She then further explained that people who choose not to conform to labels were in denial, and as expected, this led to a debate amongst the trio.
My question is why does everything need a label? Personally, I never really understood the concept of gender non-conforming, because as much as it is a refusal of being classified as either male or female, it is still a label. Another problem is the concept of “coming out of the closet”, which to me is very similar to that of “skeletons in the closet”. That alone, carries connotations that being homosexual needs confirmation from the heterosexual community to be legitimate. I am not trying to dismiss the fact that for some individuals, especially in the African community, homosexuality is still misunderstood. However, I do ask that aren’t we, as society, through constantly asking others to explain themselves, preventing each other from living our fullest lives?
The point is no one has a choice in how others label them. The sad part is that all these derogatory names are given to the vulnerable members of society namely women, the disabled, the queer, the impoverished and people of color. This further perpetuates the stereotype that anything other than white, male, middle class, able bodied and heterosexual, is not considered normal. Let us imagine how financially successful we would all be, if we were not so invested in how other people live their lives.