One can argue for or against the usage of labels, but they do serve a purpose. Often times those labels become convoluted and limiting. There are labels that people use to describe types of people that are damaging and breed internalized hatred, knowingly or not. There are labels that are used to describe how a person is or may be based on the label they are using. “Of course he is a snappy dressing, he is gay, after all.” “All black men are criminals, look at the prisons.” “Sure she is a lesbian, but it is only because she hasn’t had the right man.” These are only a few, but you can see how damaging they are in their contexts.
Personally, I cringe reading profiles online; they are appalling, at best. “38 yr. old straight acting gay male, physically fit, hung top seeking straight acting fit, bubble butt bottom.” Sound familiar? We have all seen it. “Masculine male seeks same for true love. No femmes, fats, or blacks,” Or the better “28 yr. old gay male but doesn’t act it. Seeks passable CD for DL fun.” You can’t make this stuff up and it is far too common. Why do people use these kinds of labels? Firstly, they are rarely attainable and again it is just an expression of the internalized hatred that many of us carry.
Ok I get it; we all have types so we use these labels as a means of expressing to others what type we are looking for in a mate. That works great if you are saying you like men with, short blonde hair, green eyes, average groomed body hair, who is loving and honest. Those are labels that would qualify as a type. When we use terms such as straight acting, masculine, femme, lady boy, or any of the other variations what we are really using are terms that are limiting and judgmental. Many of the labels we have adopted are from idealized patterns of what we know. To say you want someone masculine tends to stem from growing up hearing how feminine or girly a gay man may be and it creates a stigma that we attribute as being bad. We don’t want to be judged with those same standards so we internalize it to change how we act and what we should be attracted to.
I am also a realist; I fully acknowledge that getting rid of labels is as bad as using antiquated ones. There has to be a happy medium. Daily LGBTQ people are being persecuted for our differences. Around 17% of the murders committed this year have been towards African American transgender women. All of us, more than likely, were raised in families or communities that ingrained into us that gay is bad and heterosexuality is the default choice. Its the same society that teaches that “white is right” and that men have the power. Remember that it wasn’t until fairly recently that gay was used to describe queer culture, it was activist Frank Kameny that reclaimed it by the slogan “Gay is Good.” So labels are important for being able to understand difference in the human condition. They are needed but it’s the knife’s edge, one day they will be used against us. Its a fact we cannot change and done we cannot ignore.
We are now in a society that has the ‘knee jerk’ mentality. We are quick to judge and even quicker to say we are being judged. It is hard to trust anyone who claims to be “on our side” because we question the motives as to why they are helping us. The #METOO movement is a good example, it is a venue for allowing women, and men, to stand up and say they have been abused and have their voices be heard. It has also created a counter response where a lot of white men are standing us and claiming to be the “good guy” so that women shouldn’t fear them. Pitting people against one another. This administration is toxic, at best. We are watching as legislature that was passed is trying to be undone or circumvented. We have a leader who is known for racist mentality and even condones it. This has lead to increase hate crime attacks of all minorities. Transphobia is on the rise, as well as their murder rate.
It is not just the fault of the person that uses the label, but also of the one who reacts to the label. The same internalizations that may cause someone to use those labels could be the same ones that makes a person react negatively to hearing them. In many cases, they pain those words cause can be debilitating to a person, inciting rage over those who appear to be that type or fear and shutting down by those who are being labeled by it. All because of the environment we are raised in.
It’s no secret why ancient cultures have spells, prayers, and songs to their deities, they knew that words have power, they are magic. Words can affect people and situations to any outcome. That is why I mentioned Frank Kameny coining the term gay to be used as a definition for homosexual people. Until that point it had no bearing on our culture or who we are his slogan “Gay is Good” changed how that word was to be related forever. I remember growing up that using the term gay was bad, as it referred to “those” people. This is the kind of magic that words can have.
I don’t expect you to stop using labels, it just won’t happen. It is not how humans are hardwired we need definitions. What I hope is that you will start to question why you use labels that you do. I would hope that you understand is why you choose the words that you do. Don’t let the labels define who you are and how you view the world. Don’t let them limit your experiencing of life. Consider how they make others feel and react when they are used. After all, words are the strongest magic.