Gynesexual… skolisexual… scoliosis? When sexual identities become reminiscent of a visit to the doctor’s office, one has to pose the question if we have gone too far in our incessant quest to label everything (and everyone).
Labels are great, or at least they have the potential to be. Labels allow to find kinship, to feel less alone with differences and to become part of a community. However, an issue occurs when labels start to become constricting. When we catch ourselves thinking “oh but I cannot be attracted to that person because it does not fit my label” or when our own community rejects us for not being “lesbian enough”, labels suddenly don’t seem as positive anymore.
The recent surge in labels is problematic because it is beginning to affect the way we think. Instead of liberating people, labels have become the angry parent who tears down a pillow fort because “pillows belong on the couch and the blankets in bed and you’re making a mess”. By meticulously creating more and more labels to highlight every small difference, we force people into tiny, cramped boxes in which they are unable to move. Labels for sexuality or identity are starting to become all-encompassing until they are the only thing defining a person. The result is that spontaneity, flexibility and open-mindedness are slowly lost.
“We have created a mindset in which someone’s identity or emotions aren’t seen as valid unless it can be defined by some absurd word.”
As usual, there are two sides to a coin and it must also be acknowledged that labels are not inherently bad. Labels are in fact very important in the fight for recognition and rights of minorities. Labels create visibility and thus pave the way for a political and social change. Without labeling ourselves it would be hard to demand recognition in the face of the law.
But, this entails a responsibility when consciously labeling ourselves. Carrying a label means being part of a community – it means more engagement is needed than showing up drunk to pride once a year. Those of us fortunate enough to live in a society where openly labeling ourselves as “different” is even possible, must acknowledge the privilege and keep in mind that not everyone around the world enjoys such freedom.
The discussion on the necessity of labels is in itself a privilege reserved to the western world. While arguing about the validity of biromantic asexuality, the label “homosexual” is still a death sentence in 10 countries. While the creation of new and oddly specific labels is unnecessary and constricting, umbrella terms such as “member of the lgbt+ community” are thus necessary and important to create visibility.
We should not need labels, but the reality is we still do.
Guest Article by: Louisa Urbach