Get ready for some word vomit, ’cause I’m thinking about labels. About the people who say we shouldn’t use them. “Labels are for soup cans” and all of that. Um… no? Labels are descriptors. “Short hair domesticated cat” is a label. “Queer asexual” is a label. “HP Compaq LA2205wg” is a label. You don’t get to determine if labels are important because each label will be important to someone. My vet will care what kind of cat I own. My partner will care about my sexual and romantic orientations. The IT department will care what kind of computer is slowly dying on me. Labels are just words and words are kind of really important for communication and stuff. Without words, without labels, we’re left saying, “Bye honey, I’m going to that place that employs me now.” “That’s my car, the…that one over there.” “Hi, I’m a person. It’s nice to meet you, other person.” Oh, but I guess person is a label too. Well shit. Yeah. You know what count as labels? Adjectives. Occupations. Colors. Emotions. Names. Kingdom. Phylum. Genus. Species. Half of what we say every day probably falls under the label (hah!) of a label, and everything else is filler. So when someone says they don’t believe in labels, they’re not saying they disagree with language in general. That’s just stupid. Who disagrees with having words to explain stuff? No, they’re saying they don’t want to learn new words, because that takes effort, and they don’t care about other people’s labels enough to expend that effort. After all, when was the last time someone said “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t learn anyone’s names”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t pay attention to street signs”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I call every animal I see a dog”? Just admit it. When you say you don’t believe in labels, you mean you don’t believe someone’s specific label is important enough to use because it’s not directly important to you. Which, you know what? Is selfish. (That’s a label too.) Labels are words, and the more words we have to explain this weird fucking world we live in, the better. If you don’t complain about all the different names for bird species or cities or diseases or religions, you don’t get to complain about the different names for someone’s gender, sexuality, romantic orientation, or anything else that makes that person better understand who they are. 

6 thoughts on “#1607

  1. I agree that labels are really important for communication, understanding who people are, and just navigating the world. However, I think problems happen when we see labels as identities. For example, if we label someone as something and then reduce them to the stereotypes associated with that label or fail to see the complex array of other qualities that person has. I often say that I hate labels for this reason, but we definitely do need them. You’re right that it’s more about changing the way we think than anything else. This is a fantastic point you bring up.

    • Good point. I’m talking here exclusively about self-chosen labels (versus labels pushed on us by others) but I should have been more clear about that – one of the risks of stream-of-thought writing. :) But yes, labels should be for someone to explain who they are (to themselves and/or others) and not for others to explain to someone who they SHOULD be or are assumed to be. Thanks for giving me a chance to clarify that. :)

  2. Labels are important for communication, but on a deeper level, I think we need them to help define a part of ourselves, which we can either embrace, come to terms with or, in some people’s minds, just not name or ignore. I think the people who deny the importance of labels are probably thinking more of themselves than the other person, and deciding that because they don’t identify with that label, they don’t think it possible that someone else might and try to call them out on what they see as a liar. But that reaction is completely out of ignorance, and for that reason, it isn’t okay.

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