Labels - do they help or hinder
I have been giving labels a great deal of thought over the last few weeks, and I feel a need to share my thoughts on the limitations as well as the freedoms that labels provide.
Within the LGBT Community, we have become accustomed to labels, we create them, we spread them, and we own them. Like identity badges, they represent our place within the community, what our interest are and in whom we might be interested. All through a label. And yet, for some, labels like sexuality itself, are fluid, subject to change over time, evolve, morph into combined labels or otherwise simply fall away with the fashions of each passing year.
These labels unified groups brought attention to areas of our lives that we often did not understand or worse, allowed us to find others who felt the same when we felt alone and lost in a world so confusing and unyielding. This desire to belong leads many to label themselves before they fully understand who they are or what they want.
Upon coming out, we choose a label. We identify ourselves as Gay. One can be engaged in homosexual activities, and as long as they do not accept the label Gay, they are left pretty much alone, apart from the perceived gayness that others might see in us. But the act of coming out means you automatically label yourself. In the LGBT world, this is the first of many labels you will accept as your identity. Next one needs to find their sub-label or as I like to refer to them, their tribe.
One cannot always adopt the label they choose. For these labels are what others see you as not as you may see yourself. For years, I thought I was a bear. Yet I was told time and time again I was not. At most I was an otter. First, what? Neither animal sounded like me. Yes, I was hairy, genetics made me so, yet when I looked at a real otter, I could not help but laugh. And so I began searching for my tribe. Those within the LGBT community with whom connected. Much like a fish out of the water, I don’t believe I ever found my tribe. I found my soul mate – my life partner who also seemed as out of place within the sublabel jungle as I.
Bear, Twink, Chubby Chaser, Top, Bottom… The list goes on and on, with more variations than I have time to think about much less concern myself. These labels define more what you like rather than who you are, more about what you want rather than the person within.
Labels help build communities, for many build families, yet should never be an identity. For as much as they bring some people together, they also separate us, create friction between labels, snarky comments and perpetuate low self-esteem. By adopting these labels, we lessen the whole of who we are and create divides between our brothers and sisters, young and old. Divides that as the years continue we find is creating strife between a community that came together in the eighties and nineties, forming the groundwork for the changes that we enjoy today.
There are plenty of homophobes that will stand against us, spewing hate and religion as if it was their right, plenty who do not understand the true nature of love has no gender. We as a community need to remove the many stigmas we have placed upon ourselves, between the different tribes and once again stand united. Stand united as Gay Men and Women, embracing the differences between us and celebrating our unity under one label. Because our community has fractured, due in part to the freedoms we now enjoy that even a decade ago was but a fantasy that could never actually come true, we no longer have the power to create the change we need - or maintain the changes we have fought so hard to gain.
North Carolina proved this. Last I read, and by the time of this posting, it may have changed, the Governor of North Carolina signed into law a bill that eliminates protections, so validity fought for and won, not to mention the additional atrocities contained in said bill. The fracturing of the LGBT community has left us vulnerable. United we created, we forced changed, fractured we allow those who fear what they do not understand to reverse what we have worked so hard to accomplish.
I am a man, a complex and unpredictable man. A man who willing and proudly identifies as gay, and I will wear this label proudly. All other labels are irrelevant. It does not matter what I am attracted to, really does not matter who is attracted to me. If I were single, we would discuss it on a date, otherwise, what does it matter. And I am so much more than a gay man. I am an author, not a gay author, just an author. I am on my way to becoming a minister. Not a gay minister, just a minister who will focus on bringing spirituality, not religion, to the LGBT Community. I am a Fair Housing Counselor, not a gay Fair Housing Counselor, who helps those in need to maintain their homes when life has thrown circumstances both of and outside their control.
Find your truth, follow your passion, just don’t let a label hold you back, cause you to feel less about yourself, and never allow a label to define you. March on my friends. You are special just as you are, what you do sexually is not your definition. Stand with the LGBT community and show your support for all the labels whether you accept and identify with one or more or choose to be undefined.
Happy Easter. May you be blessed and undefined, and being undefined, may our lights shine bright enough to end Hate in EveryState.