Labels: NOT Just For Soup Cans

Labels are for soup cans. It’s become a war cry. And for some, a valid one. But for me, labels are important.

Language is important to me, and language shapes society, beliefs, and treatment. Labels help to get an idea of what you’re dealing with, and to help you see where you fit.

That said, someone labeling you is not the same as you identifying with a label. I label myself as a woman. As a lesbian. As transgender. I’m a writer, even though this blog is all I’ve written in awhile. And all of these help me define myself the way I want to be seen, and the way I feel. They help me place myself in this society, and help others do the same. Humans love labels. Labels make things easier. Labels come with connotations, good and bad.

My body says man, but calling myself a woman allows others who understand me to see me as one, as well, when they might or might not otherwise. My name serves the same purpose.

Other people labeling you is not so clear cut. I used to smoke a lot of pot, but I was never a pothead. I like taking photos, but I’m not a photographer. I was given a boy’s name, but I’m not a man. But because someone labeled me male on my birth certificate 25 years ago because I had a certain set of genitals, I’m treated like one. Now I have to find a medical professional to decide wether I’m female enough to change the M on my license to an F. I’m lucky enough to even have that option. Some people don’t.

I have to use a bathroom that matches my assigned label, as well, even though it is uncomfortable for me, and unsafe for me. But getting arrested or losing my job would be equally harmful. (Especially if I were to end up in a male prison, which I would, due to the labels we put on genitalia.)

My point is, labels are just labels. It’s how they’re used that is harmful or beneficial, much like language in general. We as humans are more than labels, but labels do help us understand each other. Don’t let anyone else label you, but don’t be afraid to label yourself if a label fits.

Try not to fall into the trap of using labels to judge and seperate, but instead use them to empathize and find common ground.

A lot of girls don’t like the transgender woman label, insisting they are just women. And they are. But for me, transgender helps people understand my experiences as a woman, and helps me connect to other transgender women who share some of my experiences. Pay attention to how people label themselves, and don’t be quick to assign labels to them.

But don’t let labels hold you back, either. Labels aren’t fences, but guides. People are more than just labels.

I may not be a fighter, but I will fight like a grrrl.

-Natalie

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