It never occurred to me how emphatic the world was about slapping a label on each person until I was in my mid-20s and someone said to me, "Do you consider yourself a Christian?"
I know, you may not think being called a Christian is a label, but it is. It's a word that describes what you believe in. The same applies to being gay or being poor. It's a statement of who you are without actually getting to know you. The more I thought about all of it, the more I said to myself, "No, I am not a sum of my labels. I am someone unique, with my own views, perspectives and opinions. But to say that I am a word or that a word really describes me wouldn't be accurate."
I am socially liberal, but I am not a democrat. I am fiscally conservative but I am not a republican. I believe that people can have a physical attraction to either gender but have an emotional connection to a different gender and just because someone has millions of dollars, does not make them rich. Some of the richest people I know live in the worst parts of the world. They are the richest in my eyes because they have a loving family and know that it is family that is more valuable than all the money in the world. Does that make what you feel 'rich' is wrong or make my view on what rich is wrong? No, it's just a different perspective is all. A word's definition can be subjective and relative to one person's perspective, life experiences or beliefs. It is for this very reason that I dislike labels.
I have a very good friend who considers himself bisexual. He describes himself as someone physically attracted to both genders, but he only has emotional relationships with women. He has had sexual encounters with both genders and enjoys both, but only loves women. Another person might say that he is not bisexual but straight with curious tendencies toward homosexuality. It's all perspective.
Why do we feel the need to smack a word on someone that says this is what you are?
For one simple reason. We have a group of templates in our heads for each word; it is one way we can understand one another. It is also the only way that we know we can connect or disconnect with each other. I am a father and he is a father, so I know that I can relate to him on some level. A homophobic man hears the word gay and believes he has to turn the other way. But what does it really matter who people love as long as they love and are loved? There are too many people out there who don't know what real love is.
But here is where things become disjointed. There are a lot more words that can describe me than simply one or two words. I am not just a father. I am a son. I am a geek, I am a writer, I am a network engineer, I am a man, I am a wood worker, I am an artist, I am your dream come true and I am also your worst nightmare. It's all perspective, and it's all very personal and independent. Just because you're a father doesn't mean I'm going to get along with you. It means that we have one thing we share. And just because I hear you say that you are a Christian, does not mean that we are the same. I have in fact met too many self-righteous Christians who have lost touch with what I believe being a Christian is about. To me, being a Christian is about loving God and loving God's children. Too many people get hung up on the fire and brimstone and fail to see the bigger picture.
Because of all this conditioning that society and our social groups put upon us to be labeled, we begin to come up with our own labels for who we are and what we believe. I saw a show with Barbara Walters (20/20 perhaps, I can't remember), where she said that we all have labels for ourselves. If we list our labels, the ones that we list first are higher priority. Interesting thought.
Do you feel it's right for people to label one another, and are we really the sum of our labels? Are you willing to give your comments below or should I label you a chicken?