Labels have their purposes. They’re useful for purchasing cars, prescribing medication or selecting a particular brand of cereal. However, they aren’t so useful when describing an individual. Labels have the ability to unit, as well as segregate specific populations. As it’s understood, human beings are 99.1 percent identical. With that statistic in mind why is there such a need for socially constructed labels; such as race, sex, education, income, religion, or political views? The questions stands, do labels enhance or hinder our social identity? Do they thwart or cause inequality? Better yet, is it the demand for a person to forcibly conform into a classification that has been imposed on the individual by society, due to its fear of ambiguity? All these questions directly pertain to the LGBT community. To label or not to label within the LGBT community-that is the question.
I use the acronym “LGBT” as an umbrella term for the community as a whole; as it includes, but is not limited to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer-gendered, transgendered, non-identified, and asexual. These LGBT labels are never static and are always evolving to keep up with various terminologies. Confused? Its okay there’s an app for that-or at least a few websites such as “The Beginners Guide to Gay Labels” and “Label Me Lesbian”-seriously I’m not joking.
So why are LGBT labels used? During the 1960-1980’s, emerging LGBT groups sought for equality by using their personal positions or labels, as platforms for change. Despite their subversive and triumphant efforts for gender and sexual equality, it should be considered, that when grouping together a diverse population of people, such as LGBT, it inherently alienates individuals from the majority population; increasing stigma, sexism, homophobia and general inequality. We were so concerned about losing our identity and rights that we failed to notice that the process inevitably isolated ourselves from the rest of the population. We made our selves different; deviants of societal norms.
Why do LGBT labels cause more problematic issues then productive ones? In general the terminology, such as, lesbian, gay, queer, homo, causes segregation within a community that is already significantly oppressed. Labeling also causes conflict between LGBT group members. Sub-cultures, such, as pansexual, asexual, and neutrois tend to be considered a minority within a minority. This results in various degrees of privilege or lack of privilege between dominate and minority LGBT groups. To illustrate, it’s more acceptable to be lesbian than it is to be pansexual or transgendered.
Another down fall of labeling is the pressure to categorize oneself into a “specific” group or label. It has been cause for confusion, frustration and feelings of inadequacy by members of the LGBT community. Also, the discrepancy among one’s label further blurs the acceptability of one’s sexual preference. For example, the “straight” gay man versus the “feminine flamboyant” gay man. Truthfully, the flamboyant man has a more difficult time being socially accepted.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are many members of the LGBT community the fully support labeling. I acknowledge it does unite and collectively empower the community, giving the basis for self-identification and provides security knowing who belongs into what classification. But are these facts enough to trump the belief that we shouldn’t use labels? The answer is no.
So what’s at stake for both parties involved? Using LGBT labels does organize groups allowing them to become visible to other populations. Often these labels are worn with pride and conviction. The fear is, that without labels the collectiveness of the group will be lost, there voice will become silent.
However, if we ceased the use of labels completely I believe LGBT groups would widely benefit. Homophobia would dramatically decrease, after all it’s easy enough to hate that someone is a lesbian; but it’s not so easy to hate the person themself. People wouldn’t have to “come-out”, and be forced to select the most appropriate label. Alternatively, the fear is that if we keep using labels we will only separate ourselves even more. It will indefinitely become “us” and “them”.
In plain language, labels are confusing. I question the ability of the “general” public to identify each part of this new, trending acronym, LGBTIQQA. As being the letter “L”, of the LGBT community I’m fortunately up to date with what I refer to as the “LGBT alphabet”, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and their Allies. I’m curious how long is this acronym going to get? As LGBTIQQA is considered limiting in this current form. I understand the need to be all inclusive, but realistically I have nothing in common with someone who is intersexed, and a gay man may have nothing in common a with transsexual. So why the need to lump us together?
According to Pink Therapy, a London based advocacy group and therapist Pamela Gawler-Wright, LGBT should be replaced with the more inclusive term “Gender and Sexual Diversities”, or GSD for short. While the LGBT community is still focusing on the correct label to slap on our foreheads, have we forgotten that we are in fact human, just individual people living life the best we can. I propose we save the labels for ketchup bottles and hair products, because realistically, there’s so much more to a person then a label that says, “Hi I’m Gay. How shallow and superficial can we be?
“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.”