Labels are a huge part of the LGBTQIA+ community and a subject of many debates, dividing the community into those who believe in their importance and those who deem them unnecessary and harmful.
Today’s article will be looking into the debates surrounding the use of labels within the Queer community. Before we jump right into our topic, let’s define what we mean by label: it’s “a descriptive or identifying word, such as an epithet”. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Depending on who one might ask, different opinions will come up and those differences can be divided in two opposing main camps.
Labels as symbols of freedom
On one hand, there are people who believe that labels are a way for them to break free from the expectations of our heteronormative society. In that case, labels are seen as ‘symbols’ of freedom, of rebellion, as signs that show that what is considered normal in the heteronormative society is not normal for everyone. Labels are then seen as proof that divergence from that normal exists.
Labels as being what makes an identity
In general, these people also believe that labels are necessary to make identities credible, and they often think that a label is what makes the identity. Many see a correlation between the validity of one’s identity and the label: they consider any “labeled” identity as valid. In this case, labels are seen as words that can easily describe how someone feels about their identity, and so give it their validity.
Labels as expectations
In the opposing camp, we find people who believe that those labels are simply another set of expectations that society puts onto them, forcing them to conform to the according stereotypes. They believe that labels come with behavioral expectations and stereotypes that will force them to act a certain way to be considered as worthy of one label or another. For example, if one identifies as nonbinary, there is a certain set of expectations, such as androgyny or an equal mixture of feminine and masculine characteristics.
Labels as unnecessary and overly complicated
Additionally, there is also a belief that labels are simply unnecessary, just there to overly complicate identities with their minimal change in definition. One example of this would be the seemingly popular belief that Omnisexuality, Pansexuality, Polysexuality and Bisexuality are one and the same and that having many labels for one identity (being attracted to multiple genders in this case) is too much and unnecessary.
In the end, how someone feels towards labels depends highly on their personal relationship with their identity and experience. Someone might see labels as useless because they don’t feel the need to use them, so the number of options simply seems overly complicated. On the other hand, having a huge variety of labels for different identities can feel freeing, and help people navigate the journey of self-discovery.