Labeling

I realize that these ideas have been floating around for sometime now, and I admit they are not original, but rather a paraphrase of others that I have heard state the same.  (It may be pointed out that nearly all of my posts have been of that nature.)  However, I do not feel that this is inauthentic nor disingenuous, since they are my words and my views.

I call myself a nerd because I am fascinated by mathematics, Star Trek, Star Wars, and other science fiction.  I call myself tall because I am several inches taller than the average.  I call myself white because of the color of my skin.  I call myself male because of my anatomy and DNA.  I call myself gay because my attractions to other persons this far in my life have been solely to those of the same sex.  These are labels that I have given myself.  I have been called these things, and many others, in my life by other people--some of the time pejoratively and other times neutrally or even complimentarily.  However, I do not adopt these labels simply because I have been given them by other people.  I adopt them for two main reasons, the first being that I believe them to be true and the second being that it is convenient to say "I'm a nerd" instead of explaining the whole concept of my interests in math and science fiction.

Humans have this propensity to categorize things--even people.  We want everything to fit neatly into one little box in our head.  We want to simplify our lives by thinking things such as "all nerds like Star Trek" or "all nerds have difficulty finding sexual partners"--that is to say, we build stereotypes about certain classes of people and try to make them fit into these stereotypes.  This is one of the dangers of labels.  These stereotypes can cause us to unjustly judge other people based on interests that they share with other people.  They also might cause someone to feel left out if they do not match the stereotype of one of the labels that they have been given (for example, I am gay but I have no fashion sense).

The best way to overcome this is simply to let people be who they are.  Just because someone is male, they are not necessarily attracted to females, they do not necessarily know how to fix a car or throw a football, they may not be interested in camping.  Just because someone is a nerd they are not necessarily socially inept.  One solution, of course, is to simply eliminate all labels altogether.  However, this seems highly impractical because of the convenience that they yield (as pointed out before).  If I say "I am gay", people know that at the very least what I mean is that I am attracted to men, not women.  Yes, I could just say "I like guys" instead, and that certainly is one solution.

All of the time, I see people being accused of having a sexual orientation other than the one that they have declared--many people claiming to be straight, and possibly in straight marriages, have been caught having a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex, and the other day I saw an article about gay men who persistently fondled a woman's breasts.  I foresee a more enlightened day when people will not feel a need to "prove" their sexual orientation.  I see a day when someone won't be expected to live a certain way simply because they are (or should be) gay or straight or bi.

The acronym LGBT has in the recent past adopted a new letter--Q for "questioning".  There shouldn't be anything wrong with someone who is "questioning".  Perhaps you like boys, perhaps you like girls, perhaps you like both, perhaps you don't like either.  What does that matter?  The point is that you should feel free to date, have sex with, and marry any person you like whether they're the same sex or the opposite sex.  You don't have to be "completely straight" to marry someone of the opposite sex, nor do you have to be "completely gay" to marry someone of the same sex.  If you are bisexual, there should be no pressure for you to be with someone of the opposite sex.  If you have spent 60 years of your life being homosexual and suddenly encounter a member of the opposite sex that you wish to be with, there should be nothing holding you back from entering that relationship.

It actually seems quite extraordinary that we make such a big deal about the sexes of the two parties in a relationship.  In the past, we did the same with race--interracial marriages were strictly forbidden and even deemed immoral.  However, at the present, no one (in the USA) bats an eye at two people of differing races dating each other.  Also, aside from the requirement that both partners be adults, there is no age restriction either.  There have been couples consisting of persons more than two decades different in age that have been happy together.  We do not have special names for people who marry someone of another race instead of someone of the same race, we do not have special names for those who marry close in age and those who marry someone very different in age.  Why do we have special names for those who marry someone of the same sex vs someone of the opposite sex?  Why is this one factor so important?

Anyway, I look forward to a day when people will treat labels as stickie notes--easily applied and equally easily removed--rather than superglue.  Also, it would be nice to more succinctly define labels, so that a person can call himself a nerd without including all of the stereotype that goes with that label.  The important thing is simply to get to know a person before forming any preconceived notions.  If they say the are a nerd, don't assume that they don't know how to talk to people.  If they say they're gay, don't assume that they watch musicals every night.  Let them show you who they really are.