I am not a label. I know this sounds like a common sense thing to say. I realize that we are constantly imbued with messages that tell us that we are each individuals and that we need to rise to the challenge of individuality in this society. The thing is though, it is most definitely, NOT a common sense thing to declare, for if it was, we wouldn’t constantly be seeking to label and control others based on who we perceive them to be due to a few arbitrarily assigned words. That we think we can do this with any degree of efficacy is in itself an absurd proposition.
We’ve all been labelled throughout our lives. Here are a couple of mine: aspergers, nerd, geek, dork, loser, epileptic, asthmatic, introverted, socialist, and the list goes on. Some of these, I’ve been assigned by others, some of them I have claimed for myself. Regardless, despite where they have come from and the associated emotional baggage that comes with all of them, none of them tell the whole story of who I am as a person. Each word attempts to paint a whole picture of who someone is while lacking ninety percent of the puzzle pieces needed to complete the image. Doing this to someone...ANYONE...is dangerous because you are reducing the beauty and complexity of a full, sentient human being down to a few descriptor words at best. How can that do anything but remove someone’s sense of agency and self worth in the process?
Rather than use this piece as merely a polemic about the dangers of labels, however, I’m going to actually SHOW you, dear reader, how incomplete a picture they present, by using my own life as an example. Rather than assign me or anyone else a label, let’s instead try to remember some of their worth as a human being. Instead of thinking of me merely as a case of mild, high-functioning Aspergers, consider the fact that I have experienced terrible bullying and yet still manage to approach life with a positive and happy attitude, or that I am an accomplished writer, with a Master’s degree in History and a Bachelor of Education. When you call me a dork or a nerd, remember that I am also a loving older brother to three younger siblings, with whom video games were often a source of bonding. Even in terms of the positive labels I’ve embraced, they only go so far. Instead of leaving it at calling me a socialist, recognize that I’m also a neurodiversity activist, a supporter and ally of the feminist and LGBTQ movements and a full believer in sexual positivism as a force for good in our society. Basically, instead of counting me and countless others as mere numbers, members of the faceless masses of humanity, take a moment to get to know us. Everyone deserves the chance to be known as a human first and foremost.
To label someone is to attempt to squeeze someone into a box they were never meant to fully fit in to begin with. It is an attempt to reduce the boundless wonders, talents, failings, triumphs, ugliness and flawed beauty that is any one member of the human species to a single descriptive word. It is, quite frankly, an insult to each and every human on this planet.
It is high time we started doing better. The time has come for us to start embracing each other as members of the human family, not merely words.
I know we can do it.
Yours in Diversity,