I hate that person who goes around saying “I don’t like to label myself,” because whenever I think it I hear it being said in a terribly obnoxious voice. But unfortunately, I am that person, and I really hate labels.
Ultimately, I think that labels can be useful. I think that people finding it hard to try and fit in the world can attach labels to themselves that insert themselves into a community of others with the same label, and I’m all for that. I just don’t want to find myself in any of those communities… for very long, anyway.
I realize this is possibly masochistic of me, because it’s human nature to want to be a part of communities that understand and support you, but every time I think about it, the less I want to be a part of any of them.
I don’t want to subscribe to a fixed set of opinions because I know I’ll disagree with at least something or other. I don’t want to feel as though if I don’t agree with everything that I’m somehow betraying the people I’m supposed to support. I don’t want to have to feel as though I have to switch from one side of an issue to its polar opposite, with no option for a middle ground since there is no middle ground to go to. (I realize these issues are largely newer phenomenon to my generation, which is probably why I’m so nostalgic for times long gone that I never grew up in.)
A few days ago, I was talking with my dad about how we both introduce ourselves to strangers. We both agreed it was best to always get to know a new person and to present oneself as unlabeled as possible. Those who do tend to scare others away, and though you might say “Well that’s how you filter out the people you’d never get along with anyway,” I have a serious issue with that notion. Now, more than ever, we need to be able to hear all sides of a discussion, and how can we possibly do that if everyone we ever interact with has to filter through the right labels before we even have an actual talk with them? We might think we’re hearing all sides, but in reality, we’ve just ignored the fact that those with very opposite opinions even exist, pleading ignorance when we’ve really just expedited the process of shutting people out.
It makes me incredibly sad to hear from people who think they are the most open-minded people in the world, when in reality they’ve made their own labels so known that no oppositely-inclined person in their right mind would go out of their way to have a nice discussion with them to try to hash out their differences. Yes, they’ll hear the opposite opinions alright… but through filters of anger and even hatred on both sides.
And this isn’t to say never tell anyone about your labels and live some weird secretive hermit life that no one knows about… I’m talking strictly about people you’ve just recently met. Friends are a different matter. If they’re truly your friends, you can show all the labels you want and they’ll still love you for who you are because you’ve gotten along well the the whole time before and a label shouldn’t (ideally) stop that from happening.
This is not to say that I’m open-minded myself. I recognize that I’m not just by stating my opinions here and by talking about how much I disagree with those who label themselves. But I do believe there’s a way to go about being open-minded that is beyond just listening to others. It’s a way of conducting oneself, and it starts with getting rid of all of these labels society has made us believe are so damn important.
So go on with your life being republican, democrat, independent, straight, gay, bi, trans, poor, rich, whatever. It’s a great thing knowing who you are and how you fit into the world. If you want a truly unbiased, unlabeled discussion with a stranger, though, then don’t introduce yourself as republican, democrat, independent, straight, gay, bi, trans, poor, rich, or whatever; starting with your name is just fine.