Friday, November 12, 2010

Labels and Limitations

I've been wanting to post about this for a while but have had difficulty getting my thoughts coherent, my ideas concise, and my opinions clear. Who knows if this will make much sense or if I stand alone in my sentiments. I've noticed (and experienced) a shift in the desire to label oneself, to identify, to claim an identity and try as I might, I don't understand. I'm not talking about the labels of femme, butch, androgynous, top, bottom, etc. The more basic, primary labels of gay, lesbian or bisexual. Not only is there this shift to no label oneself but also a judgement (What am I doing? Judging, but this is not about me.) at those who do label themselves my responding with things like, "I'm not into labels." or "I'm attracted to the person, not their gender." or my personal favorite, "Why would I want to limit myself?" Now I get (and agree) that labels can be restricting, and I also get (and agree) that labels often have unwanted connotations HOWEVER I have some issues with these responses. Let's take a look at each one and break down my issues.

"I'm not into labels." *Least irritating response*
Okay, fine, whatever. I'm not talking about giving me all the subset groups you could possibly be categorized into,I just want to know who you would like to be set up with/interested in dating out of the general population.

"I'm attracted to the person, not their gender." *Moderately irritating response*
Well aren't you special. When you really examine this response, it makes no sense. OBVIOUSLY you are attracted to specific people. This goes along with the long held-completely ass backwards idea that all gay men are attracted to all men, all lesbians are attracted to all women, and all of society should be afraid of bisexuals because they want to sleep with everyone. Part of the reason that I'm attracted to Girlfriend IS her gender. I love the way women feel, the soft smoothness of their skin. The way they smell after a shower when their skin and hair have that intoxicating combination of body wash, lotion and conditioner. The curves of their body and how they know they are beautiful and have something to offer without arrogance just pride and confidence in who they are as a person. How they can be strong and sensitive, nurturing and powerful or everything in between all at the same time. Their gender IS attractive to me.

"Why would I want to limit myself?" or "I don't want to limit myself." *I am punching you in the face in my mind*
This one REALLY pisses me off (as if you could not tell already) and it took me a while to figure out why I had such a strong-and violent-reaction. I'm not "limiting myself" by only dating women, I'm being authentic to my feelings and true to myself. It's not "limiting" if it's who you are attracted to and want to be with in a relationship. It is "limiting" when you are trying to please everyone else or don't know what you want for yourself. As someone who dated men for far too long in order to please other people, dating women isn't limiting myself, it's freedom.

Please tell me in the comments below-do you agree with me? Disagree? I'm curious if I'm missing something in these statements.

19 comments:

Ker said...

I absolutely agree. I'm probably going to offend someone with this, but I honestly believe that this whole "No Labels" thing is just like a new wave of Hipster snobbery. Almost as if it is too mainstream and common to associate yourself with other people.

My label is part of my identity. Who I am attracted to isn't necessarily a big deal to me, but it being respected and recognised as being valid is.

In short: I agree.

Bridge Journey said...

I know that my partner is not a fan of labels. Sometimes I find comfort in embracing a labels... others I just want to rebel and be free from ALL labels and limitations.

Taylor said...

I echo your sentiments completely. I have a friend who identifies as pansexual. She confuses the heck put of me sometimes. What do you think of this label?

Starshinee said...

I agree. Couldn't say it better myself. :)

Forever Femme said...

Lovely ramble. I have come to realize that those who decry labels are the loudest supporters of the labels they do like.

I really believe the "I don't do labels" set are afraid of being thought a certain stereotypical way and its a distancing mechanism, nothing more.

I remember a labeless woman who despised being called butch. Well, that is until she met the kind of lesbian she likes and they celebrated her just as she was.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Ker-Completely agree about the snobbery thing, there is always an element of "I'm better than you because I won't label myself" in their speech. Amen about the respect and recognition as well.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Bridge Journey-I respect the back and forth feeling

The Surprise Dyke said...

Taylor-I'm fine with that, to me that says that someone has examined themselves, who they want to be with and are confident in knowing who or what they want.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Starshinee-Thanks, glad I'm not alone on this one!

The Surprise Dyke said...

Forever Femme-I agree. It's almost as if the "no label group" is an even more specific subgroup that excludes all other who are vocal about what they know they want.

lethe said...

For me it depends on who and why the person is asking.
If it's just someone sitting by me on the bus I reserve the right to be as irritating as I want since they've really no right to my business.
But if it's someone I know who's trying to set me up or something then labels are useful communication tools (hey imagine: words = language = expressing ideas) and not necessarily the big deal people make them out to be.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Lethe-I'm with you on the random stranger thing. My response is usually something along the lines of "that's not really relevant to our conversation"

Sarah said...

I disagree with you a bit about this (though respect your right as an individual to be irritated by whatever you feel like). Especially in your reactions to the second two non-label statements, your arguments against them are based largely on how those statements don't relate to your experience at all. If any of these things were said to you with definite judgment of your label, then your responses are appropriate to that interaction; absent judgment, however, these non-label statements are just as legitimate as labels for how people feel. Just because your label doesn't limit you, someone who says that probably did have a label at some point and felt limited by it. For the "person, not their parts" statement I think it makes better sense if it's phrased "person, regardless of their parts," does that work? Because that's definitely what I meant when I used that phrase ("regardless" just has so many syllables and takes too long to text).

Whew. That is actually edited down, hope it still makes sense.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Sarah-Thank you for your comment I greatly respect you owning these statements (and explaining these answers). I've always heard these statements with a tone of judgement as if by saying them that person is somehow "more evolved" or "better" than others. I would hope that if I heard someone use these phrases in a non-judgemental tone that I would have a different reaction. Thanks again for your input and please comment again on future posts!

Sapphistication said...

I agree whole heartedy with your blog especially the last comment about limiting oneself, its not liminting, its not because we cant find the right man, its liberating living an authentic life with pride!
love your blogs!

Yamilette27 said...

Your post was well put together. But i had to re-read this and make sure what it was that you meant to say...

"and all of society should be afraid of bisexuals because they want to sleep with everyone."

I am glad you don't fall in the category of people that try to classify bisexuals as promiscuous. Thank you.

The Surprise Dyke said...

Yamilette27-that was meant in complete sarcasm. I hope I didn't offend you!

Yamilette27 said...

Offended? Not at all.

Thanks for replying. I do like that you take time to reply to everyone and clear things up. :)

The Surprise Dyke said...

Yamilette27-Good! My aim is to entertain not offend (unless you are a narrow minded idiot who I'm talking about in a post ;-)
My thought is if you take the time to post a comment then I should be just as courteous and respond. Sometimes I get a bunch at once and people fall through the cracks. If that ever happens I'm not intentionally ignoring them, I just have a bad memory and forgot.