I may not like labels, words people apply to me, but I certainly need terms, words I use to describe myself. I need words to speak who I am, to make myself visible beyond the expectations of heteronormativity.
But labels have limits because they are always based on some degree of ignorance; they describe how others fit in our taxonomy, not how others know themselves.
I have often asked transpeople to explain who they are without using the word “Not.” Too often we use labels as crutches and end up with a negative identity, one based on the claim that we are “not like them” and “not like those others.”
The more we try to positively state the nuances and details of our own identity, without resorting to quick labels as identity props, the more we begin to value not only own our own complex nature, but also to value the complex nature of others.
Words are symbols, and like any symbol, they are not equal to what they represent. Meaning lies not in the word, but in the spaces between the words where reality exists.
When we use words to cast those shadows of meaning, we have terms.
When we use words to paper over that nuance, we have labels.
My Comment on “Label, Label, Label” by Monica Helms