Label me this

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When you label someone, you silence them.

For the past four years, this is the message that has stuck with me since it was proclaimed by a rowdy group of second years during my first Existere show.

In first year, it was a running joke between my friends. When someone said anything remotely offensive, we’d pull out the phrase, bursting into giggles.

What we didn’t realize was just how applicable these words would be to our time at Queen’s.

Whether we were branded “frosh” or others were branded “commies,” labels were used to categorize and to simplify.

This summer, I started dating girls for the first time in my life. I was simply acting on feelings I had felt for a while.

I wasn’t making some big proclamation, and I didn’t want anything but a vague shred of understanding from the people I loved.

I didn’t “come out” in the dramatic sense because nothing had changed except who I was dating.

Yet, with this came a range of questions from my friends and family.

“Wait, does this mean you’re a lesbian?” was the most common.

Some friends were more adamant that I was bisexual, while others shrugged and said I was just curious, and that this wasn’t going to last.

I became separated from myself — my assumed sexual orientation preceded my entire past.

At some point, people stop being people and are instead overshadowed by their most simplistic identifiers.

Labels are rarely complex because that would make them devoid of purpose. People become “my gay friend” or “my brown friend” or “my trans friend.”

In a world where homogenization is the norm, it’s easy to fall into the belief that what makes someone different is what forms their whole identity.

When Trevor MacDonald, a trans-gender man in Winnipeg, wanted to be a breast-feeding coach in a motherhood support group, he was barred because he was labeled a man, even though he had extensive experience breast-feeding his own son.

Recently, the Bank of Canada halted the production of $100 bank notes because the woman depicted looked “too Asian,” for Canada’s apparently non-diverse, yet multicultural society.

In our black and white world, without simplistic identifiers intact, stereotypes fall apart.

Our identifiers should form a mosaic, not a straightjacket. Aim to understand, not to simplify.

Katherine is one of the Editors in Chief at the Journal.

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