The Fallacy of Labels

12 Feb

by Johan Clarke

I would like to ask you a quick question that I thought was very simple but, as I have learned through the years, might be more complicated than it should be:

Who defines my sexuality?

See, I always thought it was just me who defined my own sexuality. Now, however, I am starting to learn that it is actually defined by my childhood, my genes, the way I speak, the music I listen to, my parents, Congress, who I talk to, what time I wake up in the morning, the things I drink, some random person passing me on the street slinging derogatory terms at me…the list goes on and on.

I was mistakenly under the impression all of these years that I thought I knew me better than everyone else; that it was I who knew the type of person I was attracted to. But obviously someone who has never even met me will know much more about my orientation than the person who orients it.

I could probably count with the fingers on my left hand the amount of people whom I have told the label I had given to my sexuality. I’m not afraid of it or anything. I just felt like there was no need to. People always just assume in some fashion based on a pre-conceived notion of males similar to me. It made not being the norm that much easier. And I only told them when they outright asked me to define it for them, which I am always hesitant to do.

The fact of the matter is that words hold meaning. I know, it’s a scary thought. What’s even scarier is that sometimes these meanings are not correct. For example, a third world country actually means a country that does not side with either the Soviet Union or the United States. Therefore, Switzerland is a third world country. The term “developing nation” is not used because it is politically correct; it is used because it is a more apt term for said country.

Which is why I am hesitant to use sexual orientation labels. Each one comes with a connotation that I deem incorrect for me. Someone who is gay is different than someone who is homosexual. Someone who is homosexual is someone who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Someone who is gay has come out as such and is a member of the LGBTQ community. The sex scandals in airport bathrooms occurred between homosexual men. The congressmen were not gay because they do not identify with such a culture.

Every word we use comes with a history that helps to define it. Somewhere along the way, prejudice and stereotyping has broken down the term I had identified with and turned it into a monster. It has turned it into something that a group that some years ago were ignored now does not recognize. It has turned it into something that members of my own family have said, “I don’t believe they exist,” despite me explaining their faulty logic.

The term has a different connotation when applied to different sexes, which is possibly why I find such a problem with it. If it were to be a legitimate label, it would have to mean the same thing when applied to males as it is to females. When applied to males, it usually means that he is just too scared to go “fully gay”, a term I have heard more than once in my life and I am still not entirely sure what it means. When applied to females, it usually means she is just experimenting and will probably go back to only loving men eventually.

There are so many things wrong with this logic. The term should (but does not) refer to whom a person is attracted to. It is not about their sexual history (as Kinsey believed) or whom the person ends up with (as most believe). You cannot tell me that a married individual is not attracted to people other than his or her spouse, from the same or opposite gender. It is not even about a sexual attraction. Contrary to popular belief, you can be attracted to someone in more than just a sexual way. There are romantic attractions, sapiosexual attractions, soulful attractions, etc. I believe (and this may be a stretch) that in this male-dominated culture, people must love men. If you are a man and you identify in this way, then you must be completely in love with men. If you are a woman, then you must still in some way love men. It’s impossible to not love men according to society.

This word comes with an idea of a person that I am not. It is true that I am not exclusively attracted to either gender, but I will not let a label define me. We have come to the point where words have started to define us when really we should define them. I will not let people I have just met think I am ignorant or afraid of my own sexuality because of something I ascribe to.

So I will no longer ascribe to this sexual orientation (Note that I never used the actual label in this entire blog. That was an artistic choice and not because I am afraid of it. Bisexual. There, I said it). When people ask me what I am, I will tell them I am a Georgetown student. I will not be forced into a stereotype because you have been brainwashed by television and the media. Or better yet, I will tell them that I identify as wumbo. It means nothing and everything at the same time. It is something that helps me to define my sexuality because it implies that trying to explain the intricacies of who I am attracted to (because that is all it is, it is not how I talk or what clothes I put on or what food I eat) is more than just a single word. The only connotation that word has is Spongebob. And I always want to be associated with Spongebob.

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3 Responses to “The Fallacy of Labels”

  1. Elionalsie July 28, 2013 at 7:27 am #

    I just read your Teen Wolf article and your article about The Fallacy of Labels and they were both fantastic. I adore Teen Wolf and I’m always interested in looking at the gender side of it. I always want the writers of things I like to set a foot wrong with their representation and treatment of gender so I worried that the female “villain” from season 1 was written off as a crazy cow while the two male villains of seasons 1 and 2 were given depth and motive. If you feel like going deeper into gender representation in Teen Wolf (especially recent events in season 3) I think what you produced would be really interesting. I understand though that writing about TV shows isn’t always the priority. I also loved your labels article. It gave me quite a few things to consider: I have never really considered someone not wanting to label their sexuality because of the connotations for the word that they think should apply to them. I have always just tried to forget about what I thought of as “stereotypes” for the different sexualities and think of it as homosexual = gay = man who likes men sexually. But as you say, and my old English teacher would probably agree, you can’t ever really look at a word and without its connotations. They have an impact on what the word means and that can’t be helped. So thank you for giving me another perspective on my favourite TV show and something else to consider about sexuality that I have never encountered before.

    • Johan Clarke August 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      Oh, it’s no problem! I’m glad you liked both my articles! I’m also incredibly glad that you opened your mind to a new way of thinking with this article. That means what I wrote had a purpose! Yes! Too many times I have tried to explain something to someone and they just weren’t open to it but I’m glad what I wrote helped you expand your mind even if it might be just a little bit. I’m also very glad that you liked my Teen Wolf blogpost. I think you raise some very interesting ideas about the show. I never really thought about Kate and didn’t really talk about her at all. And you’re right, there is much to be discussed with this latest season. I may have to write another post to discuss that which is Ms. Blake, who I think is a very well-rounded character, but still, might be considered a bit of a problem. And the fandom’s response to her is something less to be desired and something that needs to be discussed. It may be something I might write about in the future! I’m glad you’re reading and enjoying!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tom Daley Is Not Gay, He’s Just in a Relationship with a Man | Feminists-at-Large - December 2, 2013

    […] The media’s response, though, is not the most ideal. As I have written in previous articles, I do not like labeling, and I especially do not like labeling that erases other communities. Many of the articles that […]

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