Sunday, February 14, 2010

Labels and Identities

Some people in our community have problems with those of us who have "gay identities."

There are many, many things that make up me -- make up all of us -- as an individual, and being gay is only one of those things, but it's important to me. I don't define myself by my sexuality, but I don't pretend it doesn't exist or has absolutely no importance. Yet you can tell from the title of my blog that I have many identities and all of them are important to me. [It's amazing how some people focus in on the "Jewish" or the "Gay" and ignore everything else. Perhaps my most imporant identity is "Author."]

You often come across people who say "I don't like labels." If they're celebrities, it generally means that they're gay but don't want to say so publicly, no matter how often they've been spotted making out with a guy by Perez Hilton or his spies. It's rather comical at times. You feel like saying, "sure you don't like labels, but you do like guys, don't you?"

Non-celebrities who hate labels -- or at least the "gay" label -- often are dealing with perhaps unacknowledged issues of shame. They're gay -- they just don't want to call themselves that, or have anyone else calling them that.

Recently, on a gay message board, I came across two opposing posts on the issue. The first ended with: "Labels are dangerous. They cause us to question ourselves by forcing us to conform to perceived niches of difference, rather than an ever-changing spectrum of existence."

But the very next person posted: "Labels are only as bad as we allow them to be. We label to help us make sense of our world and our place in it.

I've never understood this terrified run from simple identification. I suspect more often than not, it has more to do with abject terror of what accepting a particular label (in particular gay or bi) means for a person's feelings of self-worth. So I can stuff my face with cock but as long as I say I'm straight I'm still normal and ok and acceptable? There's a river in Egypt full of these people. Me personally, I'd rather follow the dictum, 'Know thyself.'

And frankly, the only way labels for sexuality would not be necessary is if every single person were bisexual and even then everyone would have to be equally bisexual in the same way. I dare you to find a room full of bisexuals and get them to do that. HAhahaha!"

I which I could give this person credit for his wise remarks, but he's, unfortunately, anonymous. I love his statement: "I've never understood this terrified run from simple identification." It's called "internalized homophobia." And may I add that labeling yourself -- gay or anything else -- does not mean that you're forcing yourself to "conform to perceived niches of difference." That's just a lot of double-talk. You can be gay all your life and go through a lot of changes and broadening experiences on many levels. as it isn't all about sex.

For minority groups like ours, having a Gay [or Black or Jewish etc.] identity is generally an expression of pride, the opposite of the shame that inflicts some members of our and other communities. There are African-Americans who bleach their skin, straighten their hair, and date only white people, and others who are intensely proud of their blackness and -- while they may date or marry a non-black -- do not do so because they think non-blacks are superior. There are Jews in this country who changed their names to one less obviously Jewish [such as the filmmakers even in the days before the holocaust], which was the Jewish equivalent of going into the closet.

What's wrong with being proud of who you are?

What's wrong with having a gay identity and labeling yourself as gay?

As this is Valentine's Day, let me add that there's nothing wrong in loving [that is, not hating] yourself.

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