I absolutely abhor – and I do mean HATE with a huge H – labels of any kind. The personal irony here is that I am living my life being labeled by the “world”. And I don’t mean just by your garden variety bigot, your religious extremist or your holier-than-thou-conservative neighbor. I mean seriously by almost anyone I meet or come across. Labels often go hand-in-hand with judgement. I have already written a post on the judgement of other humans….and concluded that we are all guilty of doing it. Judging.
Labeling really starts when we are still very young – even in the crib when you think about it. Family, friends and neighbors receive the Good News – a child is born! – and the first thing they want to know isn’t anything actually relevant or life-preservingly important; it’s not (as would stand to reason) “is the child healthy?”, was the APGAR score good (any health professional or parent will know this is a measurement scale of 5 criteria where each child can achieve a maximum of 2 points in which case it would be classified as “in good health”. It is done regularly at one minute and five minutes after birth); it’s not even something as logic as: “did all go well?” – all these are bumped down the ladder of relevance for the ONE important question: BOY OR GIRL?
And just like that, we ALL get our first label! And just like that, a whole bunch of things are pre-determined for our small, just born existences, the rails set for our futures. Boy or girl. Blue or pink. Cool clothes with pirates and dinosaurs or frilly girly clothes with lace, flowers and innocent butterflies; teddybear or doll; how the nursery will be painted etc etc etc. What we ALL seem to overlook or just plainly fail to acknowledge is that first and foremost, we are all HUMAN. I don’t want to be put in the female box just because I have a vagina; and I sure as hell would have told parents, family and friends to stuff their pink ribbons and flower printed blankets and to rather paint astronauts and spaceships on my nursery ceiling instead of ….well. Birds. Chirp Chirp. And here is the thing, really. Labels are coupled with assumptions. Assume – there is a reason that is making an ASS of U and ME 😉
Because you are born a boy or a girl people assume certain gender-specific things about you and more often than not couldn’t be further away from reality. And from that point onwards, the labels just keep coming. You get labeled by the color of your skin – you are either Caucasian or Asian or African-American or Mexican or or or or or. You get labeled by the kind of clothes you wear. If your kids’ clothes don’t proudly display the HH or the TOMMY, the little guy on a horse with a stick in his hand etc you are labeled “lower middle class”, and if your kids’ clothes are a tad too tight or have holes in them (that God forbid you actually MENDED instead of throwing them away!) you may even hear the hushed whispers of other soccer moms labeling you and your family as either slobs or trailer trash.
You think I am being too harsh? Let me tell you from my own experience that nope, I really am not. I grew up poor. The only father I knew until my early teens was a relapsing alcoholic who chose more often than not to invest his dimes in booze and smokes rather than food or rent or clothes. Labels. It’s no fun at all when your classmates ridicule you at the age of 6 or 7 because you have bruises or because your gym clothes are old hand-me-downs from your sister while everyone else wears the newest Nike stuff; its no fun to be labeled an “outsider” just because, yeah, you are somehow different and don’t fit the mainstream idea.
We try to teach our children that labels suck and that what you see actually doesn’t define the person you are looking at; fat or thin, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, Christian or Jewish or Muslim. We probably live in the most un-normative setting – lesbian parents of different nations and totally different backgrounds – and yet even our children learn – from friends or school or TV/internet – to label. I almost blew a fuse and had a coronary on the spot when during a supermarket shopping trip our then 6 year old daughter said to me (loudly and for anyone in the 50 mile radius to hear):” look at that woman, mama! Wow, she is F A T. Eeeeewwwwwww! I bet she eats too much! Disgusting!”
Just as much as she doesn’t like the word “lesbian”; or “homo”. That those are “weird” words – because, yeah, their little straight-couples-upper-middle-class-friends’ parents think that those are weird words…..
This surprised and even shocked me. Does that mean that no matter how much we try to teach our kids right from wrong and to NOT label – they will end up doing so anyway because face it, sisters, thats just how the world works? I will go out on a limb here and say some stuff that may piss a few people off – but I am asking you to still finish reading this post because who knows, I may surprise you.
Gay Pride pisses me off. It annoys me, irritates me and even makes me feel uncomfortable to a certain degree. There. I said it. I am holding up my virtual arms against y’alls virtual blows right now 😉 So please, let me clarify.
I am gay. I have known since I was a child and lived accordingly since I was in my late teens. I have been “out” to the world for roughly the last 15 years, living openly “gay” and not hiding who I am or who I am with for anyone – family, friends, neighbors, work environment, the IRS. And yet I have always hated being LABELED gay because when you are GAY, you are different. Somehow and strangely different. You are suposed to read GAY literature, watch GAY movies, go to GAY FRIENDLY holiday destinations and support the GAY cause. My family and I live in Germany. Just recently the law was passed in Germany that gays can actually get married in this country. GAY marriage. That really pisses me off. If the whole GAY friendly world literally screams that WE ARE ALL THE SAME – then WHY on earth is the label “GAY” still attached to almost every aspect of our lives?! I mean, seriously, I don’t take a “gay” shit in the morning nor will I go to “gay” heaven when I die (which, for many gay men (ATTENTION:LABEL!) might be the movie set of YENTL or FUNNY GIRL….) – I am HUMAN for God’s sakes. I don’t call my friends’ marriages “straight marriages” just because they live a heterosexual life. I don’t eat at “straight” restaurants or when I watch Greys Anatomy I don’t think: wow, thats a great STRAIGHT tv show! Bet they have some hot STRAIGHT sex scenes!
Look, I have no problem at all being different. I am different. I have been all my life and I am FINE with that. I just have a problem with being labeled. Gay pride. Why should I be “proud” to be gay?! Are YOU proud to be straight?! Or is it simply an integral part of YOU? Ahhhh I know. I can hear the activists already shouting and protesting that we HAVE to make our voices heard because y’all straight folks want to shut us up … ;-). All that noise about “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” – and yet, at the same time, wanting to be accepted as NORMAL as anyone else. How weird would you think it was if your straight neighbor suddenly put a flag up in his backyard, right next to your rainbow one, in whatever the heterosexual colors are, reading something like “being straight rocks!”. You know what, fellow gay person? Chances are you would be OFFENDED and you would automatically assume that your straight neighbor wanting to make a point AGAINST your GAYNESS. We may want to start realizing that in this straight/gay story, we, the “gays”, have to really be careful not to become the most hateful bigots of them all.
I believe that a hundred, even 50 years ago, even 20 years ago there was an actual NEED to go out on the street and demonstrate and fight for “our” rights and be out, loud and proud – just as this need is there for any MINORITY (not hurting anyone else by being who and what they are) who gets treated by society as if they were outsider trash and as if they don’t have the same rights as anyone else. And now? Its still right to fight for our rights. But I believe we are at a point where its time we started to live the “normal” and “integrated” lives we have all been wanting to live. Being gay doesn’t make you special or different, just as being straight isn’t an accomplishment. It is one of the many facets of being h u m a n. Nothing more. Nothing less. We want for our children to be accepted as living in a “normal” family that is no different than the average Smiths’. We want to be seen and accepted as “normal” parents and not as “oh look, thats Jill and John, the kids of the lesbian mothers”. Frankly? I would LOVE to take our kids to a Pride Parade. I would love for them to see how we celebrate having come this far in the past 100 years and how something that was once punishable by law ( as being black and living in the white world, e.g.) is now an accepted part of our everyday reality. I would take them to Civil Rights History Marches in the same idea, by the way. But. I see videos and pictures of half naked (or worse) guys – or girls – in leather thongs gyrating on some float as if they are seriously just butt-f***ing one another on national tv. I see both men and women trying to stick their tongues down other men’s and women’s throats far enough to retrieve one another’s tonsils; I see more than anything an open display of sexual content on every corner and frankly, I feel neither proud nor even remotely okay with exposing my kids to that. I feel disgusted. And put off. And like I have nothing at all in common with those gyrating guys. Again, think about it. If straight people had a Straight Parade once a year in every major city of the world where straight couples would openly make out on floats, women flaunting their boobs and guys their cocks screaming “We’re straight! Get used to it” – how would you feel?
I will be honest with you. I kind off feel like saying: grow up people. Yes, we are GAY – SO WHAT? Drop the label whereever you can because frankly, the world has. Get married, not GAY married. Be proud but don’t confuse that with putting your naked butt in your straight friends’ faces. Let it define you, if you must, but please please please realize that of all the things that make you YOU, your sexual orientation really isn’t the most important one. I realize this will scare a lot of people and upset even more – and I believe the main reason for that is fear. Ask yourself this: If being GAY or QUEER doesn’t define you any longer, WHAT WILL? WHO ARE YOU WITHOUT A LABEL?
Human. And hopefully humane. And proud of that. I hope.
I am SO much looking forward to your answers and comments and I am happy to discuss! Thanks for reading!