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Thoughts on Categories and Labels

cara's picture

While in our small discussion groups on Wednesday, my group and I discussed the categories of gay and straight sexualities. Like the other groups in the class, we decided that while these categories had many negative impacts on society that in a way they were still necessary. Without them, how could we build a sense of self and identity. We talked about how the categories encourage the idea of a hierarchy in which one sexuality was better than the other, or viewed as the norm, but it would difficult and perhaps impossible to get rid of them completely. 

Towards the end of the discussion, we were challenged to consider what would happen if we were to remove all categories and labels. Would we have the utopian society that Haraway championed? I've been thinking on this and I am still unsure how I feel about this proposal. I wonder, what steps can we take to ensure that this lack of labels and categories doesn't become a reformulated version of the idea of racial equality through 'colorblindness'? Is it possible? Does the act of removing labels force the idea that we must ignore differences in order to get along? Without labels, would our minds still default to a set of characteristics that make up the 'norm' of what we expect in a person? This raises the question: When, if ever, does removing labels turn into removing diversity?

I feel that often times my thoughts are hampered by language, and what words are available limit what I can express. Thus, would removing labels further limit or free our minds? Certainly it is important to note that the words and 'gay' and 'straight' can't encompass the spectrum of sexualities that exist, but when labels are defined by those that they describe, who is to say that they should not use them? It seems to me, the more I think about it, that categories need to be more fluid, not eliminated completely. At least now, I think erasing these labels would be more detrimental than helpful, as people have a lived experience of being labeled. Suddenly to remove them, is to ignore their experiences and how they may have shaped them as a person, and contributed to their own point of view.

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