Why do we rely so heavily on labels as a society? Do they provide a positive or negative influence? What’s more important between the inferred meaning or actuality? I want to dig into this a bit today before we get back to video game entries.
You’ll see this is pretty common among most people. The grouping of people who are all sort of similar. Jocks with jocks, musicians with musicians, preps with preps, etc. We naturally gravitate towards those who share common interest so we have plenty to talk about without too much effort in breaking the ice. This also helps us to sharpen our skills or knowledge of that particular facet of who we are.
Sure, you probably have friends who are across multiple groups–and they might all hang out with one another. But are you really going to be able to relate to someone’s super niche question about a topic you’re unfamiliar with? You won’t–and that’s okay. I think it’s important to understand the strength of labels in this case. Sure you might totally support that person, and that might be just what they need–but they also need to have support from those who are more like them too.
“Clique” has such a negative connotation that when I wrote about it before in a positive light I single-handedly destroyed an entire Free Company. Or something like that. Let’s examine the definition. A clique is a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them. The latter part of not readily allowing others to join may have some flex room. For instance, if someone comes highly recommended from another inside the circle then they’re more able to fit in.
Think about a group of friends you probably have. You’ve got your shared inside jokes and whatnot, and hang around basically this same small bunch whenever you’re together. Newcomers either fit in extremely well or not at all and there’s really no in between despite there being no real difference in effort to include them or not. This, by definition, is a clique. Not a bad thing, right? There’s so much negativity about “cliques” because all of that stems from the people who can’t fit in with them.
For instance, I’ve got a friend who can’t seem to fit in with any Free Company at all–but not for a lack of trying. Sorry to hear when she reads this but she’s such a good example. She does her best to be active, friendly, and helpful to everyone. But by the time she joins, the FC probably already has its different groups formed. Joining a new crowd you’re not likely to know where others stand and where you stand. Unless labels are applied, it can be tough to find your niche–if one even exists that matches you. I sincerely hope she finds her home someday!
Are there positive cliques? Sure! Remember your group of friends from before? That’s one. Groups or cliques based on a specific label can also be handy at times to secure more information to find out about yourself.
Strength of Labels
Labels can be really great. When we’re trying to learn about ourselves and where we fit in society, we can try to match ourselves with appropriate labels until our “self” comes more into focus. We may just need a few or a whole bunch of labels to do this–and these change over time. As an individual, you are forever changing. Adapting. Growing and learning. Who you were yesterday might not be who you are today. A certain belief you were stoutly devoted to before might not be so appealing to you anymore. It’s good to know that you can use labels to continually help understand the more broad characteristics of identity over time.
Think about it like the martial arts. You go to a dojo and study a specific style. You’ll learn all of their kata and be a practitioner of that form. But the goal of the martial arts is not to master kata, but to use the kata to master yourself. This style, or back to label, might not always fit you–that’s fine! You can move onward. Labels will also help us to find others like us. You won’t find anyone exactly like you, but you might find it difficult to talk about Beethoven with people who aren’t music nerds.
Finally, they can be handy for medical care. For instance, a man who is transgender isn’t going to have to worry about prostate cancer whereas a woman who is transgender may still need to be routinely checked for it. Using that example with a broad and oversimplifying possibility but sometimes a simple example is best.
Weakness of Labels
We use labels to help figure out who we are. But unfortunately, labels will forever be way too broad to describe our narrow individuality. Some will eventually figure out that “I’m me” which is a great mindset–but it’s hard to reach. So others will instead continually apply labels to themselves to narrow things down. In an attempt to fit in and find their place, they are actively working to further seclude themselves. Irresponsible use of labels can lead to a destruction of the original goal.
Labels are sometimes placed for a trait that might not be so easily defined. We adhere labels to race and sex but their experiences vary so vastly on so many different conditions that trying to generate a “normal” just doesn’t work. Many will also try to match their gender label with a sex label because these being mutually inclusive of each other. That’s not always the case! Gender Expression, Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Sex all exist on their own incredibly broad spectrum. For instance, I fall under the label or adjective of transgender. This means my sex, gender, and/or expression are incongruent.
Tricky not Sticky
For a lot of people this gets really tricky. Let alone that sex, gender, and expression can all be different–but that there are more than two. Rather than a single line with two points consider it more a mesh mapping with countless points in all directions. Sure you might sit nice and squarely on what is the point that you’ve known in decades old and debunked science as “normal man” or “normal woman” but normal is ridiculous. No one shares the same experience even among those who are cisgender (matching gender and sex).
My Dad has told me on many occasions, “transgender people don’t exist”. I’m still not out to him but, okay let’s look into this. He believes XX means woman and XY means man. That’s what most of us were taught growing up and is a pretty early bit of science to know. Fortunately, “scientific fact” is just a widely accepted theory which means as we learn more our facts will probably improve or be more refined. We know of people who are XY who have complete androgen insensitivity syndrome and developed as women. There are those born XY who lack the SRY gene in their Y chromosome, leading them to develop female. Others born XX with an SRY gene who developed male. There are so many issues with basing gender on chromosome because it just doesn’t work.
Nothing is Normal
As far as we’re aware right now, gender, expression, and sexuality are in the field of neurology. And all three can change over the course of your life! Science has tried to “cure” homosexual people with hormone treatment. It doesn’t work–taking hormones won’t change your sexuality. Breaking apart the norms, however, and learning more about yourself might make you more apt to finding that your sexuality might not fit only where it used to before.
There’s a lot of fear that transgender just means an erasure of sexuality. That if they’d only accept themselves as gay or lesbian that they’d be fine! Nope! Gender and sexuality are not mutually inclusive. Then you’ve got people who are in the bisexual label who are told they’ll “eventually pick a side” and pansexual who are “just desperate” and bisexual and pansexual people thinking the other group is out to erase them and ugh.
Under the Label
Labels can be really useful. They help us when we’re lost to learn more about ourselves, until we find who we are. And they help us again later as we grow and adapt who we are. They can be handy for medical reasons or finding like-minded friends. But also terrible when you assume because someone shares your label that they won’t be a total asshole. Terrible because trying to stick more and more labels on yourself further ostracizes yourself from society. We become so wrapped up in labels that anyone and everyone is a threat. Anxiety takes hold as we’ve only tried to fit in and find where we can be ourselves but in the process have pushed ourselves out. Labels that overlap give each group involved concern that their identity under that label is threatened.
Finally we have the issue of labels being used to stereotype people. I’ve had someone who met my Grandma literally say to me, “Now I know why you’re so good at math and music!” And I just… how do you respond to that. Or people who think I have to be hyper feminine or that I’m a perv and or child molester because I’m a trans gal. Coworkers who’ve openly spoken on concerns of a former trans male coworker that he might only be doing this so he can creep on other guys in the bathroom. First, I’m pretty sure it’s guy code to skip stalls and urinals to avoid that. Second, he’s as straight as an arrow. Third, you’re not worried about the literal gay guy at work for the same reason? What?
Please stop using your fears, bigotry, and outdated and remarkably rudimentary science as an excuse for ignorance. And please stop using the ignorance of others as an excuse to not help teach those who are curious to learn. You might both gain something out of it!
Just A Minute
Be responsible with labels. Don’t label others. Don’t stick so hard to your labels that you forget their purpose in being a tool to figure yourself out. Remember that wrapping yourself in labels is not the same as coming to terms with who you are. And find comfort in knowing who you are today can be better than who you were yesterday if you continue working hard for it.
Don’t use labels to stereotype others, either. Always be ready to consider the individual first before whatever sensitivities their label may or may not have. If you work with a baseline of “treat others as you wish to be treated”, and then go many steps further with your friends to communicate and learn how to treat them with respect you’ll be much better off for it. Approach others with an open mind and the will to learn as necessary, and mutual respect for another human being and everything will work out. And if it doesn’t, I’d suggest giving them plenty of space and spending your energy instead on positive influences in your life.
Happy adventuring–and back to video game posts after this, really!