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You can begin with good smart people and an unbound optimism and in no time at all, everything can disintegrate. Threats and blows can fly; men once tame and meek can bloody the faces of friend and stranger. It's pretty fucking cool.
-- Mr. Bad

Labels Are for Clothes

by Miss Conduct

2001-10-16 12:18:34

Have you ever sat around a campfire enjoying some edifying cock talk with a couple of friends when someone starts to eavesdrop? You look in their direction and notice they are interested in your conversation. Decorum dictates that you introduce yourself and your friends. Next thing you know this social interloper is beckoning you with a beleaguered "What did they say?" at each conversational volley. "They said PROSTATE," you bellow. The stranger decides that paying attention to the conversation at large is too laborious, so they focus on you. And there is no better ice breaker in their arsenal than the question, "So what are you: gay, straight or bi?"

For one eternal nano-second your mind reels rendering you uncharacteristically speechless. You're compelled to say, "What did you say?" But you don't really want to hear it again. Instead you wish that either you or they would fall off gawd's flat green Earth that very moment. Finally you muster a response, "I practice safe sex. I like to do it alone." You decide they don't even SEE you when they reply with, "Oh, I see we're still undecided."

No, it's not that you're undecided. And no, it's not that you find this meddlesome creature completely unappealing (although secretly, you DO). It's that sexual preference labels just do not work as first impression presentation material in your whirled. In fact, no label ever works. Why do they need to know your sexual preference before making an effort to get to know you? So that they can treat you differently? That is sexism and we don't play that way round here. What if you end up being the sexual preference of their choice? Does that mean you are obliged to be intimate with them? What if you don't fall within their preference column? Are they going to fink you out to the other campers? "Oh, don't bother getting to know that person. They're, you know."

Later you think of all kinds of things you wish you had said: "Does that line actually WORK for you?" "Do you find that meaningful relationships develop after an introduction like that?" "Have you been satisfied by the friendships you have built around that question?" "I'm a free thinker." "Yes I AM gay, straight or bi. Does it show?" "I prefer dancing." "Which one do you NOT want me to be?" "I'm a human being. But thanks for playing." "Uh, that costs extra." "No."

Furthermore, what is really being said here? What is the insulting meaning underlying this inquiry? Let's break it down: "Are you gay, straight or bi?" = "I don't want to spend any more time getting to know you until I can determine whether I'm going to get some action off you first." Heck, I wouldn't even answer that question if Kevin Costner asked me.

Now I'm not talking about behavior here. Behavior can be modified with positive or negative reinforcement. Anyone can siphon like a mook, tattle like a fink or be had like a chump. I'm talking about labels. The kind that are applied on boxes for ease of categorization. The kind that bind with invisible lines preventing us from expanding our freedom of expression. Labels beget segregation. Segregation begets isolation. Isolation begets insanity. Insanity begets terrorism. Labels are just plain wrong people. Question the question. Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above. Don't fence me in.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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