Labels, Living, Categories, Culture

December 4, 2008 | By | Reply More

Here is a link to an excellent essay by two of my best friends.  It talks about how labeling plays out in both art and real life and how labels are both irrelevant and destructive.

I attended that workshop they refer to, Clarion, and that’s where I met them.  That was in 1988.  It was a transforming experience—the workshop and the subsequent friendships.  At one point Nicola sent me a story she’d written which was intensely erotic, with a question attached concerning heterosexual sex scenes, how to write them.  Her agent (and others) were at that time pressuring her to do them and she wondered at the time if she could.   I read the story and responded that I thought she’d have no problem.  That, in fact, the current story, while involving lesbians, was in its essentials no different from a heterosexual love story in that the elements of the relationship finally did not differ other than in plumbing.  She had the important part down—two human beings, loving, making love, being in love, being together, and trying to cross the boundary between them.  “Just give one of them male attributes and change nothing else,” is what I said at the time.  “The rest is the same.”

Over 20 years of having this conversation with them is the reason I find all this homophobic legislative panic so baffling and annoying.  Ultimately, it really isn’t about redefining institutions—it’s about redefining people.  It’s about taking a group of people that have been labeled—and hence made somehow “manageable” by the majority, conceptually and otherwise—and redefining them out of that label, hopefully without simply giving them a new label that acts as a kind of isolation chamber in which they can be “handled” safely.  It’s not, in the end, about extending operational definitions over something to include people who are “different” but about recognizing that those differences really don’t matter because they don’t “operationally define” anything truly different.  That’s why the argument can be made that this is vcery much a civil rights issue, because it is exactly that kind of labeling that was applied (erroneously) to people of color…who turned out to be no different than anyone else.

Anyway, I wanted to share the essay.


Category: American Culture, Art, Bigotry, Civil Rights, Communication, Culture, Current Events, Friendships/relationships, History, ignorance, Language, Politics, Psychology Cognition, Recommended Reading/Films/Sites, Sex, Writing

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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