Is Our Culture Becoming Unhealthy Because People Identify With Labels to Justify Their Actions? Here’s What People Had to Say.

It seems like everything has a label these days.

And I do mean EVERYTHING, folks.

But is that a good thing?

Or is it backfiring on us?

Is our culture becoming unhealthy because people identify with labels to justify their actions?

Let’s take a look at what AskReddit users had to say about this.

1. This got the argument rolling.

“I was recently reading a BBC opinion article that identified a list of new terms for various descriptors on the spectrum of as**uality.

These included: as**ual, ace, demis**ual, aromantic, gray-s**ual, heteroromantic, homoromantic and allos**ual. This brought some deeper thoughts to the surface, which I’d like to externalise and clarify.

I’ve never been a fan of assigning labels to people. Although two people are homos**ual, it doesn’t mean they have identical preferences. So why would we label them as the primary action, and look at their individual preferences as the secondary action?

I’ve always aimed to be competent in dealing with grey areas, making case-specific judgements and finding out information relevant to the current situation. In my view, we shouldn’t be over-simplifying reality by assigning labels, which infers a broad stereotype onto an individual who may only meet a few of the stereotypical behaviors.

I understand the need for labels to exist – to make our complex world accessible and understandable. However, I believe this should be an external projection to observe how others around us function. It’s useful to manage risks (e.g. judge the risk of being mugged by an old lady versus young man) and useful for statistical analysis where detailed sub-questioning isn’t practical.

I’ve more and more often seen variants of the phrase ‘I discovered that I identified as XXX and felt so much better’ in social media and publications (such as this BBC article). The article is highlighting this in a positive, heart-warming/bravery frame.

This phrase makes me uneasy, as it feels like an extremely unhealthy way of perceiving the self. As if they weren’t real people until they felt they could be simplified because they’re not introspective enough to understand their own preferences. As if engaging with reality is less justified than engaging with stereotypical behaviour.

As if the preferences weren’t obvious until it had an arbitrary label assigned – and they then became suddenly clear. And they are relatively arbitrary – with no clear threshold between the categories we’ve used to sub-divide what is actually a spectrum.

To me, life-changing relief after identifying with a label demonstrates an unhealthy coping mechanism for not dealing with deeper problems, not developing self-esteem, inability to navigate grey areas and not having insight into your own thoughts. Ultimately, inability to face reality.

As you can see, I haven’t concisely pinned down exactly why I have a problem with this new culture of ‘proclaiming your label with pride’. In some sense, I feel people are projecting their own inability to cope with reality onto others, and I dislike the trend towards participating in this pseudo-reality.”

2. Some find comfort.

“I think some people feel alone and find comfort in knowing there are others who are having similar feelings.

I can imagine growing up gay in some households can be quite the lonely experience feeling you cant share how you realy feel with anyone.

A sense of community with people who share a common aspect can give a level of comfort and i think this is very true for many lgbt people, it can be easy to forget there are places where these harmless life choices hold the d**th penalty and many developed nations where there is still significant bigotry and discrimination.

Im not a huge fan of labels myself, I think they have a tendency to oversimplify but i can see how some might draw comfort and maybe feel there is strength in community.”

3. Hmmm…

“Why label yourself as ‘as**ual’ if you rarely have s**ual attraction. But on the one occasion you do – you’ve either got to break the stereotype and risk judgement or apply false restrictions on your own character.

I’d identify myself as a heteros**ual, and I don’t think I’d ever consider s** with a man. If I pinpoint it, I feel the aspect that creeps me out the most is having coarse body hair on the chest/face/legs/etc.

However, I’ve seen one or two men in porn where I’d be interested to touch them intimately. I wouldn’t want to engage in actual s**, but I could be aroused by them.

I’ve been introspective, understood my preferences. I can describe them, act on them, feel no further need to justify them and don’t apply generalisations or restrictions on my future behaviour.

Why should I be encouraged to consider switching by identifier to something less heteros**ual? Why would I feel personal significance in identifying as heteros**ual, when my preferences aren’t that simple or well defined?

If I had the opportunity to just suckle on that rare p**is, I’d may feel hesitancy about breaking the heteros**ual boundaries. If I start saying bis**ual, I’m suddenly considered to have far more male attraction than in reality. AFAIK, there isn’t yet a label for ‘bise**ual with greater selectivity of one s**’ – but watch this space.”

4. Interesting.

“When you mostly belong to majority groups like cisgender or heterose**ual, it might be more difficult to understand why it is important for people who belong to minority groups to have labels and spaces for themselves.

To speak to as**uality, the vast majority of people are taught that it is wrong not to feel s**ual attraction. It’s really harmful and even traumatizing to carry around the guilt and shame of your attraction (or lack thereof) to other people being wrong.

The discovery that in fact you are not wrong, and that there are others like you, and that further there is a word that describes the experience that you have in common with other people can be a huge relief and lift a lot of that guilt and shame. It’s similar to when someone has been struggling with negative symptoms all their life and finally receives a diagnosis that explains why they’ve had these struggles, and maybe even how to treat them.

To learn that rather than pushing through the feelings of discomfort that you have around s**, you could just avoid it and even have a word to use to shorthand that explanation can truly be life-changing.

This is literally the reason that more specific terms get created and used. Someone can broadly identify with as**uality because they do not generally feel s**ual attraction, but more specifically identify as demis**ual because there are some circumstances where they might be able to feel s**ual attraction in contrast to other as**ual people who might be s**-repulsed and unable to feel s**ual attraction under any circumstance.

All the same, people who identify with as**uality can bond with each other over the difficulties of living in a world where most other people don’t understand your s**ual attraction and expect you to be pursuing s**ual relationships.

A term that could describe your attraction is heteroflexible. You are not obligated to use it, but having that label available means that if you were so inclined, you could find communities of people who have similar experiences.

Just because you might not see having such a community to be helpful to you, it might be helpful to others who want to have a forum to speak about their feelings in a group of people who understand them and can validate their experiences, especially if they were raised to feel guilt and shame over not being exclusively heteros**ual in all possible situations and scenarios.”

5. More to it.

“I feel as though individuals are orienting their entire human identity around their s**uality or skin color.

As if that’s the only pertinent character trait we can have. And as a result it exacerbates in group and out group mentalities.”

6. Gotta do it yourself.

“This is the thing: if you do not apply a label to yourself, others will apply it to you and act accordingly.

When they apply a wrong label, you need to communicate that the label they apply is wrong, so you essentially need another label. Everyday logic operates in categories and while almost no property of any category is always true, we operate in the realm of this logic whenever we speak.

So what would happen if we had no words for a category, like if every x-s**ual word disappeared? The words that would be used would be “normal” and “weird” or even “sick”. The absence of terms leaves you undefended against this judgement.”

7. A whole spectrum.

“I would argue it’s best to understand there are a spectrum of preferences without needing to label any of them as positive or negative – but we also don’t need to subdivide that into increasingly granular black-and-white categories.

People exist within the grey areas and don’t need to justify that. I would also argue that labels also don’t realistically prevent negative judgement – as we can see from paedophilia. It isn’t seen as ‘another s**ual preference on the spectrum’ and instead leaves people unable to defend their preference, even if they’ve never actually acted on their s**ual desires.

However, this also doesn’t quite address my overarching concern – which was how people are culturally being encouraged to ‘identify’ or self-label in the frame life-changing significance. While their preferences are actually unchanged and reality remains reality – independent of their chosen identity word

Unless you are arguing that their relief and elation is purely from now seeing which community they belong to. However, the slogans and frames of writing are more along the lines of ‘pride’ in an identity label rather than finding and connecting with others who have the same self-assigned identity.”

8. Learning from the past.

“I think the main reason people take pride in their identity is mostly driven by the fact that many of them have been heavily criticized or seen people similar to them treated very poorly.

Being gay used to (still is depending where you live) completely unacceptable in society and if you were gay you were forced to be ashamed of your entire existence because of it.

To counter this, many in the gay county have deiced to be proud of themselves and have tried to spread that message. It’s also less being proud of being gay, and more being proud that you live an openly gay life and don’t hide you you are and are willing to fight against being oppressed.

This same logic extends to essentially all marginalized groups that behave outside of traditional social norms.”

9. The way I see it…

“The way I see it, finding relief in labeling yourself comes from finding an explanation for otherwise confusing feelings. Taking the example of a as**ual person, they see other people talking about how great s** is, but they don’t get it.

This is confusing and distressing; “Am I not normal? Why don’t I like s** when everyone else does? Is there something different about the s** other people are having?”.

Then when they learn about as**uality it’s like “Oh, so that’s just how some people are. Neat. Now I don’t have to worry about figuring out why I don’t like s**.”.”

10. The bottom line.

“There doesn’t need to be any explanation for why they want to label themselves like this other than it makes them happy.

Some people may be perfectly fine without a label and that’s okay too! But some people, without a label, may not understand why they are a certain way and may feel weird or broken otherwise.

The bottom line is that people should or shouldn’t label themselves with whatever makes them happy. Oh, and I should add, labels aren’t permanent either! They may change! And that’s perfectly fine too.”

11. Helps some out.

“Providing these labels are a way of helping people realize that they aren’t “messed up”, “wrong”, or “broken”.

And for people who have been historically marginalized due to not being in the majority, it’s OK to help them find a space for awareness, acceptance, and self-acceptance.

I say this as the most hetero-normative, cis-gendered, white bread male possible. I mean, I look like the villainous frat boy from a 1980s movie.”

What do you think about this?

Talk to us in the comments and let us know.

And thanks for your input!