Labels

I got into a discussion on Twitter the other day, regarding labels. The original tweet was about the labels “cis” and “non-men” but I quickly took it somewhere more abstract. About labels in general.

I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of labels. I hate putting things in neat little boxes with lines drawn between them; because the world doesn’t work that way.

I tweeted, in summation of my feelings:

A label both is inclusion and exclusion–a judgement of self and others–inherently limiting our experiences and the experiences of others.

I think the labels “disability” and “abled” are a powerful example of this. And one I struggle with. I try not to judge anyone one as “abled” because I don’t know what they are dealing with, what they are capable or not capable of doing.
On top of that, I don’t know where the distinction lies within myself. I do not have a government approved “disability.” I don’t have a placard for my car. I haven’t had a doctor explicitly label me as disabled. However, my health (both physical and mental) does significantly limit my abilities. Sometimes that varies from day to day. Am I abled? I can do some things just fine. Am I disabled? There are some things I am unable to do on most days. Where do I make a distinction? More importantly, do I need to?

I get the purpose of labels, to attribute and generalize beliefs to someone or something. To make it easier to understand. To give some shape, concept, or group to identify with. But inherently that’s limiting. It limits others’ understanding of ourselves, our understanding of ourselves, and our understanding of others.

We don’t we experience the world in generalized traits. We don’t fit in neat little boxes and live up to everyone’s expectations of what those expectations mean. Are we doing are selves more harm trying to fit to labels, rather than getting rid of labels and embracing everyone’s unique experiences and context on an individual level?
And this goes for all labels- not just “abled” and “disabled.”

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