The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Taking a moment to consider labels have effects

The way we describe people can do one of two things; either liberate them and allow them to grow closer to us, or oppress them into alienation. Granted, we don’t normally view this process so black and white, but we rarely think about the long-term effects our distributed labels have on others.

When we label, and furthermore openly identify someone by a racial slur, mock their sexual identity, or social class level we risk placing them into predetermined categories that people use to stereotype them.

Sure, some labels can be beneficial to us. When someone calls you a leader, you rarely (if ever) take that offensively. We naturally categorize people in our minds, it helps us distinguish people. But we have to be careful about what we call whom, and think about the implications of our words.

I remember coming out to my best friends in high school. Immediately they started to stop describing “stupid” or “silly” ideas as “gay.” At first, I thought they were taking this to an extreme. Why should it matter to me? They never offended me with their comments. Then I started to think about the long-term repercussions on the community that I identify with.

Negatively using the word “gay” makes people connect a bad connotation towards the word, which they then associate with a type of person. People begin to think that being gay is bad, simply because we associate “gay” with “stupid.”

The implications of our words reach much farther than the LGBT community. We openly discriminate against race, sex, economic statuses, any education without even realizing it.

I’m sure we have all been faced with some sort of discrimination. We are labeled according to our actions and where we come from. At times, we even become fearful of living some of our stereotypes out. Why? Why are we so afraid of fitting into the groups we’re associated with?

We view labels as destructive. They give us a negative image, and no one wants that. However, we can change how we look at words and stop the discrimination of all people.

It goes far past not using slurs and hurtful jargon to describe people. Yes, we have to stop identifying people with harmful words, but we also have to take pride in ourselves and where we have come from.

We should not have to live out our own lives in fear of being stereotyped and labeled as one thing. We are all so complex, and there is much more to each of us than rich or poor or middle class, straight or gay or bisexual, black or white or Lebanese. Besides, none of those are bad things.

Don’t be afraid to just be. I’m gay, love Lady Gaga, and listened to Cher at a very young age. But I also love nature, camping, sports, and consider myself highly religious, things that many people don’t associate with the LGBT community. I do not allow myself to be constrained to a label.

I am just as complex as you, and you are as complex as your neighbor. We have a right, and a responsibility to respect others as we respect ourselves.

Words are powerful. Stop to think, and use them well.

Michael Graves is a first year religious studies and communications studies double major. He can be reached for comments or questions at [email protected].

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