To Label or Not to Label

We all find ways to label ourselves, put ourselves into boxes that help to define who we are and who we are to become.  It is important for everyone to have some sense of who they are, a sense of personal identity that helps to reinforce the ideals that you choose to live within.  Do we need labels?  Of course we do not but there is no denying that sometimes labels provide safety and security within the world.  Having that label is like an identifier that says you are never alone and belong somewhere.

I have many labels.  I am a woman, I am black, I am Wiccan, I am a counselor, I am a mother, I am a wife and I am a author.  Whether I ever tell anyone those titles, it would  not take away who I am and what I do.  Having those labels give a little bit of security because I always can look myself in the mirror and know who I am and what makes me who I am…. or at least that is what we tell ourselves.

I was listening to a show tonight on Pagans Tonight about labels that Pagan people use.  I got to call into the show and speak online for a little bit.  Interestingly I continued to think about labels for the rest of the night.  What does it mean to define ourselves and who have I defined myself to be today?  What does it mean?

For me, being black represents a long history of pride and honor for the strength and struggle that my people have gone through.  It is a lineage full of sacrifice that eventually started to pay off, and of sacrifice that I have benefited from directly.  It is about a lost culture, torn away and replaced by a legacy of pain and slavery.  This means I know what it means to be of the minority, the ones who are still fighting to have an equal say in the way that life unfolds.  Being Black means I am always learning how to make choices that will make my children’s lives a bit more free than the lives of my parents or grandparents.  I have ties to the South, I share pain in the injustice of our collective past and I am hope for the future (just as my children are for me).

And being Wiccan?  For me it is about everything and all things together.  Being Wiccan provides a framework to understand the incredible energy of the world and knowing that all things connect at spirit.  It is a shared knowledge of the way that each day is a new day and each moment is connected to its past and the future.  It means I have the power to manifest who I am, what I become and what I create in the world.  It is a intense knowing that I am serving the power of the Gods and am accountable for being the best representative of the Goddess in her earthly form.  Being Wiccan means that I accept that my mouthpiece will be doing the work of the divine and my head will not always have a say.  It is a calling, it is a knowing, it is a honor to be chosen to walk the path that leads to oneness.

And if I put those things together, it shows me that there are years of lessons that have happened to prepare me for who I am and who I am growing into.  To have the beauty of the universe invested in my body is an honor that words cannot describe, yet only I can live.

So do I need a label?  Of course not.  And whether I choose to be the Wiccan today, the mother, the counselor, the Black person, the daughter, the wife or the author; I know deeply that I am always those things, all together, simultaneously, interchangeably, weaved together in a perfect dance of humanity, to create the most wonderful version of me.

  • Quercki Singer

    I appreciate labels when they help me situate a person’s viewpoint. Are they speaking from experience? Is it a situation that I have an equal claim on the experience or not? What are our respective positions in the kyriarchy? How do the various labels intersect?

    But I don’t appreciate labels when they are used to dismiss people inappropriately. “You’ve actually experienced [whatever the topic is] so your viewpoint isn’t objective.”

    The other advantage for labels is to make sure that I’m not just hearing/seeing one point of view. For example, scientific research ignored many important topics when it was only done by white men. There was NO medical research done on women until recently. Our government is making bad laws/policy because the people in it are not poor or middle class.

    But making sure I’m not in a uniformly-labeled echo chamber requires reaching out and it is uncomfortable.