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A Life Without Labels – Dream or Reality?

I was having a conversation with my friends the other day about labels. Not the labels you find in shops and on products but the labels we put on ourselves. Our culture determines us as products. Commodities that need defining to be understood. In the wake of a new wave of enlightenment individuals within society seem to be outgrowing the boxes were placed into and finding these labels and definitions merely an obstacle in self-expression. 

So why are we defined by labels? And is a new label-less dawn upon us?

One of the first celebrities I remember, but obviously not the first, that expressed their distaste in institutionalised labels was Sam Smith. They came out as non-binary in 2019 and expressed how they never felt like a man or woman. Sentiments like this aren’t far from what many non-binary people/ non cisgender people mutually agree on. Reciprocated thoughts of not fitting into the gender binary is what creates the new wave of new label-less society, Sam Smith as well as others such as Ezra Miller and Miley Cyrus are not alone.

Perhaps the more cynical of us would assume that label-less identities are ones of fads, mere trends that celebrities are using to stay in the limelight and other individuals are using to gain theirs but is this a fair judgement to make?

I argue no. Considering the binary of only man and woman have been around since the dawn of time it is certainly a huge step to scrap such labels and retaliate against them, though it’s not impossible to think that a label-less society is well in the works. As we’ve seen consistently throughout the centuries, moral values and ideals are transient with time, once upon a time even votes for women were a mere dream of housewives and would’ve been seen with the same skeptical spectacles our society views genderless expression as today.

Labels also provide a limit and an air of judgement around individuals. People are allowed to change their minds and feel what they feel and if they’re restricted by one label, just for the apparent ease of others, then they’re subject to these harmful limits and judgements. People act like they’ve never changed their mind about something, for example what they want for tea that night, so why is it so shocking when perhaps labels around identity can be just as fluid?

I think the main issue with the binary sums from the distaste of gender stereotypes, something even us who aren’t non-binary share a distaste in. The policing of our gender expression comes from the idealised norms and natural order that only apparently seem to be maintained to maintain the historical order. But history is not there to be maintained, it’s there to learn from to compare our current world and play spot the difference. To continue harmful historical ideals for pure ease as it seems isn’t particularly ‘woke’ pf a society like ours today. The UK government said in 2021, despite 130,000 signatures on a petition, that it has no plans to recognise non-binary as a gender, and for that I ask why?

We’re seeing more and more in the development of our society and moral norms that labels are outdated, it’s just fear that is holding us back from grabbing onto this dream and making it a reality. It’s time to consider subverting the natural order to create a new one, one that’s inclusive and equal for all.

Lois Bedford

Nottingham '24

First year history student with, ironically, an interest in current affairs. You can find me in a charity shop, museum or, being realistic, my bed.
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