by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"
Are You A God? Why Labeling People Can Be Destructive
There are a lot of conversations happening these days with regards to a higher visibility of the LGBTQ community in main stream culture. It’s been interesting to watch the younger generation embrace this and allow themselves to explore more gender fluid options.
Despite doing our best not to apply labels to ourselves and others, it can be challenging as a concept for humans to wrap our mortal meaty heads around.
There is an instinctive need that as humans we categorize ourselves with our sexuality, our economic status, our life style choices, etc.
We are pattern-seeking mammals, and there is no greater pattern than being able to classify ourselves, our allegiances, and our attitudes.
Despite wanting to reject these constraints that we put on ourselves, these presumptive discriptors, and wanting to explore more of the philosophy of what is blue to two or more people for a more varied perspective, as humans, we just can’t help it.
We typecast, button down, and pigeonhole ourselves and others. It is how, as humans, we relate to each other. I’ve personally witnessed one young East Van hippie-shamanists type tell me in one breath how she is pan-sexual because ‘she doesn’t want her sexual preferences to label her’ and then in the next tell me she’s polyamourus. The last time I checked that was a classification of sorts - the type I presumed she would rather not apply to herself - and yet, here we are. But this is the same person who told me she was vegan because she believes in animal rights, while wearing leather and a fox brush off of her belt, so take from that what you will.
Breaking our programming is hard. I can’t argue that. I have noticed, however, that the more we try to break away from it, the more we find ourselves sucked back in. With social media and it’s algorithms as an example, we see how we are lead by online surveys, quizzes and other time sucks so we can show our peers that we are such-and-such Disney princess or that Buzzfeed can guess your age by what four course dinner you assemble. We want to belong. We want to be classified. And advertisers also want this, so they can hone their audience and build their market.
I was most familiar with this when scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a friend of mine who had recently had a baby. While I had made some comment, it must have hit a hiccup in the Facebook algorithm. The ads that span my newsfeed and pop up had begun to mention prenatal yoga classes and natural diaper services. ‘Oh, Facebook,’ I remember thinking, ‘You guys are WAY off on this one…’
There is a danger, to falling prey to this overwhelming desire to file everything in the libraries of our brains. Since studies in the 1930s, we’ve seen the effects labelling has had through the power of suggestion. It has shown that suggestions of race, socio-economic standing, and ability - regardless f how it applies to the subject - still colours people’s perception of them. A student from a poor social background has been perceived to be performing at a lower grade level in school, while the same student, when placed against a middle-class backdrop is percieved at having a higher grade level in school.
Don’t even get me started on the themes of race and gender inequality through labelling someone ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘queer’, or ‘straight’.
There was, however, a breakthrough in this for me. It came at a very early age. It was during the climax of the Ivan Reitman film Ghostbusters, and Gozer The Gozarian, (the destructor, for those not au fait with the film) appears before our heroes. They express shock and amazement that Gozer is a she. The line that struck me was Harold Ramis’ character, the scientifically-minded Egon Spengler, who says, ‘It can be whatever it wants to be.’
POW. Right in the kisser.
In that moment, was the most perfect piece of pop-culture acceptance of non-binary labelling. This thing, this ancient Babloynian God could be whatever it wanted to be. It could be a woman, a giant eight story tall marshmallow man or a giant Slorth. Gozer is/was a god and gave zero fucks about how the puny humans chose to perceive it. In that moment, Gozer was perhaps one of the most unanticipated ambassadors, not for the end of the world, but for it’s beginning. The beginning of awareness that from a higher level, things like labels are the realms of mere mortals, and not the problems of the old gods.
So, by all means, go ahead and label that mouldy old tome ‘Do Not Open Until Doomsday’ or that bottle of rat poison. But if someone tried to put a label on you, just ask them if they are a god. If they aren’t, then pay them no mind.