What Does The Label Read ?

Remember walking into a store and looking around when you find the perfect pair of shoes? You pick it up, turn it around and read the label. You put it back down because it’s way too expensive. You mentally think it needs to be cheaper but that does not mean you suddenly think the shoes are ugly. They’re still perfect but just not what you would choose for yourself. So you walk away. You don’t stand there and scream. You don’t rally outside the store. You don’t hold placards and demand a law against the price. You definitely don’t send the store owner hate mails and death threats.

There was this couple. They met in high school. Shared an apartment in college. A few years after graduation, they got engaged. The guy got diagnosed with cancer shortly after. They stuck together through it and after he’d won the battle, they got married. They couldn’t have a kid, so they adopted one. Their love story has inspired many in their town. It was the kind of love we dream of. The kind we read of. The big, fancy, whole-hearted love that makes your heart melt. But that love came with a label – Gay.

He was perfect. I was at a point in my life where I didn’t really want to be caught in a relationship. So was he. We were compatible and he could have very well been The One. But every time we talked I wanted him to say the word. I kept thinking ‘What will the world say about me if he didn’t give me that title? Won’t they judge me?’ I ruined what could have been an incredible thing by waiting for a label – Girlfriend.

He hit her everyday. He abused her. Physically. Mentally. She was in pain all day, everyday. But she tried to make it work. She believed she can change him. For years she put up with trauma while hoping that her life will get better. One fine day, she couldn’t take it anymore. She made the decision to leave. She wanted a brand new start. But people looked down on her. Guys thought twice before dating her. They didn’t know her story. They just knew the label – Divorcee.

He knew who he was. He’s known it since the day he was born. His parents had difficulty accepting him. He struggled as he grew up. He tried to get society to accept him for who he was. A society that looked at his body and not his mind. A society that was confused because he didn’t look the part he was playing. So they tried to convince him. To change him. When they couldn’t, they simply gave him a label – Transgender.

Ugly. Pretty. Hindu. Muslim. American. Indian. Fat. Thin. Well-dressed. Shabby.

We are surrounded by labels. We label every person we see on the street. We label our friends, our relatives. Some of us have said to ourselves, “I don’t care for the label. I just want to be.” But peer pressure changes that. Social standards gives us the need to be labelled.

I knew a girl who captioned her wedding picture – “I’m a wife !” Ok.. So what ?! Did you love him any less yesterday? Do you now plan to wear sweatpants for the rest of your life?

I get it when someone says “We’re married !” It is a beautiful thing. I do believe a relationship changes after marriage. It is somehow more special in an unexplainable way. But it bothers me when the first thing someone wants to flaunt about it is the label.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I very strongly believe “Love is love.” Have you seen certain people at a wedding – they cry when they hear the vows? When the rings are exchanged? When the promises are made? Have you seen the exact same person stand out on the street and chant “Say no to homo” ? So what were the tears of joy at the wedding for? The bride’s dress? The groom’s tux? The flower girl’s hair? If it was at the sight of true love, then why does it have to change with the label?

Every war has two sides. Both sides with children and elderly. But we don’t see that. We don’t think “That child is just like any other child.” We just go with the label. What if we stopped doing that? What if we took that label away?

When you disagree with the label you see at the store, you walk away. Why can’t you do that with people? So he’s fat. She’s black. They’re gay. Why does that change the way you look at that person? And if we are so desperate to put a label for every person we see on the street, here’s the easiest one – Human Being. Everyone deserves to be treated the same way. Every love deserves a chance. Every darkness deserves a dawn. And if you still feel an undying need to judge someone and label them, I advise you to start with the person in the mirror.

So go on. Go stare at the mirror. Look deep into their eyes. Feel their emotions. Understand their love. Remember their path. And while you’re at it, tell me – What does the label read ?

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46 thoughts on “What Does The Label Read ?

  1. masamanda says:

    So true. I do think a lot of people label themselves these days too, though. I can’t have a conversation with somebody that doesn’t involve them talking about their own label and how it makes them different, and how people treat them differently. I think if you don’t want other to label you, just like you said; look at your self first and remove your own label.

  2. theodorazheng says:

    This is poignant and I like it a lot. You raise many valid points about labels that I feel should be considered more than they are. I agree with so many of these points ❤ Great job!

  3. rachelsar says:

    Very thoughtful, interesting style. I was listening to a Youtube video when I started reading this, but had to stop it so I could properly immerse myself in your writing.

  4. raibaker says:

    great post!
    labels are generally used to identify “us” and “them” they remove the common thread of humanity which lies within each one of us regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, education, nationality…
    i hate labels – namely cos I don’t fit in the ones people ascribe to me! and because I believe that we always need to focus on the more important stuff – grace, hope, peace, love, understanding, compassion… and labels excuse folks from doing that. thanks for generating discussion about an endemic issue in societies world wide 🙂

  5. marlee-errin says:

    Your writing is enjoyable and meaningful. I really like this post post, not just the message it sends but the other thoughts it provokes. How much planning do you tend to put into your posts?

    • LoudThoughtsVoicedOut says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 I try not to plan too much because I end up thinking ahead a lot and forget it when it’s time to actually sit and write it out.. But there are days when I suddenly develop one particular thought and I make mental pointers on how to put it into a post.. 😀
      Thanks again 🙂

  6. teachezwell says:

    I appreciate your desire to see the real person inside, not the label. It’s so common for us to ask someone we meet, “What do you do?” Perhaps it’s partly because we are trying to start a conversation, but it tends to put us in boxes.

  7. Cocachoca74 says:

    I loved your article. It is very well written, very thought-provoking, and I concur with everyone else’s comments above in that it sheds light on the immense complexities of human interactions – person-to-person and more importantly, on the grander scale of societal acceptance, that of society versus individual.

  8. Sheela Goh says:

    Perfectly put. It matters not our standing in society; we are all (at some point) guilty of labeling, of placing people or things in specific boxes. It stems from being uncomfortable with what we do not know, or are unfamiliar with, or (and this is possibly the strongest catalyst) are afraid will happen to ourselves. The ability to name or categorise a person or situation is a coping mechanism. Even if the very act is, in itself, wrong from all perspectives. It is ingrained within us. And that is why posts such as yours are timely nudges 🙂 I thank you for the nudge.

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