This was a Facebook re-post of a conversation that happened on Paranoiascientist's tumblr:
Whenever someone insists that people should not use labels, I
remember a psychology lecture on language acquisition where the
lecturer described the process by which we learn all nouns: First, kids
learn a word ("dog.") They then apply that word to everything that
vaguely resembles a dog (cats, pictures of other animals). As they're
corrected, they learn to create and subdivide new categories that may
share traits (e.g. distinguishing between "dog" and "horse," but also
between my dog Ralph, and my neighbor's dog Betsie).
I took away from the lecture is that from the very instinctive
beginnings of language, we need labels. Our entire thinking process is
based on categorization of traits, or putting things in mental boxes.
The entire function of nouns is to use labels as shorthand for entire
complex concepts and entities. Not only is "no labels" silencing, we
cannot really function as human beings without them.
There is a difference between labels as a tool for communication and
labels as a stereotypic reduction that impedes communication. It does
help to be able to say "I'm Genderqueer," as shorthand for non-binary
gender activist. It becomes a problem is when I assume that all people
who use the same shorthand mean the same thing (or share traits not
encompassed by the shorthand). But that's true when using ANY language.
Human brains are structured to think in categories; it isn't always a
they really mean is "don't reduce people to stereotypic and rigid
preconceived notions you have about X." But trying to get rid of labels
as a communication tool simply because it is sometimes misused is like
insisting that no one ever use their hands because sometimes we hit each
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