A Minority of One: on labelphiles & identity politics

“I understand where a term like [cisgender] comes from… But, out of nowhere, I am now labelled, not because I am something, but because somebody else is something else. I am not cisgender. The word means nothing to me… it’s good that an increasing number of people are able to proudly identify as transgender if they wish, and tolerance of that ought to become widespread, but it doesn’t make me something new. ‘Cisgender’ is a reactionary label, and the reaction isn’t even one that I’ve had.”

– You Think, Therefore I Am

“To call yourself non-binary or genderfluid while demanding that others call themselves cisgender is to insist that the vast majority of humans must stay in their boxes, because you identify as boxless.”

– Rebecca Reilly-Cooper

“I do think the big problem of our time in the Western societies is this basically self-centered way of looking into the world… If your point is good it will be valid whoever’s saying it.” 

– Douglas Murray


Freedom,

From social oppression, limitation, from a box, from a label,

Is become a promise,

of social oppression, limitation, of boxes, of labels.

If you cannot reduce yourself to a suite of labels then it will be surely done for you. How could anyone know how to treat and regard you otherwise?

To take pride in who you are, to express your inner self, to identify as something or as belonging to a particular group: from this you can create for yourself and potentially others confidence and community, and any relevance of a commentators background and lifestyle to certain topics always noteworthy. But this reasonable point has been passed, a while ago and by quite some distance.

There now exist identitarians and labelphiles, caught up in what you are and not what you think, where you’re from and not where you’re headed. Identity politics produces labels and counter-labels, and Social Media doesn’t exactly stem the tide.

These new identitarians are the ones who are supposed to be against the idea that your surface characteristics define you, the ones always opposed in their very core to the notion that a person can be reduced to labels, that mere labels can represent you well to others. Yet in their fight to no longer be, like the unremarkable rest of us, merely a case of one box, one label they have become nothing but a succession of open and empty boxes, with labels up and down each side on every spare patch of space. Their favourite activity, that which they love nothing more than whatever the time or place, is reeling off their personal list of labels and handing you yours. To have become so centered on superficial and simplistic identity, under the guise of complex and interesting character, to have become so aggressive in the demand made of others to never, for a moment, forget or move beyond your gender(/s), your sexual orientation, your political alignment, is to have broken into a prison, not out, conscripting everyone you meet as guards to whom you forcibly hand the keys and at whom you may yell and release the hounds if they slip into treating you as a free and individual entity.

The Buzzfeed video style aesthetic of simple, bright, primary coloured backgrounds complemented by and with superficially diverse presenters dedicated to an equal level of cosmetic glare and depthlessness is a setting perfect for the sort of easy, trendy, me-centric emoting specialised in by extreme labelphiles – unable to proffer, flesh out, and uphold an argument, thesis, or social commentary without the loud and flashy performance necessary to distract the distractable, to keep everything as I-Me-Mine as is possible, and to guarantee every subsequent criticism and disagreement from the undistractable an automatic ad hominem due to the simple fact that they have plastered themselves over every idea that they ever deign to put forward.

The label lists extend, the minorities split and multiply – racing to the prestigious position that is Minority of One – and personalities are quantified exponentially down. The complex whole of true uniqueness that is a person, normally the sum of its parts, is now replaced at the forefront of dialogue and interaction by the forced procession of its separate parts.

Charging down their current path will soon have them crashing into a disappointing end to their quest. They seek to be boxless, unique, to be different, individual, and they seek to do this and demonstrate it to others by accruing a name-follow-up list of titles so extensive that it belongs nowhere so much as in The Bible or Lord of the Rings. Their quest is to find some way, somehow, to get across to others and the rest of the world their person, a so frustrating search for a satisfactory linguistic tool or technique to share their individuality and individual person, and their solution is the increase of already numerous labels. The disappointment will come when they inevitably find, in the manner of most quests, that what they searched for they had all along, and the rest of us have been doing just fine with it in their absence.

It will be a good day when a maverick among the regressive identitarians is floored by the eureka moment, gathers herself back up, and runs, shouting, back to the party with the revelation that the solution is not only simple but preexisting; not only preexisting but dating very, very far back. That we, the rest of us, long ago solved the problem of how to present yourself, either in person or from afar, to others as an individual, specific person with both fixed and fluid stances, thoughts, beliefs, and personal history. And it’s not with label after label after newly-coined label after label and an intolerant, selfish expectation of others. It’s with our personal names and a conversation.

2 Thoughts

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