the discussion tends to center on what not to call ourselves, often falling short of naming ourselves and giving identity to our lives. Instead, what I hear is the argument to not ‘label’ one’s self, when, in reality, the effects of identifying one’s self in truth and labeling one’s self aren’t that analogous.
What is interesting about some of those very people who are black and same-gender loving but who shun naming themselves in truth is that they are ready to embrace other names that identify them as black people, as gender specific (man, woman), but aren’t so ready to give identity to their sexual orientation. By calling myself a black man, am I labeling myself or identifying myself? There is a difference.
Labeling can restrict people to description; unlike owning a name, it risks falling short of illuminating the self-worth of the subject. By labeling a person we fail to recognize the fullness of the spirit and the vitality with which the person is imbued. On the other hand, naming yourself- identifying yourself in truth gives voice to who you are; it speaks of your history, your community, your potential and that sense of rightful place. A label becomes a name when you give it life. The differences are subtle, yet substantial.
Are we merely our name? Of course not. We’re more. However, in stating we’re more we also acknowledge our name as a relative to all the other components that makes us who we are. To do otherwise would be to pigeonhole ourselves. And yeah, that would be foolish.
It would be foolish for me to look no further than the fact that I’m a same-gender- loving man, just as it would be for me to look no further than my blackness, my maleness and other qualities that inform me. Naming myself serves as a resource to connect me, not divide me. Yet I will by no means abdicate any vital part of who I am because each of those qualities determines my thoughts, my values and my actions.
Also, naming yourself is an essential part of loving yourself. You are part of a larger order, but you are also who you are in that larger order and you should be proud of it.
While some may go on talking about what they do not want to be identified as, I hope they remember to also search for an identity that embraces who they truly are, because that will be the essence of who they are (and remember, if it’s not truth, then it’s not essence). That will be the seed that offers growth.
Greg, just like being black, male, female, daughter, son, brother, sister, cousin or anything else, having an identity refines and empowers personhood. And believe me, since you’ve already been labeled by people who would oppose your very right to exist, it would be best to name yourself, to own yourself. (NOTE: I posted this in response to having engaged in a conversation earlier this week with someone who had a problem with a term I use to 'name' myself as an SGL/T man: Photograph by Gregory Cooper Spencer)