Social Question

tups's avatar

What do you think about the labeling of sexualities and races?

Asked by tups (6709points) November 18th, 2012

What do you about the labeling of sexuality? Do you like the different labels or would you wish that one didn’t have to say they were either gay or straight, bi or whatever?

What about races? Why do we need to refer to a man with dark skin as “a black man/afro/etc” and a girl with light skin as “a white girl, a Caucasian/etc.” Why can’t we just say a man, a person, a woman? Why do we have to divide people into races – and what do you think about this?

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11 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I’ve gotten really sick of identity politics √† l’am√©ricaine, but I am not sure how to get around them. Sexuality/sexual orientation/sexual preference is a pain because people use the terms to be descriptive or prescriptive, but do not usually make explicit which one they are doing. I call myself gay as a descriptive, meaning, I am mostly interested in men right now, but then people attach all sorts of ID politics BS to it, thinking that I have to act and dress a certain way, I’ve been gay all my life, I can’t help being gay like it’s always an inborn trait, I am automatically onboard with an assimilationlist lifestyle and gay marriage is all I want for Christmas, etc.

I think the labeling of race makes much more historical sense in the U.S., but I am likewise sick of it. I hate that when people ask me “Where are you from?” or “Where is your [non-WASP] name from?” what they are actually looking for is one of five simplistic ‘racial’ categories. I hate that Americans generally mean “race” when they say “diversity,” and frequently talk about race to the exclusion of other social categories, such as class.

YARNLADY's avatar

It is often counter productive, but descriptions are useful when discussing individuals. If the perpetrators of crimes are labeled Man or Woman, it makes it much easier to catch them, and the addition of skin color or race adds to that.

Unbroken's avatar

I recently had this discussion with my friend. He made the point that if there was no labeling as in poll taking and some such the minority groups whether sexual or racial would have less of a voice, they would be swept under the rug in the face of a larger voice.

I have to concede that there is a validity to this. Although putting your race/skin color down is less important, in the instance, culture should rule here. If we are going to poll this way there are some other platforms/special interests I would like to affliate myself with.

@Bookish in what setting do you feel your label creates pressure to conform to certain standards?

Haha @YARNLADY, it’s silly when people try to avoid sounding racist by not mentioning race. However that should not be the only physical marker.

marinelife's avatar

Because people are tribal by nature. We have not outgrown our pasts yet.

tups's avatar


Shippy's avatar

In some contexts it is important.

But here is a light hearted story. I once took my father, along with my mom, to both go and see a new Neurologist. My mom and dad were both very elderly by then. We waited in the reception for the ‘Doctor’ to arrive. A sweet pretty small ‘indian’ woman came up to my dad and started to chat. “Put your finger on your nose” she said, “wave it about” He did all this then said “Are you the receptionist?:


I guess he thought they provided light entertainment too.

She was of course the Doctor.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

From the point of view of a person’s risk for developing some medical conditions or having offspring with certain birth defects, the racial heritage of individuals turns out to be important. Socially, the distinction should not be treated as important. Unfortunately, in the USA and to a lesser extent, in Canada, people demonstrate different attitudes and expectations to people on the basis on the racial background on other people.

Labelling people according to their sexual orientation can sometimes provide useful information that can help avoid awkward errors when you first meet them. Making judgments about them is wrong but is still far too common.

If I am looking to hire someone, race and sexual orientation are generally irrelevant.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t think we’ll escape racial labeling till we are all so intermarried and amalgamated there is only one race, the human race. I yearn for that day.

Sexual labels are more problematic, because while they tend to be stark black and white, real people are all the possible shades of grey. For instance, if you asked me if I am masculine or feminine; and am I gay, bi, a gender bender or straight—the honest answer would have to be yes. I’m a little bit of each of those. How do you label that?

livelaughlove21's avatar

Sexuality is fluid. We all have had tendencies both ways, even if we don’t admit it. Most of us fall in the gray area, but the labels are used as a convenience. Saying “I’m straight” when you only have relationships and sex with the opposite sex is a lot easier than saying, “Well, I like men and I’ve never been with a woman, but I’ve thought about it from time to time.” What I do dislike is when people refer to members of a same sex relationship as “the guy” and “the girl” based on perceived levels of femininity and masculinity. This is just ignorant. If they both have penises, I’m pretty sure they’re both “the guy.”

So, yeah, the labels are limiting. I feel the same way about racial labels – they’re purely for convenience. It would be nice to just be people who aren’t defined by one aspect of ourselves, but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. We like to point at people and describe who they are in three words or less, no matter how absurd that is.

I also think @rosehips has a good point regarding representation. Of course, if we lived in a world that didn’t use labels, we’d all be represented equally as human beings. But like I said, no such luck.

bookish1's avatar

@livelaughlove21 : Actually, if people are guys, then they are guys.
The labeling of humans based on their assumed genital configuration is a whole nother rant. I’ve dated women who had penises and men who did not. come at me, bro.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@bookish1 “Actually, if people are guys, then they are guys.”

…isn’t that what I said? And I’m not talking about genitalia only. My example was just referring to gay relationships in which there were two men who live as men who have penises and, because one us perceived as more “feminine,” people might refer to him as “the woman” in the relationship. I didn’t even mention gender identity issues. That’s a whole other thing. The penis comment was just one example.

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