Categorizing and Labeling

The term I would like to focus on is categorizing.  In general I am going to discuss the tendency that people have to put things into specific groups, bubbles and categories and the kinds of oppression that this perpetuates.  This “need” that people have to organize the world around them through grouping and categorizing is a problem in many different areas and refers to many different topics, simply because nothing is ever really black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, etc.  When discussing gender, sex and sexuality, categorizing becomes an enormous problem due to its limitations on recognizing variation and diversity all across the many spectrums of these topics.


The significance of language, labeling and categorizing has made itself present in almost all of our readings for this class, but I will focus on just a few.  False labeling and pushing identities on people first became clear to me as a problem in one of our first required readings for the class, David Valentine’s piece, “Imagining Transgender”.  The centerpiece of conversation for that entire article was the importance of language and titles and how they are not always a good representation of reality.  Valentine writes, “ Identity can erase intersections of different kinds of social experiences, more often than not asserting the experience of white, middle-class U.S. American social actors as the implicit exemplary center.”  I thought this quote really summed up and reflected upon they ways in which people push their own identities into the mix when trying to figure out the identities of others, when they(themselves) have nothing at all to do with it!  The article also discussed how many of the people that Valentine was working with did not personally identify as trans but were being labelled and called that by most of their peers.  Just as some are labelled trans and don’t identify that way personally, there are people that would most likely be seen as either male or female and personally identify as trans.  The key concept here is that while categories and labels help us make sense of the world, when it comes to sex, gender and sexuality we cannot assume because there are so many possibilities and a variety of specific situations.


Like I have said, this idea of categorizing and false labeling has been mentioned as a problem in many of our readings.  In Martin Manalansan’s excerpt on Bakla and gay, it was discussed that there is a space between these two labels, but also how they are sometimes viewed as derogatory in certain situations and to certain people but sometimes viewed as empowering to others.  This piece in particular made me think about how terminology is not universal either, and that we cannot assume that people interpret titles and labels the same in different cultures around the globe, because that is actually very rarely the case.


It seems that in regards to transgender specifically, the general population tends to assume that a trans person is defined as someone that has gone through some kind surgery or multiple surgeries in order to feel more aligned with their body.  As we have discussed in great depth, this is in no way the case.  Trans can refer to so many different situations and it isn’t fitting or appropriate to cluster people into one umbrella category as if they all identify the same.  


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