In this short article, I’ll explain how looking at LGBTQ+ labeling as addresses is a really good way to not forget that “micro-labeling’s” focus on intersectionality is not only completely normal but actually a healthy thing.
I’ve always loved the term intersectionality. I think it’s a brilliant word that gives you a visual right off the bat. It was coined black feminist scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989.
“Stay in your lane” also fits this instantly understandable visual. While to me it sounds like AAVE, the earliest date for the metaphor from 1972 and largely something football players would hear from coaches to remind them to focus on their own task on the field. In recent years, it means to stick to your area of expertise.
Sports metaphors and black feminist theory don’t often overlap. But we can take these visuals metaphor further to explain a large number of problems I see daily in the queer community.
Mircolabels vs Umbrella terms
Often times people feel they have to choose between the two and if they pick an umbrella term it’s either a lie or holding something back. But we‘d all be much better served by looking at these two things as part of the same address.
Some people very much identify with their state. New Yorkers for example. In this case, New York refers to both the city and the state. For many, that’s enough. It’s all people need to know, but others may use a micro-label as a stamped letter that uses a street address or a zipcode to be even more precise.
Which parts of your ‘address’ you tell someone greatly depends on the situation. The info you share on with someone out of the country will differ from the info you share with people in your apartment building. One doesn’t supersede the other.
While you might know where you are, other people are lost in a big city and need the exact words right down to the GPS coordinates in order to find themselves, each other, or call for specific help. This sort of location pinpointing saves lives. As valuable as that information is, plenty of people will never need to get that specific in their daily lives. Those details still exist even if they aren’t known, mentioned, or are grouped as one.
A lie I often hear is that micro-labels prohibit change, hide your “real” identity, or other assimilation type lies. I have people come to me all the time worrying about labeling wrong. They want a label, they knew what feels like them, they even recite the definition of the word, but… what if…
And my answer is always, “and what if?” If it feels like home then that’s where you should be right now. And if for any reason it stops feeling like home, there shouldn’t be shame in “moving” to a new address. It doesn’t make your first address fake. You lived there for a time, and even if it wasn’t fully “your address” it was enough of a safe place for you to grow. Some people move often. Others don’t. There shouldn’t be any stigma in it.
In order for a soul to be free, it must have the ability to move or stay put as it desires. Be able to build a nest as intricate or as simple as they want. Labeling is no different. Even if it takes years or micro-labels to get everything just right.
When we are limited to “gay or straight” that is not freedom. Mirco-labeling says these are all the intersections I cross. It makes assimilation harder because it’s a reminder that no identity is just one thing. Society just ignores labels that are in power.
Our truths will never be nurtured if we refuse to admit a forest is made out of individual trees. On average there are around 3,700 trees in an acre, each a little different than the one next to it. In that same group, there are nearly 70 different species of trees. Why would humans be any less diverse?
Do you need to learn every about tree or address in the phone book to be a decent person? Absolutely not. But it‘s dangerous, to others, to run out in the middle of the street bemoaning that certain words exist because you refused to stay in your lane when pulling up to an intersection.