• melissa2641

Let's Talk Labels



~ By Grace Natik


A few years ago, before the premise of stating pronouns started to become more mainstream, I had a friend who asked her larger community a very thoughtful question:


“I recently attended a conference and chose to grab she/her markers for my name tag despite being easily read as female. What are folks’ thoughts about this? I was thinking it helps to normalize the practice of ensuring the use of correct pronouns, and also that it might make it easier for others to feel comfortable displaying non-binary pronouns. Is this being a good ally or is it being too white knighty.”


“I recently attended a conference and chose to grab she/her markers for my name tag despite being easily read as female. What are folks’ thoughts about this? I was thinking it helps to normalize the practice of ensuring the use of correct pronouns, and also that it might make it easier for others to feel comfortable displaying non-binary pronouns. Is this being a good ally or is it being too white knighty.”

The overwhelming consensus was that it was a good thing and a good practice. It perhaps now seems more obvious.


But back then it was a deeply insightful query and the responses revealed a lot.


They acknowledged the need for many to be recognized for who they are and how they identify and see themselves.


II think it's essential that we as violence prevention educators understand that and make space for these practices in as many ways as we can.


Some context.


What exactly are labels?


Labels are terms that are used to help people frame themselves for others.


There are those who embrace the use of labels, and those who reject them.


You will find me to be one who is wholeheartedly for them.


I have been asked on many occasions why I think labels and identifiers are so important, and my answer is that labels act as a vessel to me, for me. Thay act as a means for me to seek out whatever it is I'm searching for, be it knowledge, friends, partners, allies and even those I wish to not engage with.



Criticisms About Using Identifying Terminology & Labels


There are some who (reasonably enough) criticize the use of identity/identifying language and labels. The criticism mostly seems to stem from two sources:


1. Language has the potential to harm.


My perspective on the matter is that language will be used in an effort to harm regardless of whether I embrace my terminology or not. To some extent, me choosing my own language takes away that power from those who wish to cause harm.


This concept is called reclamation.


2. Labels can force you into a box.


I do not feel that labels force me into a box, but rather create a framework to help me connect to others. Labels help give me language to better know myself and find resources and information for important elements of me.


My overall personal response to those criticisms is that, in my experience, labels have been my means of finding my people and building my communities.


How Do We Apply This to the Work We Do?


I find it important to be assured that places that claim to be safer spaces actually protect all of me, particularly if I'm going to invest in contributing towards the building and sustaining of that space.


I want to make sure that I as a unique multifaceted individual am truly welcome there.


In my opinion, this concept is intrinsic to the premise of intersectionality.


I cannot even begin to count how many times I have heard my Jewish peers express the fact that their Jewishness is not acceptable in queer spaces, or how many times I have heard from trans friends saying their personhood is not welcome in certain spaces. This to me is the antithesis of intersectional values and an issue I struggle with on an ongoing basis.


(Download Guide)


I have landed on a simple resolution for myself:


If a space is not inclusive, it’s not for me.


If a space is not inclusive, it’s not for me.

We as leaders and educators in the movement to prevent violence have a lot of potential to positively or negatively impact marginalized communities.


Do we choose to use that power to lead by example? Do we choose to use that impact to make our stances on inclusion clear?


Or do we just contribute - consciously or not - to the mass of voices saying your whole being does not belong here or anywhere?


The choice to use and give opportunity to use pronouns is not only the choice to honor and embrace people’s diversity of being, but is also the choice to make a statement that this is a space that doesn’t allow mistreatment on the basis of gender identity.


The choice to use and give opportunity to use pronouns is not only the choice to honor and embrace people’s diversity of being, but is also the choice to make a statement that this is a space that doesn’t allow mistreatment on the basis of gender identity.

I leave you with these questions to consider:


  • What identifiers and labels are important to you, and how can you use them to better understand this issue?

  • What sort of space do you wish to create for the people you work with?

  • What sort of leader do you want to be?

~


Grace Natik (she/her) is a recent graduate of the El HaLev instructor program and is looking forward to teaching empowerment self-defense. She is a chef, culinary educator, and has many years of experience in culinary food service management.


She is also a sexuality educator specializing in BDSM and kink.


Currently, Grace is working as an events coordinator for VPEC 2021.You can follow her journey on Instagram.


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