We live in a world of awareness. Or at least we live in a world of growing awareness. I think this is a good thing. There was a time in my life, like almost 100 years ago, when I was a kid that my father thought, for example, that there were absolutely no gay people in our community. How ignorant! I would think things like, “How about those guys who have been ‘roommates; for the last 40 years?” or “What about those two ladies in their 80’s who have lived together and never been married since they were 20 years old?” People really do see only what they want to see. I think that this is perhaps how labels began. As a result you will now find that there are constantly people defining themselves as one thing or another, for the purpose of helping others know how to refer to them and to make the world become conscious of the diversity that exists and to get more of a comfort zone within themselves and to increase a comfort zone for those around them. This way general acceptance is more likely…but we do have a ways to go on this.
Let’s say, for example, that someone is coming out of the broom closet as a Witch. They may have come from a family of religious people, yes, but they identify more strongly with the Craft than they do with any of what they were raised to believe they had to be. Trust me, there will be a horrendous amount of fear that they will feel in coming out, especially to their family. How that unfolds will completely depend upon how loving and understanding their family is. There are many good reasons for not coming out to certain people in your life. It is not that you need to hide who you are at all. It is just that there are some people who will get aggressive and abusive at the slightest mention that you think differently than do they. So sometimes just allowing things to blow past and not getting into it with certain people is the safest way to go. People often make the mistake of thinking that they have to shout it out from the mountain top, when that is not necessarily the wisest move.
But then, when you do use the label of Witch, you have to deal with whatever it is that someone responds with or reacts with, be it positive or negative. Sometimes people will need a time period in which to wrap their heads around this “new to them” aspect of who you are. There is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, however, they will decide that because you are not who they thought you SHOULD be, then you are somehow flawed, bad, even evil. That is nonsense…complete and utter nonsense. The funny thing about that is that, in this example, they may even say stuff like, “Oh, I don’t believe in witches,” as though THEIR belief makes anything in the world a reality or non-reality! Yet when you come out of the broom closet they are the ones that are suddenly freaked out that you are going to do THEM harm just by virtue of being a witch. Make up your minds, people!
When labelling ourselves we have to deal with not just what WE see the label to mean, but also what OTHERS think that label means. I remember a gay man telling me one time that he (a very lumber jack type) was getting sick and tired of his women friends asking his advice on things like fashion and design. He knew NOTHING about those things, but their assumption was that because he was gay he would have vast insights on it. Match this to a straight guy I know who has impeccable taste in fashion and design but his wife won’t listen to anything he offers because she thinks that he knows nothing of this because he is a man! Wow! Just….WOW!!
This is why I find labels a little bit cumbersome. I do my best to not label myself that much. There are certain labels that do apply; shaman, partner, father, and so on and I do wear those with pride. But I don’t define myself as White, or Witch, or of any particular sexual orientation. I think that those things don’t matter so much to me as does who I actually am as a human being. I will concede that I do LOOK white. But anyone can look white. Skin pigmentation depends so much upon so many contributing factors that it is one of the least important things in my life or my self-identity. I may have been raised as a Witch, but I actually resonate more with Shamanism than anything else. I actually prefer to identify myself as a human being. I am not one who sees someone’s race first when meeting them. I see their auras, their hearts and their smiles. I would hope that they might do the same with me, but unfortunately that is not always the case. It is human nature to try to segregate.
I don’t identify myself as a Feminist…not because I think that there is anything wrong with that extremely gender-specific term. I think that it is actually more important to identify those who are sexist as Sexists. There are so many ways in which labels can work for us, yet they can also work against us. So to me, if you tell me that you identify as “such and such’ and that is how you would prefer to be described, then I am cool with that. But I won’t be introducing you as that label. I will be introducing you by your name. The label and its descriptors will come in handy if someone asks me about that sort of stuff in reference to you. At least I will have a vague ball park awareness of how to answer their questions. But essentially I will be telling them to talk to YOU about it because you are the authority on that, not me. Then YOU get to choose how much to share and when to share it.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with people using labels to identify themselves. If that is what they feel they need to do, then all the power to them. I just don’t tend to think that way. Some may say that this is because I am male and entitled, but that is not it at all. I just don’t care about the labels that people use to identify others. I know very well how much people have struggled over the last number of thousands of years to be accepted as what or who they are in whatever culture in which they have lived. I know that pain very personally. But I don’t self-identify with it. And so it doesn’t matter to me what a person views themselves as because I want to know WHO and not WHAT you are. However, if I see someone bullying someone else based on what they are, you had better believe I will be up in their face about it. I don’t like bullies.
I have a belief that we, as human beings, need to get past all the stuff that segregates and divides us from one another. If we are truly going to find harmony, then we are going to have to stop these practices. We are going to have to get beyond seeing people only for the colour of their skin. We are going to have to get beyond seeing people only as the gender they present, or the age that they appear to be, or whatever other labels and markers we tend to use. How about we just start seeing each other as beautiful human beings? How we express that beauty is completely up to us, and not up to anyone else. But if we could move from “tolerance” into “acceptance” of one another we might have some hope left for the human race.