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The tyranny of categorising identity

Written By Ed Freeman


An emphasis on LGBTQIA+ rights are a necessary step towards spreading the ideology of egalitarianism in society. Sexuality is extremely complex, and young people are beginning to realise they should feel encouraged to explore it and not feel undermined by a spurious sense of uncertainty. The problem is that the contemporary political division of sexuality into distinct groups presents a social dogma that implicitly dictates one must fall into one of these groups. It puts pressure on the individual to comply with this notion of determining sexuality by category. I would argue that this can give rise to a feeling that one is in a ‘phase of questioning’, rather than beginning a phase of realisation.


Whilst many simply don’t conform to the inadvertent restrictions imposed by attempts, ironically, to expand the scope of what is sexually acceptable by emphasising group identity, the effect of these is simultaneously to obtain greater societal equality, but also to alienate those who simply don’t conform. But rather than propose a bigoted opposition to LGBTQIA+, I am calling for an expansion of the concept. The + implies this, but to me a single plus sign indicating further categories doesn’t do enough to advocate for the notion that non-conformity to category is acceptable. In fact, more than this, something to be embraced and celebrated. The human psychology, of which sexuality is a product, is vastly more complex than we yet understand. How could a set of group identities simplifying such a complicated product of the human psyche to a series of categories possibly encapsulate it?


However, people who have myriad desires, which are constantly in flux, altering so that they may at one time feel certain attractions which aren’t entirely consistent, are said to be in a state of ‘questioning’ or supposedly aren’t yet sure of the category into which they fall. It seems to me this sort of thinking can lead to manifestations of bigotry. It leads people to label bisexual as a ‘phase’, suggesting that someone in that state must eventually fall down to the inevitable ground state of homosexual, since “no one could possibly fancy TWO genders at once!”


Labelling has become inextricably linked to identity. Many seem to be in constant search of the labels that define them; that put them in a box amongst other people, none of whom could possibly have exactly the same identity. I think that this current societal epidemic of labelling is oppressive since identity is frankly too complex to be encapsulated this way.

I feel people should be encouraged to explore their identity deeply and shouldn’t, in the process of coming to terms with it, feel they must whittle away what seems to me to be analogous to a tree, with its labyrinthine structures and its tendency towards change, into something fixed and constant like a dead block of wood. Sure, the block is easily comprehensible and serves as a good foundation for the construction of ideology and its dissemination. In this way, and to refer back to my original point, emphases on LGBTQIA+ rights are necessary because they present a simplified form of an inclusive ideology which can be effectively spread throughout society.


However, I feel this rather undermines the nature of the human condition, which is as alive and subject to change as a tree. Encouraging people to embrace the multi-faceted nature of their identity will, I’d argue, lead to a more contented society, with people who better understand their real identity rather than the boxes into which they are surreptitiously asked to force it.


The point I’m driving at with my, admittedly, tortured timber analogy, is that there should be more of an emphasis on the idea that it is acceptable not to conform to groupings. And that the insistence in identifying with social groups is implicit in a continual emphasis on such groups. These categories are necessary but not sufficient to encourage an individualistic realisation of identity. They are in fact a tyranny veiled in the notion of all-inclusivity.


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