Pink News reports that an activist, Liam Hackett, has called on people to ditch LGBT labels. His site is called DitchtheLabel.com and it says that Ditch the Label is a new campaign, orientating around social labels and the stereotypes associated with them.
You are unique, says the site, and labels in regard to your gender, race, sexuality, appearance, lifestyle or even favourite colour cannot define your entire personality. The site hopes that we can literally ditch the stereotypes associated with labels.
Liam wrote in his November 2007 Myspace Blog entry: "After leaving school and starting college, I began to mix with a large scale of different personalities; EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! College is mature and people are accepted for who they are and I think this is amazing; it's like the light at the end of the tunnel. Anyway, moving more to the point... Sexuality - why is it such a big deal? I hate how it has to be labelled; if you label your sexuality, it's like you're forced to match the stereotypes associated with it, and obliviously, there's the case of homophobia - this is the lowest of the low, I think we're all scared of things that we don't understand and these people seriously need educating."
There's no doubt that negative stereotyping is a problem that affects LGBT people more than most other groups. But I'm not convinced that just doing away with labels will solve the problem. And for the evidence of this we only need look at CBBC's Your Life message board over the Easter bank holiday.
Regular readers of this blog know that one of the ways that BBC discriminates is by heavily filtering messages about sexuality on the CBBC and Newsround message boards. So when such a message was posted a few days ago, it was taken down shortly afterwards and replaced with a note: "This post has been removed"; no explanation - just "This post has been removed". The thread subject was replaced with "No Discussion Title" (screenshot1)
Later on that message was altered to "This posting has been temporarily hidden, because a member of our Moderation Team has referred it to the Hosts for a decision as to whether it contravenes the House rules in some way. We will do everything we can to ensure that a decision is made as quickly as possible." (screenshot2)
I'm not sure which House Rule they thought the message might have contravened, but after another day or so the "Hosts" decided to allow this message through:
Feelings 4 grls
there is this grl in my class and i think i hav feelings 4 her but i dont know wat 2 do.Is there anyone else who has been through wat i hav been through.
Had the message used a word like lesbian, you can be fairly sure it would not have got through moderation at the present time, since the BBC doesn't like kids labelling themselves as lesbian, gay, bi or trans. But in this case the message doesn't even specify the original poster's gender. And, as you can see, the BBC isn't entirely happy about children implying they've got feelings for people of the same gender.
Labelling isn't the root problem, it's prejudice and stereotyping. You can't get rid of prejudice and stereotyping by trying to pretend that LGBT people don't exist, or by objecting to some labels which posters might prefer to use about themselves.
The BBC still refuses to permit young LGBT people to self-identify, and that surely is an example of prejudice and can't be right. Once attitudes like that go for good, then we can think seriously about the labels themselves. Ditching labels, even with the best motives like wanting people to be treated as individuals, is putting the cart before the horse.
Ditching labels now seems like using a flesh-coloured plaster to cover over the raw wound of prejudice. You might not see the wound, but it's still there and it needs air to heal. When prejudice has gone, then labelling is no longer an issue.