Frequently Asked Questions about the Love Your Labels Campaign

What is a 'label'?

Broadly speaking, labels are ways of categorizing information from the world around us. Without labels (or what psychologists call schemas) we couldn’t possibly process all the information our brains are constantly taking in.

The first time we encounter a dog as a child, we learn that it is something with four legs that is covered in hair. Our brain makes a note of this label, and that makes it easier for us to recognize different dogs in the future. Of course, this is too simple a rule, so when a child sees a cow for the first time, and excitedly points at it yelling “dog,” other people will correct them, so that they will adjust their dog label, and introduce a new cow label. In this way, as we grow and learn we constantly adjust and categorize our labels.

So, labels aren’t necessarily bad things. We need labels. When applied to people, however, labels can become problematic. Labels oversimplify; they apply generalities to broad groups of people. Since we learn and adjust these labels primarily from social interactions, it’s not surprising that stereotypes and  biases creep in when society uses labels to categorize groups of people. That’s before you even consider that labels have been used deliberately throughout history by governments and the media to control, influence, and oppress.

Though we may not be able to change human psychology and social attitudes overnight, we can start a dialogue about our labels - the ones that are forced upon us and the ones we wear with pride.

Aren't Some Labels Bad?

Yes and no. Some labels are slurs, and some slurs have become labels. We want people to take their labels and embrace them as a form of empowerment rather than marginalization.

Since labels are learned through socialization, context is an important consideration. The label transgender might carry a negative connotation in one social circle, be seen as a neutral descriptor in another, and be an important positive affirmation in another.

Another consideration is the dynamic nature of language - it changes over time. The label queer originally meant strange or outlandish; then it became a slur that described deviancy or perversion; in the 90s it had radical and political connotations; nowadays it is often used to describe gender nonconformity or a rejection of the gender binary.

Then there are labels that are considered by most of civilized society to be objectively bad whatever the context. Nazi is one such example. While every person is free to identify as they wish, and we do not advocate censorship, there are some labels that are simply contrary to the ethos of Love Your Labels. Similarly, labels that promote sexual exploitation and/or discrimination are not allowed.

Why the Face Paint?

We come in all shapes and sizes. We come in different colors and creeds. We love and live differently. We are unique, and we are united. Face paint is a way of symbolically showing that unity.