Forward: This post has nothing to do with sexuality (homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, or otherwise). Let’s save that for another time. This post has everything to do with labels. Please keep that in mind if you decide to leave a comment. Thank you.

You’ve probably heard me refer to Matthew by various titles. Sometimes I call him my boyfriend. Sometimes I call him my partner. Technically speaking (in the North American vernacular) he is my boyfriend. I don’t care for that title though.

I had boyfriends when I was ten years old. We did things like pass notes in class, hold hands on the playground, and go to the movie theatre to see Ace Venture Pet Detective. I also had boyfriends in high school and college. We did things like sneak out, drink beer, and attend homecoming games.

But what I have with Matthew is different. We have a home. We have three beautiful pets—Mika, Bella, & Persia. We spend holidays with each others families. And so on.

Thing is, we’re not married and we’re not even engaged. We’ve lived together for over three years. We are currently nearing the end of a two and half year home renovation project. During the construction, we didn’t have much time to talk about marriage. It was mostly a non-issue. Recently, we have talked about it as a possibility in our future, but neither of us is 100% sold on the idea. We are not particularly religious and we’ve never been the types to do something because “society” or “tradition” dictates that you should.

Still, I feel like we are a lot more than just “boyfriend & girlfriend” so I’ve taken to calling him my partner. And herein lies the problem. Apparently when I refer to him as my partner (i.e. “My partner and I are renovating our home in Northern New Jersey”) people automatically assume that “my partner” is a woman and that we are lesbians.

When I was interviewing last month, I made several references to my partner. I didn’t think anything of it until last week when my co-worker said to me, “So, Dena, are you a lesbian or what?” I thought it was funny, especially when you know what Matthew looks like. With a smile, I responded that I was not. I wasn’t insulted, but it got me thinking about labels, titles, and the power of words.

This is Matthew & I at his brother's wedding a few weeks ago.

A lot of words evoke a powerful reaction in me and I see it occur in others, too. The power that a word has over a person is influenced by: personal life experience, family values, media portrayal, and peer belief systems. In essence, what we see for ourselves, what our families teach us, what the media portrays, and what our peers believe all play a big part in determining the influence that a certain word or label will have over us.

Here are some examples of labels and words that may or may not evoke a strong reaction in you:

  • Middle Eastern
  • Islamic
  • Muslim
  • Homosexual
  • Jew
  • Conservative
  • Liberal
  • Abortion
  • Suicide
  • Black
  • Bible
  • Koran

I’ve selected these words fairly randomly based on recent conversations that I have had or heard. These are a few labels and subjects that seem to be evoking strong reactions at the present moment.

What do you feel when you read each of these words? More importantly, what do you feel when you come across a person labeled by or associated with these words? Do you make assumptions? Do you form opinions? Do you pass judgment?

Most likely you do. I know that I do, even if it is subconsciously. I consider myself an extremely open-minded, liberal, and spiritual person. I have a great faith and trust in humanity. I love all living creatures. However, when I get on an airplane and I see a Middle Eastern man in traditional garb, I take a double look. The thought “terrorist” crosses my mind. At one time, I was ashamed to admit this. But I realize now that to truly illustrate my point, it is important for you to know that we all do this sometimes.

It makes me sad that I would pass judgment on a person this way, that I would assume, and label him because of what I have seen, what the media has shown me, and so on. I do my best to rectify this, to fill my heart with light & love in the direction of the person that I fear. In all likelihood this person is a father, a son, a dedicated husband. With a heart full of love, my mind quickly moves from fear to compassion.

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

The purpose of this post is to get you thinking. Have you ever experienced a reaction as I have? Are there other word triggers for you? Do you feel a strong reaction toward gay men? Toward black peoples? Toward something else?

Today, I encourage you to put down your judgments. Accept that we are all one. As living creatures, we are all in this together. Stop using labels to throw people into categories. Instead, give every person the chance to show you his or her true soul. Make a decision about me once you’ve gotten to know me, not once you’ve heard me call my boyfriend my partner. Because no, my boyfriend is not a lesbian. And I bet that if you fill your heart with love & compassion next time you start to judge someone, you will find that he or she is not what you “thought” either.

Give love a chance.

xo,
D.

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