Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Facebook comment section lurker. I can't help it. It's a problem. I like to see what people think about certain articles, videos, and text posts. It fascinates me to see how many different opinions arise out of the same content, and how all of those opinions mix.
Recently, I had been casually scrolling through my newsfeed when something caught my eye. It was an article about a gay couple sharing a kiss after one's long deployment. It was a sweet article, describing the time apart the two suffered through, and how very in love they were. Me being me, I decided to take a stroll through the Facebook comments, to gauge how people were feeling.
As I expected from this page, there was a lot of positivity about this article.
Then there was that one comment. It wasn't necessarily negative, but it aimed to take away from the tender moment.
The comment was about labels. See, the commenter was outraged that the headline of the article had very plainly identified the couple as gay. Her point, she insisted, was that pointing out sexual orientation was ultimately irrelevant to the moment that was being written about: a reunion between two people in love. The fact that they were labeled as gay only promotes the use of divisive labels that only hurt us as a society.
According to her, we should steer away from labeling our differences, because they, well, divide us.
Suddenly, I was struck by how toxic this mentality is.
Differences do not divide us. They allow us to thrive, to grow, to progress. Yes, different opinions, cultures, ideals, religions, etc. cause us to clash with each other... but that's how compromises, new ideas, and new approaches to problems are developed. It would be easy to say that all problems among people arise from differences, but labels do not equal inequality. Labels do not divide us. Yes, they can hurt us, but they can also empower us. Labels can build a bridge between one person to another, and help us understand the dynamics of privilege and power. A transgender person will not have the same life experience as a cis-heterosexual person. A Hispanic person will not have the same life experience as an African-American, or Vietnamese person. We are not the same, but that does not mean we can't coexist, and help each other grow.
Labels and differences empower us, and challenge us. They can be harmful, but they are not inherently bad. We must talk about our differences to understand them, and to become better people. Don't shy away from what makes you, and others different. Walk towards it with arms outstretched, and maybe, just maybe, we can learn a little bit about each other in the process.