Words are powerful. Words can heal as much as they can cause harm, and vice versa.
I've always viewed society's labels of people as doing more harm than good because to some extent, they are cloudly rooted in patronization, polarization, and discrimination.
Labels can also bolster a constriction of identity, which we may not realize at first because of how normalized these labels have become in our daily vernacular.
The following examples are various forms of labels I've heard in the past that I myself have been guilty of using in reference to others around me, especially to those who I didn't know well. Each label is followed by an alternative form of word choice that I believe promotes humanization.
I also included a closing explanation for each alternative form that is a reflection of my core belief that we must remember we are all human.
The person who struggles with an addiction
We are more than our struggles.
The Disabled Person
The person who lives with a disability
We are greater than our physical and/or mental conditions.
The person who supports a majority of Republican ideology
The person who is living and battling with schizophrenia
The Transgender Woman
She/her/hers (or whichever pronouns the person prefers to be called)
Our gender isn't a determining factor for how we should choose to live our lives.
The Homeless Person
The person experiencing homelessness
We are more than our income, and our socioeconomic status doesn't reveal the content of our character.
The person from Mexico (or the person of Mexican descent)
Our race, nationality, and/or ethnic background shouldn't ever be used to degrade one another, nor should it ever be used as an excuse for how we treat each other.
The 3.0 Student
The student who has maintained a 3.0 grade point average
The person who helps with ___________.
We are not defined by our jobs.
The person who believes, follows, and practices the teachings of Christianity
Religiosity doesn't equate to morality. Our religious affiliation and/or disaffiliation doesn't define our identities.
The Sex Offender
The person who committed a sexual offense
We are still more than the worst thing we've ever done. The ability to accept this paves a new path of hope and healing for humanity.
The person serving time in prison
The Down Syndrome Person
The person who is living with Down Syndrome
Developmental disorders don't determine who we are and don't translate to us being limited in all areas of life.
The Plus-Size Model
The person who models in plus-size clothing
Every single body is beautiful. Our clothing size and weight shouldn't define our beauty or worth as humans.
The Illiterate Individual
The person who continues to learn how to read and write
We as humans are continuously learning every day, and we are not defined by the pace at which we learn new things.
A Final Note:
A simple change in word choice when referring to others allows us to disestablish labels and opens up a safer space for each individual to have more autonomy over creating their own identity.
Please remember that at the end of the day, we are all human. Thank you for reading this piece.