Monday, October 18, 2010


OK. So I'm getting that a lot of people don't like labels, but I doubt even among those who don't like labels define themselves with certain ones.

It's not as if I'm a huge fan, but they do bring some comfort, I think, in certain situations. For example, it's nice to know why I can be depressed one week and totally level and productive the next, willing to do anything because I can take on the fucking world. Why I can be all over the map, forgetful of absolutely everything, never sleep or sleep all the time. Or how I can be happy one minute and your enemy the next. I've been picking fights this weekend, for example, as well as considering dropping this blog entirely--but today I'm better. It's not PMS, however much I kind of wish it were. Knowing I'm bipolar gives me power. I don't advertise this because I fear the stigma, but it helps me. It helps my husband. It helps my kids. That's all that matters.

I consider myself post-Mormon. Liberal. And, as of today, agnostic (I never said I was taking on "atheist" for sure, y'all. just exploring. still am.) It's the best I've got and will basically get the point across. However, it's not for anyone else's benefit but my own.

I know labels can restrict self-perception and others' perceptions of you as well, but they can bring comfort. It's good to know what's going on instead of worrying about a certain behavior or situation. It's good for parents to know their kids are autistic so they can create a battle plan, find support groups, understand that it's not them.

They help to define us but they don't completely define us. Other people will see it otherwise, simply, maybe, because it's easier. Is that my problem or yours? Your problem or mine? You see?

Or am I off your radar with that? Is there a difference to you between conditions and beliefs? I find it easier to either say "I dunno" or "I don't believe" rather than to go into an entire conversation about it without even being asked first. A lot of people struggle when they're in transition from the church to define their spiritual station in life--are they New Order Mormon, Jack Mormon, Cultural Mormon, inactive Mormon, Post or Ex-Mormon, etc. all because they don't feel Mormon. It all depends on who you talk to. That seems to be the rub.

You can say you're agnostic to avoid the lecture while knowing inside you don't believe at all. Plenty will present themselves as totally active and believing Christians or Mormons because they don't want to deal with the assholes. Some will be upfront because they feel a need to discredit stereotypes. A sometimes impossible task.

Something I learned from writing and reading the comments from the last few posts is that labels only work insofar as other people understand exactly what it you. They seem to be extremely subjective. Something I hadn't considered before.

Are you Christian in the way others would consider you saved or a heretic? What brand of agnostic are you? How do you define your Mormon/Christian/Catholic/Jewish, etc. past? Do you even want to, and why or why not?

There are artists, hipsters, jocks, lesbians, gays, shy people, outgoing people, intellectuals, redneck, cholas/cholos, Jewish folks, Islamic folks, emos, gothics (do they exist anymore? they seem to be todays emos), etc. Are some of these mere descriptions or can they be considered labels as well?

We are more than our religious beliefs. We are more than our jobs. We are more than our race, ethnicity. We are more than a mother or a wife, a father or a husband. A child or a parent. So much more. I think that's a lot of the problem here as well. It's easier for both us and others to pick one and obsess over it. They can help to define us, but they don't define us. We are more than the sum of our parts.

How many of us worry about stereotyping and why? I'll tell you, I'm not exactly thrilled about the idea of less or more-religious people looking down at me and thinking I'm closed-minded because I might be giving a bit more credence to science than faith in something I cannot see, attributing some but not necessarily every experience to coincidence or otherwise. I hardly discredit faith entirely. It's not cut and dry like that. At all. I don't like that I have to be careful for others' comfort or for my own. I shouldn't have to be, but maybe that's just reality.

(the last paragraph is not directed toward anyone in particular, just fyi)

I also understand--a lot--how discouraging and disheartening it can be when you are treated as if you are one thing. A mom. Someone's wife. The convert. Someone's roommate. Shy. A woman. A teacher. Tomboy. It's a hard fight to teach others that you're more. That everyone is more.

I've felt the sting of the limiting label and the empowerment and comfort of another.

What say you?


  1. As far as labels go, I prefer to select ones that I am comfortable using and apply them when necessary. I am certainly one of those who use labels to attempt to smash stereotypes. You are right that we are more than what others call us, even more than what we call ourselves--I am a woman, I am a feminist, I am a writer, I am a heavy metal fan. If a person knows those things about me, do they know everything? Can they extrapolate from those labels that I am also a nerd, a librarian, an apostate Mormon, and a heterosexual? Likely not. Every label we or others apply begets another slew, some apparently incompatible (e.g., some might find the term "feminist Mormon housewife" incomprehensible or oxymoronic); if I tell someone that I am an agnostic, and then turn around and talk about my collection of goddess statues and how I light a candle to Brigid when I cook, that person may or may not be baffled as to whether I am religious or not.

    When I am not being questioned about my personal beliefs on whatever topic, I prefer to use descriptive language. I am likelier to tell someone what I like to do rather than what I consider myself to be.

    And, as much as I enjoy the term "heretic" I can't really claim it for myself since I don't follow or propound any form of Christianity. Damnation!

  2. I resist labeling myself in so many areas because I'm too lazy to think it through and decide how I identify myself. Especially religion. I especially resist the argument about not believing a great deal of what the Catholic church teaches and yet not ever wanting to leave it. I don't want to label myself because how I feel right now works for me, I don't intend to convince anybody else that I alone have it right, so why waste time and brain cells trying to come up with labels that are going to be misconstrued and misunderstood anyway?

  3. I identify with a lot of labels -- Mom, woman, outdoor enthusiast, free-thinker, low-maintenance, friend, beer lover, etc.. My resistance to labels comes when others try to define me with them: apostate, fallen, deceived, Tool of Satan, atheist (say as if you're spitting out a loogie). Often when people want to use labels to define others, it isn't intended to be nice.

    OTOH, if we identify ourselves with certain labels that's cool because that's how our language works. It gives people a point of reference -- a place to start in understanding who we are. Some labels provide helpful insight -- like those that tend to be more a diagnosis (like bipolar or autistic) than a religious choice.

    When it comes to defining what I am from a religious perspective, I'm an "I don't know-eist but, yeah, it would be cool. Please pass the beer."

  4. love it, lisa. love the idea of subjective, love the idea of the label. the things you say ring true.

  5. I understand why people don't like labels, but labels really are the best way that we have to communicate with each other. As you said though labels are problematic because people have to know exactly what your definition is and that is difficult.

    For example, on my profile I label myself as an "ex-Mormon". Most people take that to mean that I am one of the "angry". I personally feel that the label is more fitting then a post-mo because with that label it is supposed to mean that you have grown out of Mormonism or are somehow past Mormonism and I don't feel like I fit in that group. I am not over Mormonism...

    So I do not jump on the anti-label boat, but like you, I admit there are problems with labels. Language in general is not perfect. What can you do?

  6. an "I-Don't-Know-eist"? Brilliant! Another word for "Agnostic". I love it :D

  7. A commenter over at Blag Hag uses the handle "Eh-theist". I found that hilar.

  8. Diana: I completely understand that, especially after the last few posts. For me it's a matter of conciseness--I'd rather use a word than a description; I'm *personally* more apt to confuse if I don't.

    Also, "Eh-theist" IS awesome.

    Carla: Yeah I get that as well. It's exhausting to cater your definition to everyone's needs--if that makes sense.

    CD: I think that's the issue. My personal explorations lately have been how to define certain compartments of myself, but in the process of doing so I'm discovering with a bit of shock how any of my even passive and unsure musings are received, even with our audience.

    Kiley: That's interesting. I don't identify as "Ex-Mormon" because it's not official yet. I go with "Post-Mormon" because it signifies, to me, that I've moved on, or at least trying to.

    Is that what you said after all? haha.

    I'm inactive but don't want to proclaim any direct association (which is why I reject "Jack Mormon" as well), I'm certainly not cultural, not NOM anymore, etc.

    Jess: :D I need to email you back.