Years ago, as part of a play he was performing in about homelessness, my dear friend Max wrote a short soliloquy about his lived experience of homelessness.
I am a father, a brother, a son, an uncle, a friend. I am a carpenter, a musician, a writer, an artist. I laugh. I cry. I bleed. I feel pain. I feel joy. Which of these is diminished because I am homeless?
In her comment last night on yesterday’s blog, which reminded me of Max’s words, Iwona wrote,
I am a writer, a quilter, a calligrapher, a photographer. I am a wife, a friend, a relative, a confidante, a mentor. These are the qualities and traits that I am proud to acknowledge. Some may say these are "labels". Whatever!
And Cristl wrote her manifesto too,
I don’t like labels as I have been called a criminal, homeless, senior and blunt. None fit me as the people I am now. I am a passionate person who believes that every person be treated with dignity and respect. This includes me.
While Nance shared her beautiful insight, as did JoAnne.
Somewhere along the line we decide which labels suit us. We can accept labels we agree with, and make our own labels. We can live without labels. We can talk about what we do, without making it who we are. But some people work very hard to have certain labels. It’s good to think before we label.
And maybe that’s the thing about labels.
I have the power to choose my own. The one’s that work for me. They are not all of me. They are often a reflection of my passions and what’s yearning to be expressed within me.
I do not give others the right to choose them for me. And, while I get that for demographic stats it’s easiest to group people under labels or headings that denote similar attributes, and l understand that labels are convenient for identifying demographic trends and policies that work and policies that need to change to address gaps in public services, I have the power and the choice of determining what the ‘label’ that puts me in a specific group means to me.
I have the power to choose how I live the labels with which I am identified.
I have agency.
Which brings me to my own statement of Who Am I. Because in my agency, I also know that while there are many ‘isms’ I have encountered because of my gender, I have privilege that too many others do not experience because their choices were limited by the labels we applied to keep them in their place.
I am a human being of great worth. I am a woman. A mother, a wife, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, a friend. I am an activist, a disruptor, a staunch defender of our human right to be treated with dignity and respect. I am a believer in upending our social constructs to create equity and inclusion for those who have been marginalized, pushed aside and under the colonial structures of our past. And however I am, where ever I am, I am an artist, a writer, story-teller, creator of words and images, a lover of life and this fragile condition we call our humanity.
Which of these is diminished because my age puts me in the demographic cohort of being labelled a ‘senior citizen’?