I don’t know if it’s the best time for me to write this post, because it’s actually been kind of a long day, and I’m all nestled up in my bedroom, and I kind of just want to read for a bit and then drift off to sleep. But I’ve been thinking about labels a lot lately – how others label us, and how we label ourselves – and how sometimes we cling to old labels when they are no longer serving us.
When I was younger, and hung out with people who judged me a lot more, and also had less control over my anxiety, I accepted the label of “she’s just crazy”.
I carry with me the label of “bisexual”, which by the way is a word that I LOATHE. Bisexuals get a bad rep from gay and straight people alike, and having “sexual” right there in the label just further perpetuates the stereotype that we’re just out there to fuck anyyooooooone, and we’re completely non-discerning. Noone takes bisexuals seriously. And I really don’t think that the label is helping our case.
“Loud” is one that is either good or bad, depending on who is in the room. For those who love me, it’s endearing, and for those who don’t it showcases what a crass human I am.
The ones that have been giving me grief this year are both “vegetarian” and “scientist”. Caveat – I am NOT an actual scientist. But I work in the sciences. And it’s a deeply engrained part of my self-identity. It’s what makes me feel smart. Which is great. I love the sciences. But sometimes I wonder if clinging to this identity, and needing it be part of my career path is actually serving me, or if I’m just holding on because of self imposed beliefs that I am not intelligent without it.
Also “vegetarian”. This is the contentious one. I have been a vegetarian for 12 years, and I recently revealed that because of my chronic anemia, which I have tried every possible avenue to resolve, I am going to start eating meat again – once a month. ONCE A MONTH. I have been struggling with this decision for over a year. How can I say that I care about the environment if I eat meat? Did I try hard enough to increase my iron stores? Am I a failure? What am I without vegetarianism?
And here’s the thing. I will still be a vegetarian 97% of the time. Outside of my one teeny tiny pasture raised ethically sourced steak. But somehow, this was such a struggle. And while many of the reactions that I received were supportive, there were also quite a few that were so filled with judgement and shaming. Writing this, I am also fully aware that there is a very high chance that I will receive a slew of comments of “Have you tried floradix?” “I tried this other method, and I didn’t have a problem.” “You’re lazy, and you don’t care about animals.” Ok so noone that I know sent me that last one, but I would not be surprised if I got it here. Also, I DO know that many of the attempts to let me know about other sources of iron come from a place of love and not judgement, but they still added to me further questioning my decision, whether it was the right one, and whether I was “giving up”.
And here lies to the problem with this label. Even if I have been chronically anemic for ten years, and have recently been getting sick twice a month due to lowered immune function and fatigue… even if I have tried every other iron supplementation scheme I can think of, I will still get some grief. When I was a vegan, it was even worse. God forbid someone identifying publicly as vegan make a post about using a teaspoon of honey. Lest they subject themselves to name-calling and swearing and the solid affirmation from others in the community that they were not, and would never be a “vegan”. I truly believe that this sort of behaviour prevents so many people who would otherwise eat a more animal and planet friendly diet from exploring this avenue. Why try at all if you’ll get shit on for anything less than a complete dietary and lifestyle overhaul? It’s just too much.
Anyways. So here I go. One piece of meat. Once a month. I feel weird about it, and I feel sad for the loss of this part of my identity. But I can’t continue to feel sick and fatigued for the sake of a label. And even though I will probably get all sorts of shit for posting this, I felt the need to do it anyways, in case another person out there who is feeling the same way just needed a tiny bit of support. I am not my labels. You are not your labels. And even the good ones, if left unchecked, can start to stifle.