Polly Ver­non

LAST WEEK, I MET AN en­tre­pre­neur, fresh out of a meet­ing with a mar­ket­ing agency.

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The ex­ecs had asked her to de­scribe her com­pany as if it were a per­son: ‘So I said, “It’s non-bi­nary gen­derqueer, like me!”’

Roger that, I said – then had a flash­back to a time when the smug-cool-ir­ri­tat­ing thing every­one al­ways said was: ‘I’m not com­fort­able la­belling my­self, you know?’

That was – what? Five years ago? Seven? A re­cent enough time, any­way, when la­bels were con­sid­ered too lazy and re­stric­tive to en­cap­su­late the nu­anced com­plex­i­ties of any­one who fan­cied them­selves a bit. Yet here we are, re­ally not that far into the fu­ture, declar­ing our­selves ‘non-bi­nary gen­derqueer’ by way of a ca­sual hello; and we’re do­ing this be­cause, sud­denly, oh! We

love la­bels! Adore them! Em­brace them like lovers, bran­dish them like Rolexes!

I am not just talk­ing about the la­belling of sex­u­al­ity or gen­der. I’m talk­ing about the por­tion­ing off and bap­tism of ev­ery part of our­selves. From our diet to our men­tal health, our life­style choices to our po­lit­i­cal al­le­giances. We are non-bi­nary gen­derqueer, but also? Free­gan up­cy­clers! Gluten in­tol­er­ants, fourth-wave fem­i­nists, alt right or Cor­bynite! We are anx­ious, Pure O, in­som­niac; polyamorous plas­tic-free older Mil­len­nial yo­gi­nis!

When we run out of new ways to la­bel our­selves, we turn our at­ten­tion to the im­por­tant busi­ness of la­belling other peo­ple, which we do in less flat­ter­ing ways, be­cause they’re them ( boo!) and we’re us ( yay!). Other peo­ple are trolls. Priv­i­leged nar­cis­sists. TERFS (trans-ex­clu­sion­ary rad­i­cal fem­i­nists). Racist Brex­i­teers ( if we voted Re­main), whinge­ing Re­moan­ers ( if we voted Leave). A toxic lib­eral elite. So­cial jus­tice war­riors.

Why are we so ad­dicted to la­bels? I’d say it’s 30% us hav­ing had to re­peat­edly dis­til our souls into Tin­der pro­files, 20% our want­ing to be part of a gang (any gang!), and 50% the cu­ra­tion of the on­go­ing oeu­vre that is Our Iden­tity. Iden­tity is the holy grail of Now: this era that be­lieves Who We Are is more im­por­tant than What We Do (which is a shame, be­cause it isn’t). Those mul­ti­ple pile-up con­trac­tions of la­bels – it gives the il­lu­sion of iden­tity. It also di­vides us into mi­cro tribes, de­signed to turn on one an­other on so­cial me­dia (all in the name of in­clu­siv­ity, of course, be­cause every­one knows their par­tic­u­lar mi­cro tribe de­serves to be in­cluded first, and most).

Which is not to say that I Don’t Do La­bels. I do. Or rather – I Do La­bel. Just the one, but, it’s a good ’un. I here­with proudly, un­abashedly, unashamedly iden­tify as JSW. I am, you see, very much, Just Some Woman.

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