Labels belong on bottles not people

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Labels belong on bottles not people: a man in a long-sleeve shirt is covered in post-it-labels and is removing them, one by one.

Labels belong on bottles not people

Charles Adam, a teacher and Departmental Head at a primary school in South Africa, argues that people should not be identified by labels, rather by how they want to live their lives.

He believes that "Labels belong on bottles, not people" is a powerful statement that encapsulates the essence of diversity and inclusion. It highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting the individuality and complexity of human beings, rather than reducing them to simplistic and limiting labels. This statement emphasizes that every person is unique and cannot be defined solely by their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other categorization. It calls for a society where individuals are seen beyond superficial attributes and are appreciated for their multifaceted identities, talents, and contributions. It advocates for a world that values the richness of diversity, embraces inclusivity, and promotes equal opportunities for all, irrespective of societal labels.

"I was boxed in by religious beliefs, family, and social norms and values. I followed my own personal convictions to come out of the closet at University age 22, only to then be placed into another box. Mom's words, when I had sat her down to explain to her what I was going through, were, 'Son, are you sure this is not a phase. ' Probably was at the time, but...

I am Charles Adams. I identify as Charles. I have and will always be just that-Charles on a mission to take on whatever comes my way. I do not conform or define to the expectations of others but rather to my ideal of what I see for me-never leaving God out of any of these choices.

My mother would always say, 'When we visit aunt and uncle so and so, just introduce him as a friend because that generation won't understand,' but I knew in my heart my mom was, in her own way, struggling with my choices, but nevertheless was very loving and supporting.

I come from a strict Catholic upbringing in that if you fall into the act of homosexuality, your soul is doomed. I still am Catholic and practice and worship there. My mother is very involved in the church. My late father was a political leader and mechanic by trade, a very supportive husband, and a devoted father with strong opinions about homosexuality. 

My late eldest brother never married but devoted his living years living with a woman twice his age with her own children and, at that time, a grandmother of two. My younger brother is transgender, and I am the second born. A diversely and divinely favored family.

Know what you want, don't settle for less ... Labels belong on bottles not people.”

Growing up in a small town where everybody knows everything about you did have its challenges. But I grew a thick skin to comments and embraced every experience in my own stride. Like all boys in the tender years of my time, I did what all boys do: play, fight, cry, go fishing, get into all sorts of trouble, and being very experimental. I particularly enjoyed weekends because our home was the halfway stop for every one of our friends and peer cousins. So, we always had a full house. I got to play soccer, cricket, or to play with doll houses.

In my high school years, around Grade 10, I finally got a girlfriend. It was my matriculation year, after full 2 years in a relationship, when everything changed. I started to question my sexuality more and wanted to know 'why do I feel the same feeling towards my girlfriend as I do when I look at a person of the same gender?' Was it a sexual desire or an emotional attachment?

I've always been of the belief that a life commitment is to one person, so I spent many relationships with boys and girls, enjoying the process of elimination but realized I don't care about gender; I just love. I was taken up by one particular guy at a gay club in Durban back then, The Lounge, who swept me off my feet. (God rest his soul, shot and killed in the line of duty). It was then I realized I love all people but am both physically and sexually attracted more to the same gender. I am now in a 6-year committed relationship to whom my heart belongs. I never thought that I would be blessed to love and share this life and space with someone so special ever again.

Read more: The power of labels

How has this affected the way I function as an educator and community leader? 

Simple-I live my life and do my job. I live by the words, 'They will know I am Christian by my love.' For me being open about my sexual preference, I find it easier to communicate with learners and peers because the barriers are not there. 

People find me approachable because I have no hidden agendas by living my authentic life. I'm so grateful that although the mindset of many is fused to a past of misinformation, misunderstandings, and false truths, this generation I am more hopeful for because most don't see labels (unless taught); they see me. 

I currently teach at a primary school but have experience of 5 years at a high school too. The only differences are that primary school learners are more inquisitive. On the other hand, because I am open about who I am and what I stand for, with my high school learners, I gained respect and enjoyed my teaching experience.

What I would like to leave you with is this -how you identify yourself should not by labels but by how you want to live your life. Set your own rules that work for you, and know that there are no limits, only limitations. 

Live life to the fullest. Be who you are to your learners and peers - you'll be respected more for that. Know what you want, don't settle for less. Lastly, labels belong on bottles not people."

To read a contrarian article to "Labels belong on bottles not people" read "The positive power of labels."

"Labels belong on bottles not people" was originally published on Education International and is republished here under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 4.0. It has been adapted to match URevolution's editorial style.


Labels belong on bottles and categories, not on human beings. | Photo credit ©stokkete / Adobe Stock