03 August 2007

We Lable People Because It's Fun

In a comment on my Mohos, Mohomies, Mohoochies, Oh My! post, iWonder expressed concern over such extensive use of labels. I replied with another comment. And he wrote a post about his concerns, which I recommend reading, on his own blog. I then responded with the following, which I then shortened and decided, instead, to post on my blog rather than monopolize his comments space.

And it went a little something like this:

Good thoughts about labels.

Since you have publicly quoted me in your more serious-tending context, I'd like to add that though I can't expect those who don't know me well to perceive my tone, I often speak very tongue-in-cheek and sometimes flippantly, which was the case with my "we label people because it's fun", which was really just me satirically filling the role of a sort of cartoonish class clown showing a certain disregard while waving a banner for the approving accolades of the masses.

You may also have a problem with my apparent flippancy regarding the questioning of labels, and that's cool. I think your perspectives here are significant and should be kept in mind.

You've sparked a lot of thoughts, so instead of obnoxiously taking up even more space on your comments, I'll blog about it myself.

You mentioned that you're uncomfortable with the way you've heard "moho" used to distinguish people from "homos" as if the active mormon gays consider themselves superior to the doubting ones. I suppose that's basically the same as mormons referring to non-mormons or "less actives" in diminutive tones. If people are, in fact, using the term 'moho' in an elitist way, they have indeed distorted it.

A fairly unique situation and set of decisions is faced by "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who happen to experience an unusually strong attraction and/or affinity to members of the same sex and/or gender and who nevertheless strive to live by the doctrines of the church". "Mohos" is so much more concise and less tedious to say in groups who already understand what it means.

I, for one, will openly acknowledge that I am generally more comfortable with mohos than homos because, given our fairly unique situation, we generally share certain similar goals, beliefs, and behavioral limits. Generally.

I think that, given certain goals and circumstances, then certain choices are, indeed, "better" than others (I have no problem making certain qualitative assessments).

Does that mean the people making those choices are better? Nope. It's just that certain behaviors and beliefs of theirs which are important to me are more in harmony with mine. And gay mormons generally - again, generally - don't test my limits the way some friends of other faiths (who have no reason to believe my goals make sense) have, so we gravitate.

I also have a few gay friends who are not actively or have never been LDS whom I do love and appreciate for the good peops they are, at least a couple of whom I trust as much as any mohomie. They may be "homo" rather than "moho" and therefore not share some of my beliefs, but to believe labels are all-encompassing and defining would be entirely foolish.

Many people feel hurt when they hear people distinguish themselves using a descriptor they perceive as superior. I prefer to show sensitivity to those people when I'm aware of such. I know the sting of being the one who is NOT "happily married" and who does NOT have a "successful career". But I also recognize those are not meant to sting. They're simply a group of people with whom I would like to identify but do not, so it stings sometimes.

If a label is being used to deride a group of people, it's not the label that is wrong -- it's the derision.

All this said, I think I'm mostly with you. I don't think more and more division is what we need. I would hope we are all mature enough and familiar enough with alienation that we would be sensitive to and not look down on those who we feel don't understand us or who make different decisions. I hope we don't consider them to be inferior and therefore close them out of our lives. To me, identifying as "moho" is not about alienating the ignorant masses or proclaiming superiority over the heathen "homos". It's more about hoping we can identify with each other in positive (and yes, even light-hearted) ways, without becoming a glob of self-righteous elitists.

As far as I can tell, if anyone needs a sense of community, camaraderie, and fellowship, it's gay/lesbian/bisexual members of this church who are trying to live their beliefs. There's no shortage of people out there apparently happily acting on their attractions and enjoying same-sex partnerships (of a romantic and/or sexual nature). And I'm surrounded by active members of the church eagerly seeking and enjoying dating and marriage, oblivious to the pain or disillusionment of those who may not find such easy pleasure in it. Every day, someone or something tries to remind me how foolish I am to be adhering to this religion and not seeking same-sex romance. Every day, someone or something reminds me how faithless I am to not simply become heterosexual and get married.

There have been tough times. I don't deny the pain, the conflict, the loneliness, and the despair I've experienced. But that's not where I am now. So I enjoy identifying myself, light-heartedly, as this odd little anomoly of a homo, this strangely non-conformed mormon. I enjoy feeling a little spark of warmth when I say 'moho' and thereby remember all my mohomies and their mohomies and mohoneys who fully love and embrace them, and I remember that I am, in fact, in good company.


playasinmar said...

You are such a Pro-Labelite.

Brady said...

Really really well stated. Thanks for this post. I agree 100%. And thanks for being lighthearted most of the time and bringing some levity to these parts, I really enjoy it. I think we can all be a little too serious about things some times.

iwonder said...

I really enjoyed your post, and have to say that I agree with you.

I hope I did not give the impression that I was in any way attacking you. Rather, I wished to address this issue.

As I said in my post, the usages of labels as neutral descriptors only is both necessary and not inherently harmful or negative.

So, I am fine with the usage of "MoHo" by others (even if I don't prefer it myself), but as soon as it crosses the line into the territory of superiority or disparagement, it is negative in it's usage.

I, like almost every other person in the world, am more comfortable with those who are most like me. That's our nature.

So, we both agree that derision is wrong. My point was that labels and cliques and the such offer very easy and often unchallenged ways to exude superiority. Of course the larger issue is simply being able to accept and tolerate differences - despite or because of personal opinions a nd feelings.

I am certain that almost all of us experienced the pain of exclusion because of negative usages of labels and exclusion because of real or perceived differences.

I think that increased dialogue and attention to this topic is vital.

GeckoMan said...

I love the term 'Moho' because it is rather light-hearted, and it's easy to get too serious in our LDS world of unrequited (gay, homo, SSA, SGA, alternative, you-name-it) orientation. My personal term is gecko... You know, like, "that's so gecko!"

Original Mohomie said...

iwonder, thanks for helping maintain balance in the Force. :-) I think we're cool.

...hm, for those of you whitebread types (my entire readership... myself included), that vernacular means "I think we are sufficiently free of harsh or negative feelings."

Seriously, I appreciate some good dialog, and you brought up some interesting and important points. I hope visitors to my post read your post, too.

agirlwho said...

YAY! I love my label on your site. Mohoney! That's even better than fruit fly. Thanks sweetums.