No Labels, Please

Living with paralysis. Bisexual. Blonde. Woman. Is that who I really am?

I just can't stand the idea of being labeled. Yeah, I know we all do it. It is just an easy way to define people. As I live with paralysis, I realize that labels are more confining than my wheelchair. And I now know how damaging a label can be -- it simply conjures stereotypes or warped assumptions of who a person is. Why can't I just be labeled Tiphany? Not "disabled, bisexual" Tiphany.

From my own personal experience, labeling is just a quick fix to understand someone. Our society loves a box, and it is just convenient for all. Certain labels, like "handicapped," evoke empathy (even though that word is relic). Bisexual? Well, that could have a preconceived connotation. I believe that labels have an emotional resonance and that is why we are attracted to them. I find this quite vexing -- and so do many of my friends (and I hope you don't assume I am just talking about people in wheelchairs)!

I have noticed that labels can break you down and hinder growth, potentially leading to self-esteem issues. As one of Sundance Channel's Push Girls, I wake up every day breaking my own personal boundaries and not conforming to the rigors of society. It is not easy to do -- sometimes I fail at it, but I move forward as best I can.

Throughout my life, my own labels have changed. Born and raised in Northern California, I have always been a native Californian. Let's add that one to the list of labels.

One of my friends thinks that my disdain toward labels is a hopeless cause, that people will never give it up. Even so, I think it is a shortcut to nowhere.

I recently read an editorial in a newspaper by a Dr. Joseph Cramer, M.D. and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who wrote a compelling article on how labels are shortcuts that shortchange society. One thing he said that stood out for me was this brief excerpt: "The challenge is that ideas are just ideas. The moment they are labeled, thought stops."

So true. Labels are confining. Despite what my friend says, I try to remove labels from every aspect of my life and educate my family and peers to do the same.

I am a living, breathing human being that is full of love and vitality -- living passionately and full of enthusiasm. I have a love for life that is contagious. So take that!

For more on Push Girls, click here.