What We Can Learn From Embracing A "Label-Free" Mentality

In an interview with GQ magazine in 2012, Frank Ocean articulated one of the most compelling and groundbreaking responses to the question "are you bisexual?" without uttering a "yes" or "no." Instead of declaring his sexuality in the form of a single word, he dismissed the arbitrary question and turned the conversation to a much more important one about our society's obsession with labels.

"I'll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and bos and shit," Ocean told GQ. "I'm in this business to be creative...as a writer, as a creator, I'm giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain't got to pry beyond that. I'm giving you what I feel like you can feel. The other shit, you can't feel. You can't feel a box. You can't feel a label. Don't get caught up in that shit. There's so much something in life. Don't get caught up in the nothing...vanish the fear."

Earlier this summer, actress-model Cara Delevingne made a similarly empowering response to a Vogue article written about her in which she felt the author suggested that her sexuality was "just a phase." Delevingne, whose Twitter bio reads "STOP LABELING, START LIVING," has also recently opened up about her sexuality online and in various interviews. "My sexuality is not a phase," she told The New York Times. "I am who I am."

As the media continues to revolve around who's labeling themselves this and who's labeling themselves that, I find it refreshing to see influential celebrities willing to ditch the labels altogether. After all, a recent YouGov survey revealed that 1 out of 3 Millennials don't identify themselves as just straight or gay. In a society where LGBTQ+ issues remain at the center of controversy and debate, it's clear that young people are at eager to start a label-free movement towards happiness and acceptance for all.

While the transition towards a world without labels is certainly a positive one, it's important to recognize that labels of sexuality aren't always considered negative or demeaning. For many people, declaring their sexuality within a label can be an important part of the coming out process. Take Miley Cyrus, who recently revealed to ELLE that she is pansexual and continues to embrace her sexuality in dramatic, public and empowering ways (look no further than her latest album).

The moral of the story here is that, in the end, your sexuality is about you and you only. Whether you decide to positively embrace a label or ditch it because it's bringing you down, it's about doing what is best for you.

On an even broader scale, looking at labels of sexuality is a great way to become increasingly aware of the countless other labels and stereotypes that surround us. It's important to constantly be conscious of the words we are using to identify others, and to ensure we are not using them in ways that negatively limit or categorize them.

Maybe this is just me, but I like the idea of approaching the people I meet with a "label-free" mentality. By stepping into new encounters with an open mind and a curiosity to learn, I find I am far more hesitant to make initial (and likely incorrect) judgments about others. If both parties are willing to approach each other in this way, then a positive and respectful conversation about labels (and just about anything else) can ensue.

If the courageous moves of Frank Ocean, Cara Delevingne and countless other individuals across the globe are telling of the future, then we could be moving towards a society that places much less emphasis on labels and much more focus on just being whatever you want to be. And what's wrong with that?