There are a myriad of identity labels widely understood in society. Identity labels concerning gender identity include, but are not limited to, the traditional labels of male and female and newer labels such as gender fluid or genderqueer. Identity labels concerning sexual identity include, but are not limited to, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual. Identity labels concerning religion include, but are not limited to, Christian and Hindu. Identity labels concerning relationships include, but are not limited to, wife, husband, partner, daughter, and father. There are also identity labels concerning subcultures. Examples include goth, mod, science fiction fan, and gamer.
Some people use umbrella terms, such as queer, as identity labels. However, this can be problematic as several different identity labels fall under this and other umbrella terms. While umbrella terms can feel inclusive and positive, they do not offer the specific understanding and grouping that most identity labels do.
Identity labels help people feel as if they belong in society. They may seek out and gravitate towards others who share their identity labels, thus forming identity groups. People with the same identity labels may share common interests, lifestyles, and outlooks on life.
Identity labels can also help others understand more about the people they interact with. While people use identity labels to describe themselves, they also use them to describe others. This can be problematic when people do not get to know others before assigning them labels. For example, people may use negative identity labels to describe others without getting to know them and their circumstances. These negative identity labels can impact people’s self-worth and identity.
Identity labels, whether self-ascribed or given to us by others, can also start dictating our behavior and thoughts and prevent us from living authentically. For example, someone who identifies as conservative may believe they should be homophobic as others in their circle are, even if they have no personal problem with homosexual people.