If you’ve read me for any length of time you probably know I’m an advocate of labels as a convenient language tool. Howvever, there are contexts in which labels do more harm than good. __batgirl__ has an excellent post on the problems with sexual labels. Go read it.
In general, I think labels are fine when they are understood as describing a facet of a person. Saying “I’m a computer geek” is a nice succinct way of explaining that not only am I computer-savvy, but I enjoy playing with them to the point of obsession. Unfortunately, they have a way of picking up extra connotations in people’s minds. If “computer geek” also suggests “pudgy, virginal, pimply-faced comic-book reader with hygiene issues” to you, you’ve gone from label to stereotype. Some people also adopt labels as their identity. Instead of using the label to describe themselves, they set out to define themselves by it, in order to feel a sense of belonging. They choose their friends, opinions, music, clothing, and sources of news based on their label, whether it’s “Gay”, “Christian”, “Liberal”, “Goth”, or “Latino”, and get offended if someone suggests that they are not what they claim to be. This is the tail wagging the dog, and it’s just stupid. Frankly, I don’t understand why people do it; but then, I’ve never felt any great urge to fit in.
Other posts on labels worth reading: