There’s a lot of power in categories. They help us make sense of the World around us, understand each other, feel safe in situations in which we normally would not, as well as feel unrest when we step into something that is listed in one category we are not comfortable with.
Yet we should never forget that categories are made up. They are not real, in the sense that they do not exist before we attach a meaning (both literal and figurative) to them.
This means mainly two things.
In approaching others, we should maintain our categories flexible. Both the ones in which we think we fit and the ones in which we think the other fits. We must be careful in taking all the background of a category with us when we enter a new situation. It might greatly limit our experience and not do the other justice.
And if we do not like the category in which we have been put, we should be aware that it is possible to shift its meaning. Perhaps initially it will change for us only, and that would already be a great achievement. But if we are consistent enough with the new narrative and how we present it, if we gather a following, and if it sticks, in the long term, little by little, we might actually be successful at a much larger scale.
Nothing is fixed and forever, so let’s put categories back to their rightful place. Categories should work for us, they should not get us all worked up.