Like the vanilla world we live in, the kinky world is full of labels. And if you want to stir up a heated discussion, bring up "labels." It is pretty hard to have a room full of people, talking about labels without someone getting upset. And rightfully so. A lot of people feel that labels put us into neat, little boxes. And they do - if you let them.
I have a love/hate relationship with labels. Labels tell the world who and what I am, in terms that everyone understands. If you saw me in the grocery store, you would see a white, female, mother of three. If you needed to ID me to the police, you would say "white, female, medium height with long, dark hair." These terms make it easy for people to see and relate to who we are. Is it fair? Maybe not. Is it life? Yes, it is.
Our lifestyle labels are no different. It is easy for me to introduce myself as a dominant and a masochist. Those terms allow me to easily tell someone who does not know me, how I see myself in this world. As they get to know me, they will learn that I started as a bottom, tried out being a submissive, realized that I like pain but I do not like to submit THEN learned that I was actually a dominant. And, if they never learn that, who cares? They are obviously not that close to me. And, to be honest, I really do not care what label someone may use to identify me. But I am lucky, I was born in the body I need to present myself as my heart and my mind sees me.
For others though, the story is different. A lot of people have struggled with gender identity, sexual identity and even BDSM identity - for those people, automatically choosing their label may represent something to them that they have fought or are currently fighting to overcome. So, assuming that someone with a pretty necklace is a collared slave might be a huge mistake - that person may be a dominant who just really likes the piece of jewelry Or, thinking that the person taking charge of the munch is a dominant because of the way they command the room - that could be wrong too. It could be a submissive whose job is to do just that. The examples are endless.
Will you "choose the wrong label" often? At first, yes. In time, maybe not. But, the key to all of it is this: don't assume anything. The best impression you can make is by representing yourself and who you are and then waiting for someone to tell you who they are and how they identify if they even choose to disclose that much information.
Ultimately, I will probably always sit on the fence when it comes to labels. I believe that if used properly, they can be helpful - easy, little words that tell a lot in a few letters. I also see why people do not like them - after all, I am more than an easy, little word. But, I do think that if I choose to put a label on myself, one I have selected for its relevance to me, then it is much better suited for me than my not choosing one, thus allowing someone else to do it for me.
So, when you introduce yourself to me, I will tell you that I am a dominant, a masochist, and a sitter of fences - when it comes to labels.