well, i have lots of thoughts, and the first is a simple change in language. People seem to get frustrated with the concept of a "label"--as in "don't label me" or "i don't necessarily fit the label." Instead of the term "label," i like to use the term "signifier." a work signifies an idea, and those who practice an idea practice it in vibrantly and strikingly different ways. For instance, the word "christian" can refer to an athiest-humanist quaker as much as it can refer to a staunch/traditional greek orthodox practitioner--and everyone in between. So, christian signifies an idea that people follow or practice in different ways.
When you're talking about a term like vegetarian or vegan, there are two problems. The first is the signifier issue. Each vegan is going to be slightly different, and in a different state of being able to participate fully in the idea. Soilman is a vegan (i presume) and probably pretty strict to some. Oatmeal is also a vegan, but i remember him saying that on occassion he has cheese (if he must). Artichoke is a vegan who participate in AR related activities; and when zoebird was a vegan, she was against animal rights as an idea and for animal welfare instead. So, each of us was slightly different--but we were all vegans.
The second problem is with the definition of terms in general. People commonly misunderstand and misuse the terms. To my mother in law, a vegetarian definately eats fish. She considers me a 'vegan' now, even though i eat dairy and eggs. And when i was vegan, she thought i was crazy and didn't know what label to use. She thought i only ate fat free dairy, because she just didn't get it.
So, you have people who are perhaps transitional vegetarians, or vegetarians who eat fish (which is a definition of vegetarian in other cultures--ie, asia), or most-of-the-time vegetarian with the exception of once or twice a year eating meat. . .and people get confused about the terms themselves.
More difficult, i think are terms related to sexuality. I argue that sexuality is highly fluid and diverse--that what i am today may not be what i am tomorrow. Right now, i think it's fair to say that i'm a monogamous heterosexual. But, that's not to say that i wouldn't have a relationship with a woman. I've never been active with a woman, and i have no intention of being active with a woman. I find women attractive in general, but i wouldn't say that i'm "bisexual" considering i'm not having sex with both sexes, and never have, and may never. if i were in a relationship with a woman, then at that time i would be a lesbian or bisexual.
But then, there's also the aspect of how we identify and signify ourselves. a woman in an unhappy heterosexual marriage who, for reasons unknown, stays in that marriage, yet knows that she loves women can surely call herself a lesbian if that is how she identifies and signifies herself. because she is married, and unwilling or unable to divorce, she could be considered "heterosexual" or "bisexual"--but how she percieves herself is more important than what label i would give her.
similarly, you have an issue between sex and gender. sex refers to the biology, while gender refers to the outter expression with cultural signifiers and displays. A transexual male-to-female is biologically male, and yet a woman because of the feminine gender. a transexual female to male is biologically female, and yet a man because of the masculine gender. Each one adopts a gender, and i believe each person--biologically male or female--likewise adopts a gender. I am a female and i have adopted a feminine gender. That is why, when men make a comment such as "men who do yoga are pussies" it upsets me because 1. it is a slight against my sex--a pussy is a wonderful thing, and 2. it is a slight against my chosen gender. Males are not biologically superior to females, and neither is the masculine gender superior to the feminine gender. the statement says that men who embody culturally feminine traits (in this case, practicing yoga) are lesser men. using the female gender to degrade and shame men, puts women in a lesser category to men. You can see why i would be disturbed.
So, when we're looking at cultural signifiers and language, it can be confusing if we want things to be strict and obvious and direct--but the world doesn't work that way. Listening to how and why a person may use a particular signifier is important--and it'll help make things clear.
you're using the term "freegan" right now, for instance. Many freegans whom i know became freegan for philosophical reasons--they felt it was more appropriate to live on recycled waste of our wealthy culture. you, on the other hand, have recognize that while you would like to be vegetarian/vegan, your financial situation makes that particularly difficult, so you could live "freegan" off of the excess of our culture as offered through food banks and similar means. You can see that the reasoning was strikingly different (though not necessarily less appropriate), and yet the label or signifier of freegan can easily apply to both ideas.
does that help or hinder?