Labels are like a double-edged sword – they can be very subjective to each individual, especially when one has gained clarity on their sexual identity or gender – describing who they are, as THEY see fit. Labels have many complexities, but what I love and appreciate most about them is that it gives individuals the language to articulate and define who they are for themselves.
Although I believe we aren’t as progressive as I would like when it comes to accurately describing and addressing the diversity that exists within people, I do believe, and acknowledge how liberating it is for so many. Furthermore, how it has positively affected and created community for others.
My issue with labels in the LGBTQ+ community and the general population stem from personal experiences – based on the challenges of not connecting with the traditional labels of being either straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
Although I know I’m not the only one whose experienced this, often times it feels that way. Honestly, what makes it so frustrating at times is feeling forced to choose a side. Even though I don’t have the language to accurately define my sexual orientation, I personally don’t feel like I need one. However, society and especially the LGBTQ+ community has this way of pressuring you to choose between one or the other – making me feel somewhat confined.
I’m all for resisting labels that don’t necessarily connect with who I am as a person. Some people are either 100% heterosexual, 100% homosexual, or 100% male, 100% female, but many are somewhere in between, and that is perfectly okay.
Labels allow us to describe who we are, however, I feel like the discomfort or uneasiness of others not understanding someone on the spectrum, who doesn’t connect with any of the ‘readily available’ labels, often adds pressure of having to limit yourself to one, while trying to find the language that accurately describes who you are.
My – and anyone else’s sexual orientation and gender identity is not decided to make you feel comfortable. It may be more difficult to understand, but it’s not something required of you to figure out.
This is not to say that I would be opposed to answering questions about my identity, but don’t try to force a label on me that will help you better understand, or force a vocabulary that I have never used for myself. Please be mindful about someone else’s experience – you can either choose to accept it or not, that’s your prerogative.
Just to avoid having to give an explanation, I embrace queer – it’s the umbrella term used for individuals who don’t identify with the sexual or gender norms of society. I use it because my identity is more than a label that determines who I choose to have intimate relationships with.
I’m not here to be likable. I’m not here to please your ears. I’m not here to visually attract you. I’m not here to satisfy your fantasies and become an object of fetishization. I’m not here to be your secret. I’m #queer. And I’m here to constantly PLEASE ME, LIKE ME, AND REINVENT ME.Joss Jaycoff
It can be really awkward when you catch yourself avoiding saying a specific gender pronoun based on who you’re speaking with. For example, I often avoid speaking about my intimate relationships with friends, family, and even colleagues because I feel pressured to have to categorize my sexuality when asked.
It’s much easier to not talk about it at all instead of having to use gender neutral pronouns like “they and them”. Even with friends, they’ll know you for dating a specific gender and automatically label you to others with a sexual orientation without your approval. LITERALLY Grinds. My. Gears.
This is all to say, sexual orientation and gender identity is constantly evolving as we grow – stop trying to figure it out and just take a moment to live in the ambiguity of life’s experiences. Take more time in getting to know someone and appreciate the relationships you already have.
Be mindful in how you approach sensitive topics about someone’s gender or sexuality. Just be in the moment and allow them to initiate that conversation with you, and if it’s something that you can’t just flow with – do you and that person a favor and part ways.
I also want to validate those like myself who don’t accurately fit into a label in the community – don’t feel pressured in trying to figure out your exact identity, most of us don’t ever fully figure it out. Further, you may never fit in to a specific category, but that’s what makes you all the more special – explore that. Be true to yourself, find joy in understanding your power, and soon enough … you’ll draw in YOUR people.