Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Non-binary. Queer. Asexual. How do you know which one is for you?
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY NADA DEMASY VIA PEXELS
Welcome to this week’s IMO AKA In My Opinion. This is a column where we approach some questions, queries and dilemmas we often hear from our readership and offer up some advice. Remember, this is by no means a one-size-fits-all kinda deal, but hopefully these words help you feel less alone.
Have you been through the LGBTQI milestone of taking “Am I gay?” or “What is my sexuality?” quizzes online? Did the results give you more questions than answers? Perhaps you’re a university student and your campus’ LGBTQI society has opened you up to a whole world of labels. Are you struggling to decide what label to use or whether you want to use one at all? Here are some questions you might be asking yourself…
“What if I want to use a certain label, but it makes people assume certain things about me that aren’t true?”
This is a common worry, especially amongst those whose identities fall somewhere between the binary like bisexual, pansexual, genderfluid or demisexual. You may have no preference when it comes to genders you’re attracted to, but you’ve met lots of other bi people who have one. You might want to use the label of genderfluid whilst also identifying as trans, but other genderfluid people you’ve seen talking about their identities don’t identify as such.
Whilst labels serve to help others understand us and to help us find our communities, it’s important to remind yourself that there is no one way to be queer. We are not a homogenous group, even if we use the same labels. We all see ourselves and the world around us differently. Know that you are valid, even if what your identity means to you slightly differs from what it does to someone else.
“What if my label changes in the future?”
When coming out there may be anxieties about whether your identity could change in the future. Especially for those who haven’t had the chance to explore the different aspects of their life such as dating, sex and gender expression. You might fear not being believed if you choose a label, and then after some time decide on another.
We’re all constantly evolving and the human experience can be extremely fluid and complex. Pronouns, gender identities and sexual orientations can grow with us to meet us where we are in life. It can be a scary thing to embrace, but it’s important to bear in mind as you navigate your journey. Know that you are most definitely not alone. There was a time when I used the term pansexual to describe myself, but after evaluating the reasons why, I returned to using bisexual as this was what was right for me.
“Do I have to have done X, Y or Z to use this label?”
In short, no. When coming out, many worry that they can’t come out until they’ve achieved a checklist of objectives. For example, one might worry that they can’t identify as a lesbian, even if they are only attracted to women, because they’ve never been on a date with a woman. Or one might think they can’t identify as non-binary because they don’t present in an androgynous way. Or as aromantic, because they’ve never been on a date.
You do not need to prove your sexuality or gender. Whilst gatekeeping does exist within the community, you are valid. Experiences do not equal who you are, how you feel and who you know yourself to be does.
“What if I don’t want to label myself at all?”
This is a great one to end on. After all of this, you may realise you feel limited or restricted by labels, or that they don’t appeal to you for a plethora of reasons. While labels help others to understand you and to help you find others who may relate to you, they should ultimately serve you.
You should still be respectful of those who feel empowered by the use of their labels, just as they should be of your decision not to use one. There are many people who don’t feel the need to or don’t want to label themselves and this is equally as valid.
If you would like to read more, we wrote about the labels pansexuality and bisexuality in our June issue and discussed the differences between the label, why people may choose to use one over the other and also people who may not want to label themselves at all.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a therapist, or professional coach in any way. This advice is just based on my own lived experience and would likely change for each nuanced individual. But I hope that you can take something from this. DIVA does not necessarily agree or disagree with the statements made in this column.