Queer Corner: Falling Into Labels

Queer Corner: Falling Into Labels

Quiz time. What do the words gay, straight, transgender, pansexual, bisexu­al, prep, hipster and sexually active band geek all have in common? You guessed it. They’re all labels, (and one Mean Girls reference).

Now labels are always interesting, but they are especially interesting in the con­text of sexuality and gender because, in a sense, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans­gender and Queer (LGBTQ) community relies on them.

There are five in our name alone! We want you to come out (and not just be­cause we want to date you).We want you to give yourself a name. But then, we also want to get rid of it all. Because sexuality is fluid, and people are people, and love is love, and there’s a big wall between the LGBTQ’s and the S’s, and if we just tear it down, everything will be okay.

People are funny. On one hand, we are constantly striving for freedom. You want to be your own person. You want to drive off into the sunset without anyone tell­ing you who you are or what you want or where you should go.

But then you turn around and realize that there are lunch tables, and you have to pick one or else no one will see who you are and you’ll end up eating alone in the bathroom (and if you choose wrong, you’ll be wearing pink on Wednesdays for the rest of your life).

So goes our love/ hate relationship with labels. We don’t want to be boxed in, but we want to fit in. We want to say who we are, but sometimes the reality of who we are is so immense that even language is impotent.

When I was an angsty teen, I hated la­bels. In fact, the biggest hindrance in my coming out process was the idea of labeling myself. At 17, I knew I liked girls, but I had absolutely no confidence in saying that I was a lesbian. My biggest fear was that I would tell people I was gay, or bi, and then wake up the next morning 100 percent straight. That never happened, but sometimes I still have nightmares. It took me a long time to become comfortable and confident enough in my sexuality to actually come out as a les­bian without being afraid that I would have to backtrack and let everyone know I was actually straight.

So why would you want to avoid attach­ing a label to yourself? There are a lot of good reasons. You may simply be unsure of your sexuality, or aware of the fact that sexuality is fluid and could very well change a bit with time and circumstance. You might want to avoid the silly stereotypes that accompany most labels, or you might just feel uncom­fortable with the slim collection of available labels.I have to admit, “gay,” “bisexual” and “straight” leave a bit to be desired, especially when you yourself find it difficult to define exactly who you are. And when you throw different gender identities into the mix, it becomes even more complicated to sum yourself up in a word or two.

But I’m not here to badmouth labels. How can I? I’m super gay and have decided to give myself that label (yes, “super gay” is a label). I like the feeling of having a concrete identity, and although labels can compartmentalize people, I have never re­ally felt caged by my identity. Yet, on the other hand, I don’t let it define who I am. It’s just a little part of me.

Now I know that you are smart. And I know you know that things are rarely black and white, and that holds true for people too.

We are extremely complex creatures. We are large, and we are full of colorful fac­ets, and we are imperfect and we are full of contradictions. So how could anyone, with all of his or her multitudes and intricacies, be packed up nice and neat in a box? It just doesn’t work.

So yeah, maybe you’ve got your identity all sorted out and you’ve already written it down in your diary in permanent marker and underlined it a few times for emphasis. Then labels are good for you.

But maybe you’re unsure, or maybe you can’t describe how you feel, or maybe you know that the person you are when you go to sleep at night is never the same person who will wake up the next morning. And maybe, just maybe, you know that they don’t make boxes big enough to fit every­thing you know and love and can’t stand about yourself.

So don’t worry about the labels. You are who you are. And if you do decide on a label, remember, it’s just one part of yourself.