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Pick One

Too Many Labels in Sexuality and Gender?

It seems in recent months, more and more people of this generation are coming out of the closet with gusto and confidence in terms of their sexuality, gender, etc. And that's fantastic! Knowing that members of the LGBTQA+ and their allies can find community almost everywhere is a great relief.

However, as time goes by there seems to be more and more labels and titles being discovered/created to segment each person's individual preferences into neat little slots. And I mean little slots, there are terms and labels that I haven't even heard of until recently and while the representation of the spectrum is great, for someone like me it feels entirely overwhelming.

Has the use of labels in sexuality gone too far?

Let me use an example based on an experience I had not to long ago while meeting some of the people in my University's LGBTQA+ society a;

A group of people have just gotten their drinks and inevitably, one person starts asking for everyone's identities and pronouns—after all, better to be safe than sorry right? One by one people start listing off—gay, bi, pan, and so on—until one person kinda pauses and just shrugs before explaining;

Person A: I used to identify as a lesbian for a long time, but earlier I hooked up with my guy friend and really enjoyed it so—

Person B: So you're Bi then?

Person A: I mean, I guess? We just really clicked.

Person C: Maybe you're more Pan, since you know you liked his personality and such and didn't think about his gender.

And so on and so forth and I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable on behalf of that person. Why did it matter what they identified as that others had to whack a title on it? Especially with so many ones to choose from these days.

Imagine that you're at a candy counter, a beautiful antiqued looking place with a case chocked full of candies of different colours, sizes and flavours and already you can feel your sweet tooth pulsing at the idea of trying some of them. This is a place that everyone says has the best candy and that everyone is welcome there. The cashier walks up to you, gives you a friendly welcome, and gives you this one instruction:

"You can have any candy you want, for as long as you like—you just have to pick one and stick with it." One? Suddenly you don't feel like getting any sweets today. You think about it, about what you like and already you feel the first fluttering of panic settle in. Other people are coming in, one person gets lemon drops and another people gets a peppermint patty, and you're just standing there like an awkward statue who can't make up their mind

You know that you love chocolate, almost everyone likes chocolate. But some days you really want a sour sweet, or something soft and chewy. And what about the candies that you've never heard of or tried before and are really curious about trying? By that point you would have thanked the cashier politely and left—without choosing one.

That kind of feeling sucks. And that's what myself and others feel like when presented with all these labels and definitions to choose from in order to feel like we fit in somewhere.

Earlier this year I struggled with trying to identify what my gender was. All I knew was that I wasn't cisgender, but I didn't feel the need to transition between genders and frankly I just felt lost. For the most part I used the gender I was assigned at birth with and I just felt... meh, most of the time. Until I finally reached out to one of my best guy friends who was still transitioning himself about it and he told me the most important thing I've ever learned about gender and sexuality.

You don't have to figure it out now.

It's perfectly okay to say one thing, decide it's not for you and then try something else until it fits! For myself, I realized that it was 'labels' that didn't fit for me and decided to throw them away entirely. And I feel great, that I finally feel comfortable with myself and it's something that I've been trying to tell people who are in the same boat—labels are not for everyone.

And sometimes they work for others. If there is a label out there that suits you that's fantastic! If not, that's also fantastic! Because you don't have a deadline to figure this shit out, and you don't have to whack a label on it to figure this shit out. Let this be a reminder that thousands of people are floating around in this massive void that is the sexuality/gender spectrum and are feeling the exact same way as you.

All that matters, is that you do you.