In the LGBT+ community, we love labels. There are many sexualities and gender identities, each with its own pretty pride flag. New identities are being introduced all the time – not invented out of thin air, but names being given to feelings that already existed. Identity is understandably important in the queer community. When many of us have had to hide our identities or feel confused and ashamed of them, why shouldn’t we want to explore our gender and sexuality in detail, and put names to these feelings? The myriad of ways to describe sexuality and gender provide comfort, security, and community to a lot of people, and many queer people go through a period of soul searching and experimentation to figure out exactly which labels work for them. However, for other people, the expectation to figure it all out can be a lot of pressure, especially if you have no idea as to what exactly your gender or sexuality is.
You don’t need to use specific labels
Maybe you know you’re gay, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Or you’re bisexual, but you like different genders in different ways. You might know you’re non-binary, but not know exactly what’s up with your gender. Some people find labels that fit them well, for others it’s a bit more difficult. You shouldn’t feel pressured to sort those feelings out right away, and you don’t even need to ever find out your exact identity. I could write a whole novella on my gender identity and sexuality, but I really don’t care. Maybe I could do some serious soul-searching and have a whole list of terms that apply to me, but who has the time? I’m queer, and that’s as much as I care to know on that matter, thank you very much. The beauty of terms like queer, genderqueer, and nonbinary is that they are as vague as it gets, so if finding a more specific identity is giving you a headache, you can always stick with one of these. You can even identify as questioning!
Gender and sexuality are fluid
How someone identifies now might be different from how they identify in two, five, or ten years. This can be uncomfortable to think about, as I’m sure every queer person has been told “it’s just a phase!” at some point in their life. But life is full of phases! If someone was the exact same throughout their whole life, they’d be the most boring person ever. Anyway, just because something is a phase, doesn’t mean it wasn’t real or impactful. For some queer people, it is easier for them to evaluate their identity when they acknowledge that they don’t have to stick to a label forever. Many people identify one way for a while, and then change later on, either because the label never fit quite right in the first place, or it did fit, but now their feelings have changed and a new label is more fitting.
All of the different sexualities and gender identities can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember why we came up with these words. These identities are made to fit us, not the other way around. They are meant to be inclusive. For example, if you are a woman who likes other women, you can call yourself a lesbian. Yes, even if you’ve been with other men before. Even if you’re bisexual, or asexual. Even though they’re called sexualities, they also refer to gender preference in relationships, so you can be asexual and gay, or asexual and bisexual, as strange as that may sound.
The most important thing to remember is that your identity is no one else’s business but your own. Even if you do know your identity, nobody else has a right to know if you don’t feel comfortable telling them. So have fun figuring out your identity, or alternatively, have fun doing literally anything else because you don’t care about figuring out your identity!