A label is an identifier to how you walk and operate in the world in your day to day life. In some instances, it dictates your place in the world, how you talk, how you integrate into the fabric of society. But in others, it is as minute as a freckle, as insignificant as your middle name. Throughout my short twenty-two years on this planet, I have had many labels thrust upon me, by both the world and my own preconceptions of what was normal. Fat, plus size, queer, fag, gay, fem, homo are just a few labels I have found glued to my person as I slowly came to terms with my sexuality. But they don’t make sense to me. I would not describe myself in these ways if given a chance, nor would I highlight them as my defining characteristic. But really, beyond mere words, are labels as vital to the ecosystem of society as we make out?
I was the little gay boy stereotype, who enjoyed playing with Bratz and Barbies far more than any toy assigned to boys in a toy shop. There is some truth in the stereotype though, as when I reached fifteen, a sudden realisation set in. I was always a little different, but now I was gay, not that I understood what that meant. Films like GBF and Mean Girls taught me I was to be an accessory to the popular girls, while also clicking my fingers and popping off with “girl” and “yas” instead of punctuation. Throughout the years, I have battled with every encroaching feeling of confusion, every whispering thought that told me I was abnormal. I don’t dress in the way most ‘men’ do, and I wear makeup, and I am not just talking about a little concealer and bronzer to hide my imperfections. By makeup, I mean a full-face of gorgeous dewy skin and eyeshadow to stop traffic. I don’t adhere to the usual expectation of men, or even gay men.
Because of this I have often wondered if I am Trans, or even non-binary, gender fluid, or Two-Spirit. The copious amounts of gender options made it more confusing for me in my late teens since there were aspects of all of them that didn’t quite match up to what I was feeling. In this instance, and lacking the power myself to overcome the situation, having a label thrust upon me may have benefitted my mental health in the short term. At least I would know my box, my place in society, and how and where I sat on the social hierarchy. It is only recently that through the research I conducted at University and the people I met, I found an unsteady balance in my label. Queer, despite its checkered history and complicated present, sums up my experience for me. I am a feminine biological male who isn’t just into men, sure I am most attracted to men, but that doesn’t mean I am instantly scrubbing the entire gender spectrum off my attraction radar.
Our community as queer people is made up of five letters and a plus symbol to illustrate the plethora of other identities, sexualities, and experiences. For a community obsessed with deconstructing typical ways of thinking, we sure do like putting people in perfect little boxes. I come to understand now that a label should never be for anyone but yourself and your needs. Frankly, it is no one else’s business, nor is it up to them to define you by a mere word. The number of non-binary people among the Trans community is increasing year on year, and whether or not you agree with it is beside the fact that these people are here. Alternative genders are becoming more profound, but as are those people who don’t subscribe to the list of labels already laid out for them.
Amongst the humdrum of life, the panic of politics, and the bustling of social norms, Queer people are still fighting for their rights across the world. The Queer community is more prominent than pretty white boys or muscle-bound jocks, it is far more vibrant and rich than any many people could begin to understand. For me, a label was a hindrance, whereas Queer is a blanket term that encapsulates my experiences. A label should be individual, not something given to you when you leap from the closet, waving a rainbow flag. If you are content wielding no label, then make no apologies and do just that. If you find that a word helps you centre yourself and your place in society, then this is valid also. As Queer people, we have the power to write our own narrative, our own backstory, because, for the most part, society has done nothing but hold us back. You get to decide the title of your personal narrative and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
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