Sexuality: Labels and Why I Would Rather Not Do Them
Submission by Kay, TNG contributor
The LGBT community has fought long and hard for equal rights, acceptance and an identity of its own. The way we have been referred to and how we have come to see ourselves has changed a lot in the past three decades, while some things still remain the same. There is more support and awareness out there and yet, going through that passage of accepting one’s own self is just as overwhelming as it was years ago. Things are better and yet, there are some core issues which will take years to be classified, studied and get a remotely workable plan of action to resolve them. We have moved on from blanket and clinical sounding terms like ‘homosexuality’ and are looking for ways to describe the very real and powerful feelings, including the myriad of realities within the LGBT community.
As ‘queer folk,’ we think, analyze and worry a lot. About how we are feeling, whether it is acceptable and how is living in the land of queers different from living in the regular straight environment that we have grown up in? Then it is a relief to hear conversations where words like ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ roll off easy from heterosexual and homosexual tongues alike and are accepted as a part of the mainstream culture. These small things give hope that things are changing for the better. It makes it a little easier to ignore the ‘dyke’ and ‘faggot’ jokes. That is what this article about: Labels and how they support us and provide an identity but also limit us.
I get the struggle and pain involved in getting the LGBT community recognition and an identity. I honestly do. I applaud the efforts of each and every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, who made it easier for people like me to come to terms with our sexuality and be able to consider living a life free of fear a very doable reality. My shot at a happy life is possible because of their courage, time and dedication to the cause of love for all and equal rights.
But I always hesitate when I am asked about my sexual orientation. I know what will be the gender of the person I will love and want to be with forever and ever (Once I find that special someone or she finds me!) but at the end of the day the fact is ‘I don’t do labels.’
For me, that should be a valid and acceptable alternative, both within the LGBT community and outside, to the usual LGBT or Questioning labels we often use to describe ourselves and how we love. Who cares if it really doesn’t answer the question what will the anatomy of the person I love?
‘I don’t do labels’ is not a new cool yuppie attitude. For me, it sends out the message that I believe in love and love only. And that I am not talking about physical anatomy even though it plays a big role here. It gives me the option to not feel boxed in or tied down – of ironically having to fit within the image of a community that fights a so called unconventional or unnatural image on a daily basis. The answer gives me the freedom to admit that I have a preference but fluidity of sexual preferences or orientation is a concept I strongly believe in. Isn’t fluidity the basis of the LGBT community? That every person is a tag or a label till they are not anymore and then a different label describes how and what they feel inside.
There is just so much processing to deal with when one is stepping out, I would rather not have to specify an image of the person I could fall in love with. I am far more comfortable stating that I believe love is beyond form and people should accept it as such. That I am just looking for love and love has little to do with the rules and regulations that society deemed acceptable for centuries. My answer about not doing labels leads to the correct assumption that I am a member of the LGBT community. But why should it? Is it only the gay people who would ever speak up against labels or embrace the true nature of love – free and unconditional?
I could draw flak from certain quarters within the community for not ‘choosing’ or ‘standing up’ because of the ambiguous nature of the answer on the face of it. I understand their point of view and why it might seem like I am merely dipping in the alternative lifestyles or I am still unwilling to commit myself to another woman. However, my lifestyle and every second of my existence is a testament to my preferences.
What I want is an inclusive world where using definitions like lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual or even straight is a choice we make in the bigger picture of following our hearts and not as tools capable of dividing love into acceptable and not acceptable. A stupid but relevant example of this is how people are more comfortable with two women together than two men being in love. It is the same thing but one is deemed slightly less offensive than the other. Woman on woman action turns on the straightest of men but mention two gay men holding hands and everyone runs out the door. We all know well how frustrating it is to have your commitment and relationship belittled or questioned in comparison to another purely on the basis of gender of the parties.
Every label brings forth positive and negative images and clichés. In my experience, the term ‘gay’ elicits more positive response that ‘lesbian’ when used by homosexual women, almost as if it is perceived as more casual or less threatening. In some extreme cases, a woman saying she is gay is treated as just a passing phase, something she will grow out of. For emotional and practical reasons, labels are indispensable but they should not define us. They should not serve as rigid or set rules expressing what we feel and desire. Even within the LGBT community, there may be a handful of people who might not be comfortable with certain sections.
The most common example of this is the bisexual person. I think we are all a little scared of putting ourselves out there and building a life with someone who is looking for her perfect someone from both the gender pools is a very scary thought. We may understand that being bisexual doesn’t necessary mean she will leave us for a man or be less committed to making the relationship work. But doesn’t that label bring up a negative image often evoking a rejection in an attempt to safeguard ourselves or stick to that we consider ‘normal and acceptable’ – women who want only women and nothing else? At times like that, we forget the first argument we make with the straight society – that being a lesbian is about loving and following the heart.
Each and every one of us had to find out what love means for us as individuals and decide what limitations, if any, we accept on this universal emotion. It is probably that decision which makes it more important for me to acknowledge other people’s right to love even as I go about my life. In this world where I found love and support from unexpected quarters, I want to highlight the common thread behind all the labels.
In my mind, by using a label – I am declaring that I am comfortable in my skin which is great. But by saying that I am for love without labels, I am declaring that everybody, even the heterosexual, is free to love whoever they want and I support them. That it is okay to love whoever you want. Eventually that is what we all want. ‘I don’t do labels’ is an identification tag of sorts but it serves as a reminder that we all deserve love irrespective of the gender of our significant other. Each and every one of us. That we all are the same even if we love different people or love the same people albeit differently.
(In my limited exposure to LGBT forums and the like, I found many people who feel the same way. The aim behind stating this on paper is to let others know that they are not alone and the LGBT community is one and the same despite all the different factors and factions. We all just want love and celebrate every kind possible. Even when as we go about it in very different ways.)
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