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Author Topic: Label overload
Burdened with glorious booty
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Okay. So I've spent the past two years or so questioning my gender and sexuality, as for years before that the label "straight cis girl" just didn't feel right to me. I knew something was different - I just didn't know what.

Having thought it over a lot, and having gone through a lot of different labels, I pretty much came to the conclusion that I have no strong feelings towards any gender identity (so I call myself androgynous), I like boys and girls, and I'm pretty much asexual. I don't care for gender or sexuality - I'm just me. That's fine by itself - I could say to people who ask, for simplicity's sake, that I'm an androgynous biromantic grey-asexual. A bit of a mouthful still, but that's fair enough.

However, I've come to realise that that's just the basics. Some other major issues that I found out about are the fact that, in hindsight, I always have, and still do, get romantic feelings for more than one person at once, and now that I'm an adult, I'm interested in the idea of being in a polyamorous relationship. As well as that, I may be more grey-romantic than straight-up romantic, since my romantic feelings tend to feel a little bit muted, and I'm happy with relationships which are perhaps undefined, or between friendship and romance.

In my head, I sum this all up as just being "queer"...but I know if I were to come out as being queer, people are going to want details, or simply assume that by "queer" I mean "lesbian". And while I'm not lying or forcing any of these feelings (or, in most of these cases, lack of feeling), I know that, with that many things going on with me, people are going to be a bit sceptical. It doesn't help that, while I used to get read as being a lesbian a lot of the time, I denied it so vehemently that most of the people I know have no doubts that I'm a heterosexual cisgendered girl. I feel like, if I were to come out as anything, I could only come out as one or two things, and only if it becomes absolutely necessary. I'll be honest, none of this really impacts my life, and it's not something that brings me great torment or whatever...but I want to be honest about it, and I don't feel like I can be, knowing what the response is going to be.

And some of these WILL come up at some point, if not all of them. Because if I ever get into a poly relationship, I'd want to be honest about that, I'd want to be honest if I ever get into a lesbian relationship, and I feel like I'd have to confess all of it to any potential partner of mine, just so they know what they're getting in for. I just know that so many people would never believe me, because of the fact that there are so many identity labels that can be stuck to me. In fact, the grey-romantic and androgynous bits are things I can easily hide, and I know I'm tempted to just never mention it at all so I don't come across so badly.

I know that human sexuality and gender is confusing, and I'm perfectly happy and comfortable as I am. It's barely something I think about now that I've mulled most of it over in my head. It just bothers me that I'd have to either be generic, or to be dishonest, and I'm not sure that either of those things appeals to me. What can I do to at least start mentioning some of these things to the people closest to me? Some friends know that I'm bi and grey-asexual, and I only have one singular friend of mine who knows I'm poly - how can I start being more open about at least some of the rest of it?

[ 01-03-2013, 05:49 PM: Message edited by: Derpy Hooves ]

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Heather
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Hey there, Derpy.

It's kind of sounding to me like you have the idea that we can somehow express all of this, of even half of it, to anyone with just a handful of words or phrases. Or that, if we don't and pick one umbrella term, we're somehow being dishonest.

I'd say that in reality, in actual life and practice, if and when someone might want to get involved with us in any of the ways where these aspects of who we are or what we want come up, they're only going to start finding this stuff out about us (and vice-versa) through conversations. same goes with people we become close to over time but where we might not be in any kind of sexual or romantic relationship, but another kind, like a friendship that's neither sexual nor romantic.

So, yeah: we do have to talk about at least some of this, and probably all or most over time, with potential partners or with partners as we go. I think the idea there's any other way to do that, period, strikes me as fanciful, for lack of a better word.

We all get to know about each others identities -- and I'd say it's fair to say most of our identities, on the whole, are complex -- gradually. We really can't just walk into a room or an interaction and sum up all of who we are, or even one part of who we are, with a few brief words or phrases. We find language to shortcut some parts of identity not with the aim of summing everything up in one word, but with the aim of giving a Cliff's notes before we have bigger conversations or get to know one another more deeply. I mean, even, for example, "lesbian," is just an abbreviation, a vague summary, for lesbian women. It doesn't tell us all there is to know about someone's sexual and romantic identity in anything but a very cursory overview.

When can you start telling some people about some of this? Whenever you want. How do you do that? How you want. I know that sounds vague, but I think that the situational and unique nature of all of our social relationships and interactions is such that there just aren't any super-clear ways to go about it, or things that work for everyone.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Burdened with glorious booty
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I know we can't, nor do I WANT to just reel off a list of all these things. Part of my problem is wanting to avoid that, because I have never felt compelled to define myself in those kinds of terms, ever. If I could go for any singular label to describe my gender/sexuality, then I'd go for "does not give a ****." And I'm fine with that.

But I guess knowing that they have these labels means that if I feel the need to explain any of it to anyone, it might come in handy for me to use the terms if I have to. So if I were having a deep discussion with people about these things - or even a casual discussion, I end up talking about weird stuff like this all the time - I might use these terms, and I may even mention that it's something that resembles my own experiences. But if I've already mentioned a few things on the list before in a personal context(which, if I'm dating a person, they would know), I'm afraid that I'd get to a point where the person I'm saying it all to is just going to think "Okay, you're making it up now, surely." It doesn't help that there's the stereotype of the "special snowflake" that makes up stuff like this to appear different or unique - I don't want to come across in that way, AT ALL. But I know for definite that some people would think of me that way if they knew some of this stuff. Part of it is, sadly enough, the fact that most people look at me and assume "straight and cisgendered" - I don't look like a person who doesn't care for gender (because really, my hair would look TERRIBLE short, and I don't bind), and since I'm just tiptoeing out the closet in regards to the whole "biromantic" thing, most people have heard me talk about cute boys but not cute girls. So any mention of these things is going to make some people go "No you're not."

Some of it I'm not going to come out as, because I don't really feel it's relevant to anything and even if it is, I feel okay with people not knowing (and yes, that goes for partners of mine, too). But some of it's important to relationships, so it might come out anyway. For example, if I were to end up in a poly relationship with one boy and one girl, then immediately people would know that I'm poly and bi, because there's no way in hell I'd lie and say that I'm only dating one person in that situation. But for some people, that'd be enough for them to wrap their heads around, you know?

Most of my friends are LGBT, but I have a feeling that at least one of them, the guy who's my main confident, is getting tired of me mentioning any of this. The mentioning of ANY label, even in passing, is enough to make him rant about how labels are stupid and unnecessary (I don't think they're unnecessary, and I see the good in them too, but whatever), and it makes me feel like I can't tell him ANY of this stuff, because sharing it with him may come with a label just to make it easier. And he'd probably just tell me I'm being stupid. So it's becoming harder for me to open up about any of these things, even with close friends, because hey, labels are stupid!

So summing up, I'm not going to be handing out calling cards full of labels that could apply to me...but I'm worried that if I need to come out as more than one non-hetero thing, then people will think I'm a liar.

[ 01-03-2013, 07:51 PM: Message edited by: Derpy Hooves ]

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Ta-da!

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Heather
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Can I ask why you think that?

In other words, has your experience so far been that when you do get close to someone -- besides this one guy -- and all of these details are things you start to disclose, they suggest you're lying?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Burdened with glorious booty
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A few people made comments to that effect when I mentioned asexuality for the first time. They never outright accused me of lying, but I WAS told that I was "being silly" a few times, and other excuses as to why I couldn't possibly be asexual (having a "perverted" sense of humour and being appreciative of how people look being the two major ones). And these weren't comments from people who disliked me, they were comments made by well-meaning friends and relatives (my sister especially - despite being bi herself, she gave me the "don't be silly, it's just a phase" excuse, and it took her a while before she accepted it) who honestly thought they knew me well enough to safely say "You're not asexual, you're just confused/going through a phase/naive/noble" (seriously, apparently I'm "noble" for not wanting sex - how nasty is that?). I even had a "friend" tell me that I can't be asexual because of things like "But why would you want a boyfriend?" or "But why do you bother looking nice?".

Also, when I was younger, I was picked on a lot for being pretty much the only tomboyish girl in my school year, and a lot of the insults hurled at me had to do with how I was apparently a lesbian. While that in itself never bothered me (or at least, some of the other stuff they said bothered me more), it led to a lot of people genuinely thinking I was a lesbian...so I'm ashamed to admit that for a long time, I did my utmost to vehemently deny being a lesbian, and I think I closeted myself pretty badly because of it. Even when I started realising that I did honestly like girls, I'd make excuses as to why I didn't really like them, and when I ran out of excuses, I would say stuff to myself like "Well, you still massively prefer guys, and it's so unlikely you're going to want to date a girl - why out yourself as being bi? there's no point." So having shoved myself so deep into THAT closet, I think a few people are going to raise some eyebrows when, having been at university for a few months, I'm suddenly saying "But I like girls now!".

Lastly, the internet is a dickish place, and while I've not had this used on me, I've seen the whole "special snowflake" thing levelled against people a hell of a lot. One of my best friends, who's a lesbian, is currently in the closet at her photography course because one of the other lesbians there has been accused of faking it for attention, so I know that's a common thing levelled against LGBT people - I have no doubts that that's what people will think of me, considering I'm a bisexual girl at university.

They're probably stupid reasons, but they're there.

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WesLuck
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Woh, this is heavy. Why is no-one ever accused of faking heterosexuality for attention? I find distasteful the whole idea that anyone who has characteristics that aren't "mainstream" (and some nasty people would replace that word with "normal") and the way they are is the unique way they are, gets accused of "faking it for attention". It ignores the fact, that if you chose your orientation and your assigned vs. "feels best" gender, based on how much it is criticised, there would be not be anyone who is not heterosexual+cis-gender.

Grr. I know if everyone was heterosexual, cis-gender, I'm sure we'd find other things to criticise about (and we do even though this is not the case). But because gender and sexual orientation can be classified in the group of "relating to sexual expression", the positive sexual energy that we all have gets really perverted by those who just don't feel good about their gender and/or orientation, or with sex in general (as some people think ALL sex is perverted) and this non-acceptance of themselves leads to doing a lot of damage to others.

I wish you lots of body and soul positive energy, Derpy Hooves. [Smile] I think you are a very courageous person!

[ 01-06-2013, 06:44 AM: Message edited by: WesLuck ]

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Heather
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For sure, Derpy, we know that when people come out as asexual, or disclose asexuality, they tend to, from what I can tell, deal with similar bias and ignorance as people who come out as bisexual or disclose bisexuality. ("It's not real," "It's a phase," "You just haven't met the right person yet," etc.)

And that, of course, really blows chunks.

What it also means is that we may want to consider to whom we come out and disclose parts of our sexuality, based on how much B.S. we feel up to taking.

I hear you sounding like you're not feeling very resilient around this right now, so how about if for now, you save disclosures about any part of your sexuality you don't feel resilient with to people you have gotten to know over time and really built trust with, as well as have gotten a clear sense they won't be jerks about it?

One thing I do want to add, though, around the "speacial snowflake" stuff, is that I do think it has sounded a little bit like you feel your sexuality and sexual/romantic identity IS way more complex than a lot of other people's. My experience as someone who has worked in sexuality for a long time is that it's complex for most people, not a limited few, though more people *express* or define their sexual or romantic identities more simply than others.

So, to avoid some of that "you think you're so special" blahblahblah stuff, I think one helpful thing to do might be to try and come to, or talk about, all of this with more of a sense of how complex this is for most people, even if they don't or wouldn't express it in words in a complex way, or wouldn't do that until they have been with someone, usually a sexual or romantic partner, for some time, and then often will tend to only disclose that complexity to that person. Do you get what I mean?

[ 01-06-2013, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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By the by, a colleague of mine did a really nice job, I thought, summarizing what terms like these are for and what they can do this morning.

He said, "Labels can be easy ways to let people know a little bit about a lot."

And I actually think that's pitch-perfect, and really what these words and terms are all about. They are ALWAYS shorthand at first, because even if we let loose a long string of words, we still can't possibly expect anyone who doesn't know us well, and with whom we're not very intimate in one way or another, to somehow understand all of what our sexual romantic or interpersonal identities or wants are all about.

Really, getting there doesn't take the right words, this many words or these few words: it takes time. No amount of terms, labels or words is going to get us to the point with someone else right off the bat, or pretty close to it, where they grok all of who we are and what we want in this regard. That just takes a whole mot more than terms of language.

And, of course, sexuality throughout life is rarely static, so people ARTE going to tend to change, either because their wants and feelings do, or because their frameworks, communities or understandings of themselves do, etc. If anyone has the idea that any way we or anyone else sum up our sexuality at a given time is some kind of promise that that's how it will be our whole lives, they need to let that go. No one can forsee the future: all we can know about ourselves in this regard, like any other, at a given time is where we've been and how we've felt in the past, and where we're at and how we feel right now.

Not sure if any of that's helpful to you, but I thought I'd share, since you're not the first user we've had asking something similar, and it's been on my mind.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Burdened with glorious booty
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Fair enough.

Some of these people have been my closest friends for years, though, so I felt okay telling some of them - I keep saying some, I've only mentioned ANY of this stuff to three, possibly four really good friends. So it's not like I've been proclaiming it to the world. The only thing I'm out as at the moment is being asexual, and I made a bit of a stupid mistake with that one - I was a bit freer with my tongue than I should have been, perhaps (although I pretty much stopped being friends with the "friend" I'd mentioned before, because that was just a step too far - I have a feeling he had a crush on me and was saying that stuff because he'd realised he had no chance with me and wanted to be spiteful, but I don't know for sure). I was just so happy at knowing that there was this explanation, this legitimate reason for how I'd always been, that I told the people who I considered to be good friends, because I wanted to share something I thought was good.

I've been more cautious about my use of labels, and I've instead just explained how I feel to people who I really trust...and it's worked, and they've been okay with it. So I guess I'm feeling a bit better about it. The people I've told, I've pretty much made clear that I just sling it all under the "queer" label and be done with it, and I think that's working for now.

I do get what you've said, though, and I have to say thank you for all of this.

[ 01-07-2013, 07:22 PM: Message edited by: Derpy Hooves ]

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Ta-da!

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Heather
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So, maybe that one friend was just...well, kind of a shit? I mean, if so, the thing is, there's never going to be any right or perfect thing to say about ourselves to protect less-than-awesome people from being less-than-awesome, you know?

Btw, if you're asking me, I think queer tends to be a great umbrella for a whole lot of things, and it was MEANT to be. I don't mean to get all "back in my day" on you, but the whole point of queer culture as it developed, versus gay culture or lesbian culture, was to make room for and acknowledge those of us who know or feel like binaries or other kinds of either/ors, or terms that made things sound monolithic or strict about our sexualities or sexual identities, just didn't work for us or describe us well.

I'd also say part of the point was actually to be able to just say in a shorthand way that we're people who are...well, queer when it comes to some of the most institutionalized sexuality frameworks, in the most literal way.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 67055 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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