What's in a label?
(otherwise known as Happy National Coming Out Day!)
We as humans naturally crave labels. They allow our brains to easily sort people and they create a sense of commonality among that people that have never met or are new friends. If you head to my Instagram bio, you might even see the list of labels I tell the world I am - whiskey drinker, tattoo hoarder, aggressive food segregator, hotel pen collector, international speaker, fish & chips gal, etc. You can identify with those labels. Maybe you drink whiskey too! Maybe you like traveling. Maybe you’re a fan of fish. Even if you don't identify with them, they help you understand who I am.
There's a debate on whether or not humans' use of labels is good for our modern society, but that's for a separate conversation. I completely understand that humans use labels to sort and better understand their peers.
As a result, there’s one label I’ve been using that’s a little bit wrong. And I want to talk to you about it today, because this conversation is important, and what better day to discuss it than on National Coming Out Day?!
Publicly, I’ve spent the past 10 years identifying as a lesbian.
This label is easy for you to understand. Most of the population understands "lesbian" as "woman interested in women" and that's an easy thing to sort. Relatively speaking across the LGBTQIA+ labels, "lesbian" is one of the more commonly used and easily understood.
But here's the thing. Lesbian isn't really what I am.
Friends, you know I'm pretty transparent with all of you. Which means that many of you know I've dated more than just women. And here's the thing - choosing to use "lesbian" as my label, just because it's easy, is me NOT being a good advocate and ally for my community, the LGBTQIA+ community.
So today, I'd love for you to take a step down the path to better understanding with me. Friends, I need to get better at being my true self - and so today I want to share what the right "label" for me is. It's "queer." You might not be familiar with "queer," because it's a less commonly used label, so let me share some definitions with you:
- Queer: Originally pejorative for gay, now being reclaimed by some gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons as a self-affirming umbrella term. (Urban Dictionary)
- Being queer means being attracted to anyone, with no regard to a person’s gender or sex. It could mean someone is attracted to more than one gender, or even two genders. Being queer means you like what you like and you accept that your desires are dynamic and you are open to change. (Huffington Post)
- Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual and/or not cisgender. (Wikipedia)
- Queer (adj.): attracted to people of many genders. Although dominant culture tends to dictate that there are only two genders, gender is actually far more complex. Queer can be a label claimed by a person who is attracted to men, women, genderqueer people, and/or other gender nonconforming people. (Queer 101)
- "I see queer as a beautiful word that represents moving toward a future that supports and fights for rights with an emphasis on intersectionality. For me personally, queer is about more than just my sexual orientation, it’s about joining an empowering political movement and integrating that into my everyday life." (Teen Vogue)
I hope that this post is insightful to you today! And I hope you'll join me in supporting the folks that have come out. For those who experience the coming out process, the time before, during, and after can be an overwhelming experience and reactions can range from wonderful acceptance and liberation to complete and utter rejection.
I know that personally, my coming out process was a mixed bag. My friends and the broader community were overwhelmingly accepting, but my birth mom was the antithesis of that, cripplingly so. Many folks have similar experiences and today is a day to celebrate all they went through in that process. Celebrate along with us, friends!
And if you're curious what National Coming Out Day is, feel free to read more!