What’s in a label?
So, what is the importance of a label?
Why must we define ourselves, our lives, our sexual identities and behaviours? These are questions that many of us within the beautiful and diverse LGBTQ+ family have pondered, no doubt.
Of course, the answers to these questions are varied and complex – just as all of us are unique, complicated, conflicted and individual – so are our attitudes and feelings about labels and defining ourselves by our sexual desires and behaviours.
My first experience of same-sex sexual attraction turned out to be my with my future wife. We met at college, fell in love, had lots of amazing sex and 18 years later we have two kids, a dog and quite an unpleasant (but we still love her) cat.
However, this love happened so quickly and so spontaneously, and for a long time we both had a hard time defining ourselves. The word ‘lesbian’ seemed difficult, for me in particular. It just didn’t feel quite right to me.
A bad fit.
This, in itself, troubled me. Was I a bad closet case or some sort of deluded internal homophobe? I knew I loved and wanted my girlfriend – that she was the love of my life – but I just couldn’t bring myself to use the word. To say the word ‘lesbian’ to describe myself.
I just couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t just the word ‘lesbian’ either. The sense of hostility amongst my lesbian and gay friends to the concept of bisexuality was palpable. So I couldn’t say ‘bisexual’ either. This intolerance of bisexuality was a fear, from those who were judged, discriminated against, attacked and vilified – the idea that someone who was bisexual could jump back to the safety of heterosexual ‘normality’ if the going got tough seemed to be the point of resentment.
Of course, that’s not how it works.
The complication for me was that I didn’t live the life of a young bisexual woman, dating women and men. I was in love and in a long-term, committed relationship with a hot, sexy woman who, oddly, seemed to quite like me too. So why wasn’t I a lesbian?
Well, to answer my initial question – and this is an answer that has taken almost twenty years of my adult life and relationship to come to – what’s the importance of an identity, a label, a word?
The power and strength to be found in your truth, your authenticity, your individual experience is immeasurable. We can not be defined by anyone but ourselves – by any label other than the ones we chose for ourselves.