Should We Label Our Sexual Orientation?
Sofia explores the growing freedom young people have to question whether to label their sexuality.
I run an LGBT+ blog with a friend of that specialises in those who are attracted to more than one gender…
I run an LGBT+ blog with a friend of that specialises in those who are attracted to more than one gender, specifically bisexuality or pansexuality, and we have done fairly well in establishing a reputation in the online community. Since we have started the blog, there has been an emergence of different labels to describe the attraction to more than one gender that those who do not have an active role on the internet will not know about. With the emergence of more labels, there has also been an emergence of those who mocks those labels and those who are forever arguing about the lack of political correctness of them. With one extreme, there will be another.
The general mood amongst young people asking us for advice is that they are confused and just want to relieve their anxiety about labelling themselves.
The general mood amongst young people asking us for advice is that they are confused and just want to relieve their anxiety about labelling themselves. They feel one label does not fit, they don’t feel comfortable. They have certain ‘quirks’ about their sexuality, which some adults will label as being a normal part of adolescent experience, but these young people feel like it needs to be labelled so they feel more ‘normal’ and less like they’re experiencing something abnormal. The argument is that people uses labels to identify with others as well. People want to feel like they’re part of something and that they are not the only who feel a certain way. For people who live in isolated communities where they don’t know anybody like them, who identify with being LGBT+, it leaves them feeling there’s no support. Since a lot of the young people who need help do not have supportive parental roles, they turn to the internet or to other people in order to feel validated. Although this is not healthy, and we encourage people to communicate with the people in their lives and improve their relationships, we understand that many people come for help as a last resort as it is difficult to seek help and that many people simply cannot change the opinions of the people they love.
There is an argument amongst some people that bisexual is not inclusive enough…
There have been arguments about different labels inside the community, which is a vast number of people with a spectrum of views and experiences, as sexuality is not the only thing people want to label. With the rise of what some young people call ‘gender politics’ and others call ‘gender identity issues’, people are beginning to choose different labels aside from male and female to describe themselves. There is an argument amongst some people that bisexual is not inclusive enough, and that pansexual is more so because it does not adhere to binary definitions of gender. Whilst I have minimal personal experience with gender identity issues, I understand that it is disheartening to feel excluded from a community that is supposed to be based on acceptance. However, is it right for anyone in the LGBT+ community to police somebody else’s identity? Are there not more pressing issues in our community such as the lack of health care advice for ‘same sex’ relationships or the large percentage of LGBT+ people who become homeless due to being ostracised by their families?
Other labels like polysexual are criticised for not including certain people as well but the lines of criticism are often blurred into outright rejection with the emergence of this label, as many people feel that young people are trying to be ‘special snowflakes’ and as edgy or different as possible.
Should we not empathise with people who are simply trying to find a way to be at peace with themselves?
This is often the criticism with other labels as well but for many people, it is simply a way to feel more comfortable in their identity and we may simply not understand it. It is often harder to imagine why someone feels a certain way about themselves if we are not in their own shoes so the question rises as to whether or not we should be allowed to decide other people’s identities for themselves. Unless something affects someone else in a harmful way, what is the harm in someone identifying in something to feel as if they are part of something? It would be like telling someone they cannot label themselves as being a Christian despite subscribing to the belief that Jesus is the son of God, and that they are ultimately Christians. Again, are there not more important issues? Should we not empathise with people who are simply trying to find a way to be at peace with themselves? Or if that is not possible, should we simply not concern ourselves with something we have little personal experience with? Everyone experiences something differently. There is no two people exactly alike in what they go through.
Some may say it is mildly ironic that I am calling for others to focus on bigger issues when I am focusing on what seems like a minor issue, and I understand this point is reasonable but what I am more concerned about is the emotional well being of vulnerable young people that is affected by other people.
Whilst free speech should be a right afforded by everyone, as long as it is not harmful, certain views should be challenged in constructive ways and I feel that the view that we should be allowed to decide other people’s sexual orientations is one of those views.
For more information about sex, gender or LGBT+ support, there is loads you can find on the Rife Guide: