It’s pride month, meaning it’s time for the annual debate about the use of labels.
Some people question the need for so many labels: why do we have to identify as something, and why can’t we just accept people as they are?
And within the LGBTQIA2+ community, two factions appear to be forming:
On one side are those who want to do away with labels.
On the other side are those who hold firmly to labels and the power of identifying as lesbian, bi, ace, etc.
The Perks of Removing Labels
I understand people who want to stop using labels.
I agree that no one should have to come out or even decide to identify as one thing or another.
Gender and sexuality are fluid, and we should not limit our identity to a category.
A person should not have to identify as gay and should just be.
Also, within my lifetime I have seen media portrayals of the LGBTQIA2+ community progress from caricatures to real people. For example, we see less stereotypically flamboyant gay characters and more characters with complete personalities who just happen to be gay.
In other words, we are getting more and more genuine stories about real people.
And it’s my opinion that as these authentic representations become more common, the fundamental need for labels may wane.
Labels hold their importance in recognizing and appreciating our differences.
So as recognition and acceptance of the LGBTQIA2+ community in our society increases, the labels may not seem as significant.
However, I also feel that the worth of labels should be preserved.
Labels Empower People
Labels are freeing and give us a place to belong.
When we don’t follow an assumed “norm,” we may think something is wrong with us.
But finding other people who think and feel the same is so empowering.
The mere existence of a label with a definition describing our feelings confirms we are not alone.
It means we are real, legitimate and normal.
And as we begin to understand ourselves, labels can also help us to inform others.
I believe my labels tell you who I am without leaving room for assumptions: I am an introvert; I am an empath; I am demisexual. These are aspects of who I am, and you can better understand me by how I understand myself.
I am sharing my story as a demisexual to illustrate the value of labels.
What is demisexuality?
Demisexuality is a sexual orientation wherein a person does not feel sexual attraction until after they have developed a close emotional bond with a person. It falls on the ace spectrum.
It does not mean I only like “nice” people. But it does mean that no matter how ripped and chiselled a man is, it does nothing for my libido if we have no emotional connection.
I understand that within the LGBTQIA2+ community, demisexuality is not fully respected. Some believe it is not real, saying I simply have high standards in my sex life.
But I would appreciate it if everyone would read my story and understand its importance to me.
My intention is not to compare my story with others but to explain why I think labels are still important.
I always felt something was wrong with me because I never felt how others described their relationships.
How I experience attraction, fantasies, crushes, and dating is difficult.
I have only had two boyfriends (with the relationships spanning 1 to 2 weeks) and about five real crushes.
I would constantly lie when asked about my romantic life and give answers I thought other people expected. Sometimes these lies would leave me looking like a weirdo. I just didn’t understand.
In high school, I would pick someone and say, “I have a crush on him,” every few weeks because I thought teenage girls were supposed to have frequent crushes.
In reality, I only crushed on a few friends, and those crushes lasted years! (And I always felt embarrassed by that.)
I “dated” without interest thinking maybe the feelings my friends talked about would develop. But I just found the process annoying.
And in university, I always claimed I was too busy to date.
I also never had sex because I never felt arousal.
I genuinely thought I was broken.
Learning a new word.
One day I was reading a comment on a YouTube video that used the term demisexual.
I love learning new words and better understanding sexuality, so I just had to Google it!
Describing the feeling that those search results gave me is near impossible. But I could feel it rush over my body.
I must have spent hours clicking on results, browsing articles and watching videos while finding countless people with the same feelings and experiences.
It was like I had a mental checklist going in my head like “yes, I know exactly what you mean,” “mhm, I’ve felt that, too,” “oh yeah, all the time,” and “yup, I’ve definitely been there!”
Having always thought I was broken, finding out I belonged somewhere and that my experience is real and valid felt incredibly empowering.
These people feel as I do.
They experience relationships as I do.
They struggle as I do.
My label as demisexual has not locked me in a category. On the contrary, it freed me by creating a unity with others who understand me.
Dating as a demisexual.
I feel more confident dating now than I used to because I understand how to date.
I don’t feel weird anymore nor force myself to act like others.
And I use online dating because it fits my needs.
I choose people based on what they write on their profiles and swipe left on every blank profile.
I have time to get to know them so I can create a bond.
Plus, I’m able to share my sexuality (along with the definition), so my matches can temper their expectations.
I date to make connections, not for sex or one-night stands.
And if they don’t like that, neither of us wastes our time.
My hope for the future is that labels won’t be required. That everyone acknowledges and respects people as people and love as love.
But I don’t think we’re there yet.
There’s still too much misinformation about different genders and sexuality.
This makes us need to continue to share our experiences and tell our stories.
Because, quite frankly, there are too many people in this world for us to all have the same experiences.
And “norm” does not really exist.
So, for now, labels do not divide us. They give everyone a place to understand, celebrate and love who they are.