Fetch the Label Maker! A Discussion on Sexuality Terminology

It has been one year since the last time I posted on here and it’s been something of a whirlwind year for me. Last year, in observance of National Coming Out Day, I talked about my struggles to come to terms with my sexuality. At that time I was still embracing the concept and I knew that there was a chance that things would evolve from that point. I was quite new to the community and there were still a great many things that I didn’t know and this year has been a wonderful experience in learning and expanding my understanding.

I’ve since learnt that there is a whole other layer of terminology for sexuality types beyond the simple 0-6 Kinsey scale. Pansexual, demisexual, polysexual, asexual. And it doesn’t end there; there are even more specifications from that point. In the last year, I’ve been introduced to a whole new vocabulary and found a new label that fits me so much better than what I’d known before. (Biromantic demisexual, in case anyone is curious).

The most common question that I’ve gotten since my last post is why having a label matters? I admitted that I knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. The people closest to me already knew that I wasn’t heteronormal. Why did it matter that I have an appropriate label for my sexuality?

The thing that people doesn’t understand is that it was never about putting a label on myself. It wasn’t that I needed something to call myself or that I needed to have some absolute definition to attach to my sexuality. For me, the magic in finding a correct term was purely in knowing that I was not alone. If that term existed, it meant that there were other people out there who were the same as me. That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process.

That was the single most monumental thing that came from this whole process. It wasn’t in embracing myself for who I was or knowing that the people in my life would still accept me while knowing the truth. It was the realisation that I was not alone in this world. I haven’t actually met anyone with the same sexuality as me – at least not that I know of – but the simple fact that they are out there somewhere is comfort enough. Much in the same way that discovering communities for people suffering from depression provided hope and reassurances, knowing that there are enough other people out there who feel the same as I do eases the fears and uncertainty of reinventing my self-image.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, when so many people are opening up and learning to embrace and identify their sexuality, I simply want to let them all know this one crucial detail: Whether you are ready to shout your sexuality from the rooftops or if you’re still playing things close to the vest, it doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t about the labels we attach to ourselves. It isn’t in being able to tell the world that “yes, I am ____.” It is about belonging.  It is about knowing that there are other people out there that are like you.

You are not alone.

 

A Rainbow Chequered Past

A snippet of conversation from my house this morning…

Me: Oh, so I found this new fruit that I like!

Dad: Yeah? What’s his name?

So I actually just meant that a friend had let me try a new kind of fruit that I’d never eaten before (persimmons, in case you’re curious, and they’re delicious. I’m not a fan of most healthy foods so it’s newsworthy when I find one I like,) but that exchange got me thinking and I realised my dad is definitely on to something. More than half of my ex-boyfriends are gay.

I should clarify, they were not “out” yet when we were dating. I didn’t know, although on more than one occasion I had suspicions. But it’s most certainly a trend in my dating life. Four of the seven steady boyfriends I have had, including my elementary school “boyfriend” and my first two proper boyfriends, have turned out to be gay.

What does that say about me? Well there are a couple less than flattering conclusions I can draw from that.

First is that I’m such a horrible girlfriend that I actually turn men gay, but I don’t believe that one. It’s not that I think I’m a brilliant girlfriend, I know I’m not very good at relationships, but I firmly believe that sexuality is a borne-in thing, not something that you can consciously choose. Which means they were all gay to begin with and not converted by my terrible relationship skills.

Second is that I make a good “gay-beard.” For those of you who don’t know, a gay-beard is that person that a gay person dates in an attempt to make people believe they are straight. Think the film “Easy A” for reference. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for being a good gay-beard, but apparently something about me fills them. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that in high school my self-esteem was so low I’d date anyone who showed interest in me, even if I suspected he might also be interested in a guy as well. Or maybe it was because I had the ample cleavage and they assume that’s what straight guys would care about. Either way, it was a thing that happened.

A third and equally confusing possibility is that something about me rings “guy” like. That maybe in some small way, they are attracted to my more guy-ish side but that whole actual gender thing gets in the way. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly girly. I own pink clothes and lots of shoes and check out boys in films, but that’s about the extent of it. I like sports, even if my boobs make them difficult to play. I like jeans and hate dresses. I only wear make-up on the specialist of most special occasions, and even then it’s very light. I paint my toenails while playing video games – a skill I’ve mastered, by the way. I’ve gotten really good at applying a coat per cutscene. For every trait that I share with the other girls my age, there’s something I do that’s considered more guy-ish.

So does that make me less of a girl than other girls?

For a long time I have battled with questions like this. There is this social stigma that beileves that any girl who is not girly must be a lesbian. I found notes like this about me scrawled on bathroom stalls in high school – a thing I thought only happened in films, but turns out people actually do it. I spent all of high school supremely confused about what these assumptions meant for me.

Did this make me gay? Was I gay because gay men were somehow drawn to me? Was I gay because I liked playing video games and basketball? Was I gay because I could appreciate that my girl friends or female celebrities were attractive? Was I only dating guys because that’s what convention told me to do?

And if I was gay, why didn’t I feel about girls the same way I felt about guys?

The truth of the matter is that sexual identity and orientation are so much more complicated than that. There’s a really great vlogbrothers video about it if you’re curious, but essentially it comes down to this:

It’s not just about guy or girl, gay or straight. “Or” is the completely wrong word to use. Because sexuality isn’t an and/or situation. There’s so much gray, fuzzy middle area that we just don’t comprehend. Sexuality and gender isn’t so much about fitting into one of two circles. It’s more like a line, a spectrum with guy on one end and girl on the other, and where in that line you fit.

So while I identify as a girl, I am not on that radical, definitive end of the spectrum but a few ticks toward the guy side. My sexuality is the same way. I am straight, but I can admit that there are women I find attractive (Jennifer Lawrence, for example). I am a straight female, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all I am.

Now that we’ve established that about me, what does that mean for all of my gay boyfriends?

Honestly, in the end, I think that there was something about me that drew them in. We had one very important thing in common: we were confused. There are so many pressures in high school, especially socially, and we were all turned around and feeling stressed by trying to uphold cultural convention. They were expected to be something they weren’t, and so was I. We were confused and we were scared, and that’s what drew us together.  We were just looking for someone – anyone – who could possibly understand us and what we were dealing with.

And in the end, during that time we shared, I think that made us perfect for each other.