As a queer woman, I often get asked “How do you identify?”
With an influx of awareness and support for the LGBTQIA community, there has also been an increase of queer vocabulary and terms to help everyone along the spectrum find a word that fits them. While some people find a lot of power in finding a term that fits their identity, others don’t feel the need to fit into a certain category as they feel it restricts them. In working closely with the LGBTQIA community, I often get asked what the term for a certain thing would be or why there are so many letters in the acronym. The truth is that when awareness of queer identities became more prevalent, so did the pressure for those who do not identify along the spectrum to be given a label so that other people could understand them.
When I started to explore my sexuality, I spent a lot of time trying on different labels to see what fit me best. I started with the term bisexual, as it was one that I had heard a lot and I knew that I identified with it somewhat. However, I then began to immerse myself into the LGBTQIA community and I found that bisexuality didn’t fit me quite right. The more I explored and researched, the more confused I became. I discovered that there was a term for any and every type of identity out there, most of which I hadn’t even heard of before. In the process of researching, I became overwhelmed because I didn’t land on term that I felt comfortable with. This then led to added anxiety when I tried explaining my identity to other people, as my hesitation to stick with one label made me feel like I was lying about who I was.
Eventually I found the term pansexual, and I finally felt like I had a word that fit me. Though I am confident in calling myself a pansexual women, I still feel pressured in some circles to call myself bisexual or even just queer so that I don’t have to explain what pansexual means. For others whose sexual or gender identity is one that others aren’t familiar with, this becomes an everyday problem.
Labels carry both a lot of power and a lot of stigma. If you find that trying to find a word that fits who you feel you are is limiting or hurting you, remember that your sexual or gender identity does not define you. You should never feel obligated to lie about who you are or who you love just to fit into someone else’s idea of what you should be. Having a definite label for your identity can be life changing for those who think that they’re alone in their feelings, however some people just don’t need or want a label, and that’s okay also. Your identity is valid, whether you have a name for it or not.