“So, what do you call yourself?”
This is a question I get fairly often. It is usually in reference to my occupation or my political affiliations, but mostly regarding my sexuality.
People label themselves. It is so normalized within our society that people rarely question it. Labels can be tempting to some. They can help create a community. It's how a lot of people identify with others and come together with other like-minded people.
However, please remember that a label isn't everything.
As an example, I am a queer black woman who grew up in a lower social class. I fit into many labels or boxes such as "gay," "black," "feminist," "coffee-enthusiast," etc. I don't ever feel the need to choose which label is most important and frankly, I shouldn't have to.
I experience all of my experiences as a whole person. All of my identities affect my daily life and, therefore, it would be unfair for the world to ask me to choose which label I care more about.
The problematic aspect of labels is that it tends to be limiting. People — myself included — can find themselves being bound to it and then become afraid to explore as they discover new things.
As of right now, I am comfortable at this stage of my life to identify as a lesbian. I am attracted to exclusively women and have been for as long as I can remember.
However, sexuality is fluid. If, one day, I meet a man and I am attracted to him, I am not going to shun the idea of being romantically linked to him just because I have felt comfortable for a while within a certain identity. Based on my sexual and romantic history, I think this possibility is highly unlikely.
After initially coming out as gay at 16, I had this constant worry about whether or not I had made a mistake. Even years later, there were lingering thoughts about what would happen if I later discovered I wasn't completely a lesbian.
There were frequent moments in time where I would go on a date with guy (usually to appease a family member), just to “check” that I was still a raging homosexual. I was overwhelmed with the thought about whether or not my attractions were a phase.
Because I had maintained my conventional femininity after coming out, I had ignorant people constantly questioning my sexuality.
What would the repercussions be if I later came out as bisexual, pansexual or maybe the more ambiguous term, "queer?" The simple answer is that there are none.
Despite whatever judgmental things people may tell you, discovering new aspects of yourself is not wrong.
The truth is, labels are social constructs that we, as people, made up. We, as a society, decided how people were going to be divided up into many different categories.
In reality, people are complex creatures, and therefore, our sexualities are just as complex.
As a society, we tend to think of everything as black and white. People either fit into a category, or they do not. The problem with this mindset is, the majority of people are not that binary.
That being said, if someone is indeed comfortable with their label, it is not yours or anybody else's jurisdiction to question it. Sexuality is inherently personal, and no one should be policing other people's identities.
If you're cool within a certain identity, that's cool. If you don't feel like you fit into any categories or if you feel like you fit into many categories, that is also cool.
Don't ever feel guilty for living out your truth, whatever that truth may be.