Feels good

Recently I’ve been doing some thinking about what labels I identify with in terms of gender and sexuality, which was sparked after reading The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ashley Mardell. I’ve made it this far in my life without really questioning my gender or looking too hard at my sexuality, but since coming out of a relationship that’s lead to a lot more freedom and self-development, I feel like I need to get to know myself.

Labels aren’t something that I’ve ever really strongly connected to or questioned growing up- the biggest label I gave to myself throughout high school was identifying as bisexual, and more recently since starting university polyamory was thrown in the mix. But I guess this was because I was pretty certain who I was at that point- a woman who was into guys and girls, what more is there to say? (Oh my naivety…)

At the moment I don’t really feel a strong urge to ‘find my label’, but I think it’s useful for me personally given my set of circumstances. I’m only really starting to date for the first time in my life and I want to be more certain in what I want from other people, and I’m starting to explore more how I view myself and where I sit in society. I’m at a stage where I’m questioning myself a lot and figuring out who I am (which is linked to learning about the world outside the one I experience), and one way for me to do this is through finding what labels I identify with and why. These factors lead me to reading The ABC’s of LGBT+.

Since September of last year I’ve been regularly attending LGBT+ meetups, and I feel like it’s a place where I fit in. I feel more accepted and welcome, no questions asked. But apart from this, I’ve never really learned much about the LGBT+ community and what it actually comprises. Going to the society kind of gave me an introduction to the world of LGBT+, but reading Ash’s book has really expanded my view on what the LGBT+ community comprises and has given me a much broader view on gender, sexuality, and personal identity (and based on this I intend to read much more into queer history and feminism!) 

By reading the book it really highlighted to me how so many aspects of my life have been/are depicted by gender binary expectations; socially, sexually, and aesthetically. From thinking about what society’s definition of a woman is and the choices I make in my everyday life, I realised that non-binary is a word that I connect to. Although I am a cisgender woman, I find that I am not entirely defined by being female/feminine. I go through phases in which I like to dress more femininely, androgynously, and sometimes slightly masculinely. It varies. In the past this has confused me and made me question myself and my genuinity, at points when I was feeling low my mind tended to call myself flaky. But now I know that this is perfectly fine, and that as well as society pushing the rigid gender binary system, there are other people who feel the way that I do. This makes me feel less alone, and less able to internally criticise myself for being me. And I was able to find this through learning the right vocabulary, through learning words that translated my feelings into meaning. I’d never heard/understood terms like non-binary, genderfluid, or genderqueer before, but after learning what they mean it has made me feel so much better about myself. And although I don’t feel a strong draw to a specific label at the time being, just knowing they are there gives me a sense of ease. As I grow and develop as a person I may well drift into feeling more connected to some of these terms, and I feel more okay with being fluid in a way I’ve always been.

It’s interesting to think about how gender doesn’t really play a part when we are children and we do what we want purely because we want to, not because we’re influenced by how we are conditioned to think we should be acting. I think back to when, as a young child, I used to wear trousers with a chain hanging off the side one day, and dresses on others. How I was playing with dolls one minute and dinosaurs the next. Role playing as boys and girls in the play ground. And then I think to when, in high school, I never wanted to wear skirts, yet felt uncomfortable because many other girls did and I felt like I was doing something wrong. How all the other girls wore makeup and I never had the desire to, and  how I felt that somehow this made me less attractive and less desireable by doing so. How I felt attractions towards both guys and girls, and wildly confused because it was only ever taught to me that attraction could be between a man and a woman. I only started feeling uncomfortable in myself when I became aware that there might be a way that I was supposed to act or look. These are things that are all completely normal, yet they caused me a lot of unnecessary worry and stress because I was completely unaware that things could differ from the expectations of the gender binary.

Moving onto sexuality, this is an area I’ve been slightly more aware of than gender. At the very least I was taught that sexuality is a thing during school, as opposed to not being taught about gender at all. I’ve known since high school that I have the capacity to be attracted to both men and women, and I just kind of accepted bisexuality as the thing that I experienced.  I still feel pretty similar today actually, although since learning more about different genders and gender identification I now prefer the label pansexual, as I am not put off anyone based on what their genitals are (although the degree of attraction I experience towards different genders is not equal, there are other factors involved I think [But I don’t want to delve into that too deeply because it’s not something that’s important for me to define {I’m getting too far away from the point here and using too many brackets/parentheses}]). Anyway, so there haven’t been any recent revelations here. It does make me feel annoyed that I wasn’t educated to the full extent I could have been in terms of non-heterosexual sex, and even then it didn’t cover all bases. But that’s an issue that’s related to garbage sex education and well as exclusion of non-hetero sex.

I think that labels can be pretty useful to explain yourself to other people in an efficient way so they can quickly get what the deal is. I kind of want to find labels in order to help me describe myself to myself first, though. Because once I have the language to understand and describe what’s going on with me, then I can tell other people what my deal is with or without the use of labels, using the right language in the most appropriate situations. I think this will also help to give myself affirmation in that what I’m experiencing is absolutely okay and that others experience it too. Labels aren’t always useful, but they can be good. So the plan for me is to try out some different ones in terms of gender, stick with what others I’m comfortable with for now, and maybe get rid of them later if I’m not! I’m also pretty excited to see where gender studies go in the future and see how such a fluid subject will evolve. But for now, if anyone asks me, I’m gonna tell them that I’m a non-binary, pansexual, gender-questioning, polyamorous individual that uses she/her pronouns. Whew, that’s a mouthful. Feels good to say though.

-H

If you’re confused/questioning your gender identity or sexuality, or just want to know more about LGBTQIA+ then I’d highly recommend The ABC’s of LGBT+. It serves as a great starting point to give you the right vocabulary to find out more. If you can’t get the book, you have the whole internet! Start exploring!!