Labels are for soup cans

    Pressure to label your identity can hinder your self expression

    People are not soup cans. Identities are complex and ever-changing and cannot fit on a nice little label.

    People are not soup cans. Identities are complex and ever-changing and cannot fit on a nice little label.

    “So, like, what are you?”

    This question could mean anything. What’s my job? My ethnicity? My species? Surely, “human, as far as I know,” isn’t the answer this person is looking for.

    After asking for clarification, I learn that they were not-so-sensitively asking what my sexual orientation was. Now, a lot of people probably know that this is a huge no-no. There are a myriad of reasons why asking someone point-blank what their sexual orientation is is bad, but that’s not the point.

    The point is that I don’t know. I don’t know what I am, and that’s okay.

    More and more people are identifying as something other than straight, but not exactly putting a label on their sexuality. They don’t call themselves gay, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual; if they are attracted to someone, cool, and if not, also cool.

    According to a survey conducted by YouGov UK in 2016, 35 percent of millennials and 52 percent of people between the ages of 13 and 20 don’t identify as straight, but don’t use a different term to identify themselves either. They aren’t gay or bi or pan or ace, they’re just themselves.

    However, to some people, their label is a key part of their identity. Some people believe that their identity has been hard-won, and that by proudly identifying their sexual orientation they are showing that prejudice has not and will never silence them.

    These feelings are perfectly valid, but the main issue with that line of thought is that it doesn’t take into account the fluid nature of sexuality. Someone who identifies as bisexual at age 13 could later identify as strictly gay at 15 and asexual by the time they reach their 20’s. This doesn’t mean that they’re not ace, or that they were never really bi. All it proves is that sexuality is subject to change over time, so getting attached to one label can actually hinder individuality.

    Another reason why somebody might prefer not to label themselves is that they don’t fully identify as any one sexual or romantic orientation. Someone like me.

    I have been questioning my sexual orientation for four years now. I have called myself bisexual, pansexual, aromantic, and asexual, but none of those terms felt right to me. The truth is, I have no idea what I am. Whether it’s the result of a lack of experience with dating and relationships or the fluidity of sexuality, I have finally chosen to forget the pressure to choose one word to describe myself. I know if I’m attracted to an individual, so I don’t need to spend my time trying to figure out what that says about my sexual orientation.

    Maybe one day I’ll change my mind about that, but for now, it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. If you have been in a similar situation, I encourage you to let go of the idea that you have to have a label to be proud of who you are.

    You can have pride without being a part of the acronym. If you don’t identify as straight and cis, you are a part of the LGBT+ community, so wave that rainbow flag. Go to Pride. Enjoy being yourself without the pressure of putting a label on your identity. All identities are valid, regardless of whether they have a name.