Labelling the Unlabellable

Labelling the Unlabellable

Oct 9, 2016, 2:05:02 AM Opinion


I've identified with the term 'asexual' since September 2015. It's not something I initially wanted to choose to call myself, but as time went on I realised how poorly any other label fit me. I didn't want to pin a term to myself, but in our society as it is today, that's what is expected of me. And so that's what I did.

The thing about labels is that they only fit us for so long, and trying to change them can sometimes be nigh on impossible. 

Publicly calling myself a person that doesn't want sex was a terrifying step for me. I didn't want to 'come out', even though I knew that any prospective partner I had in the future would have to know. And in a way, I hated being pushed into a class with others that did want sex. Because I didn't, and I wanted to put that out there.

The idea that it was fine for somebody to be that way, even if I didn't quite believe it myself.

In the end, I did 'come out'. I was bullied a lot when I was younger, because many people thought that I was gay, and my main incentive for coming out was to get rid of the rumours that still followed me around. I do experience romantic attraction towards the same gender, but the wrong term for who I was just got under my skin and made me itch to break out. 

Although, being 'out' as an asexual woman did little to help my social status or my general happiness and well-being. My parents forced me to come out to them, after I brought a pride flag online, and I still resent them for that. I wanted to wait until I was ready to have a long, serious discussion about many subjects that often make me uncomfortable. I didn't want to be forced to explain. 

But... why do we label ourselves? 

As soon as someone tells you that they're gay, that immediately has connotations of things that said person may not agree with at all. Not all lesbians are butch rugby players. We make a label, assign a stereotype, and pretend that it is equality and diversity. 

The English language is one of the few (if not the only) one that has a term for non LGBTQIA+ people. The Germans have no equivalent word, neither do the French. And maybe that's just capitalism and Western society speaking for us, giving everything a label, even things that don't need one. 

 Human beings aren't just one thing.

So why do we even bother assigning names to ourselves? Shouldn't our first greeting be 'Hi, I'm Carla and I like cats' rather than 'Hi, I'm Carla and yes, before you ask, I don't like men or women'? Because our sexuality and gender does not make us who we are. It's our personalities, and our loves of pizza and football, Carly Rae Jepson and racy Medieval literature. 

I do agree that there are good points to labels though: finding a common ground with other people, having a shared characteristic that can help build friendships. Sometimes a label brings security - a knowledge that you do have a place in the world. The banishing of the worry that there might be nobody like you. Having something to describe you can be a seatbelt, a protection of sorts. 

But we are people. Nobody is a word. No person can be summarised in a word. Everyone is a least worth a paragraph.

We aren't labels. We aren't just words. There is more to the human race than words.

There is more to you than your labels. And as useful as they can be, we shouldn't solely identify by them.

Published by Ellie Crowson-Jeffery

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