It’s Okay to Not Know Your Labels
Image graphic design credit: Tam Tran
[Content Warning: The term ‘queer’ in this article has been used in a reclaimed manner. Please proceed with caution if such usage causes discomfort.]
The amount of time we’ve (rightfully) been spending inside has given you a lot of time for introspection, to reflect and just check in with yourself when everything usually moves so fast.
And you’re feeling conflicted, you tell me. In between doomscrolling through social media, you read people’s stories: a coming out post, a public declaration of love for one’s partner, a moment of clarity when one’s perception of themself has changed.
You learn through osmosis. You see that they’re using all of these different terms to describe themselves. Some of them are familiar to you – gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans – but some, you have to do a bit of research for. You wonder what the difference is between bisexual and pansexual, what it means to be asexual or aromantic or nonbinary. You learn that some prefer terms that aren’t so specific: they simply say they’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or that they’re queer.
You see people use these labels to re-assert themselves, to put a name to something they’ve been feeling for as long as they can remember and finally have the words to articulate. You read the comments of each post and see others connect with them, celebrating with them for being true to who they are.
You wonder if it’s wrong that none of these labels are able to describe… you.
• • •
Labels allow us to communicate with one another. If you identify as queer, it can help you find other queer communities and spaces that can understand you and your experiences. It can help make navigating personal identity issues a little easier knowing that you’re not alone, and that others have tread the same difficult path as you.
But if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not able to reconcile your identity and your experiences with a label that currently exists, that’s okay. It’s so completely okay to not know. If a label doesn’t feel right to you, you don’t need to use it. You don’t need to force a term onto yourself if it doesn’t speak to your truth.
There are so many factors in our lives, like cultural differences or past experiences, that can make figuring out who we are a less than straightforward path. Our identity also changes the more we live our lives and learn from the people around us.
So not knowing doesn’t mean that you don’t have an identity or that it renders your feelings any less valid. It just means that these labels, which may work for other people, don’t work for you – and that’s okay.
If you find something that fits you, then take it and run with it. If you can’t find anything that fits you exactly, that’s equally as okay.
How you choose to identify and understand yourself isn’t dependent on whether you can define yourself with a word. You have the choice to be who you want to be, how you want to perceive yourself, and how you want to be perceived.
You are allowed to change and grow; you are allowed to grow into a label or grow out of it. You are allowed to know now; you don’t have to know ever.
And that’s okay.
The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous.