There was a time when the only sexual orientations that existed in my sheltered world were gay and straight, and the concept of gender identity never even crossed my mind. However, in my nineteen years, I have witnessed so many changes in both my understanding of the world and the world’s understanding of itself. While childhood me lived in a colorless world in which heterosexuality was all I ever had to hope for, adult me is relieved to know the world is not so black and white after all. There might as well be an infinite amount of gender identities and sexual orientations because everyone has their own personal understanding of their gender and their own level of attraction to different kinds of people. The diversity is endless.
But who am I and what category do I fit into? This is where it gets complicated. First of all, I’ve always identified as a straight female. Until recently, that is. Until I realized my gender and sexual orientation are not determined by my body parts. Now, I question my sexuality. At some point in my teens I realized I am sexually attracted to women in addition to men. Okay, that is simple enough, right? But I also realized that, while I am sexually attracted to both genders, I am only romantically attracted to men. So what is my label? Well, a friend recently told me I would be considered a heteroromantic bisexual.
Heteroromantic bisexual- A person who is sexually attracted to two genders but only romantically attracted to persons of the opposite sex.
Aha! I thought, I have finally found my category. Unfortunately, it’s even more complicated. Because while heteroromantic bisexuality may be my norm, I was actually romantically attracted to one girl at this one time. Not to mention, I have a stronger, general attraction to men. So if my sexuality is this inconsistent, this complicated, does that completely shatter my label?
And what about gender identity? I identify as female. But there were times in high school when I was genuinely confused about my gender identity despite not knowing anything about that concept. In my early teens, I looked up to my older brother. I wanted short hair like him. I wanted to learn to skate like him. I wanted to wear baggy shorts and band tees. I wanted to sag my pants and walk like a guy. Some of these things, I did, and some things I just couldn’t do because they were not socially acceptable. Even now, to me, gender is not so distinct. Most days I feel like a girl. I want to look cute and light and girly. Then there’s those odd days when I just feel like putting on a big shirt, cutting off my hair, and not caring what people think. So what is the label for that? What is the label for not fitting into labels?
I think labels are necessary to an extent. I mean, you kind of need to know what someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity are in order to respect their preferences. However, you don’t really need to know someone’s label. It might be necessary to know whether or not the person you like is into your gender but it’s not totally necessary to know their exact label (gay, straight, etc.). For example, I don’t need to tell people I’m a heteroromantic bisexual. I can just explain my preferences and that will suffice.
The fact is there will never be enough categories. Every single, individual person is different. We can keep adding all these different terms to the spectrum and these terms will work for some people while others will still not identify with any of these terms. Having these distinct terms and categories has been necessary for many to separate themselves from a seemingly straight majority. But the world is changing ever so slowly. People are becoming more accepting of each other. We can only hope that someday we won’t need distinct labels because everyone will just assume that everyone is different. Of course, we will still need to know each other’s preferences but we won’t need to come up with terms like heteroromatic bisexual because, at that point, we will have given up trying to name every last human being’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Seriously, do we really want to give a specific name to the preference of each one of the seven billion people on this Earth? It’s simply too much work. This is a similar problem to racial categories. We can try to categorize people by race but how do we do that when, first of all, race doesn’t exist, and, second of all, everyone is mixed. For instance, I’m Native American, Mexican, Mayan, German, Spanish, Irish, English, and probably even more I will never know of. What race am I then? Try and categorize me but you can’t. Try to categorize yourself but you can’t. I don’t, you don’t, we don’t belong to any race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. People can’t be categorized and someday we won’t have to be.
Photo by May S. Young