The Matter of Labels

Aug 3, 2016 | 2016 Summer - Labels, Articles

By Keira Edwards-Huolohan

I started with the label straight. Then, when I found out that you could be something else, I did away with labels. I thought, what’s the point of a label? Why should I have to call myself something to make others more comfortable? A label would only allow them to put me in a little pigeonhole, to ascribe to me certain ways of being based on that label.

It turns out people will do that anyway. We seem to be a lot more comfortable when we have labels for people; it helps us figure out where those people fit and, in turn, where we fit in relation to others.

I originally rejected the label bisexual, believing that I did not fit the (rather biphobic) criteria that I thought a bisexual had to fulfill:

  • has a relationship with a man and a woman (before I knew that other, non-binary, genders existed)
  • wants to have sex with everyone
  • is a rather sexual being.

I also thought that bisexuals were just people who “hadn’t decided” yet, and I wanted to be “decided.”

It was online, through places like Tumblr, that I first discovered the label pansexual. It was defined as a person who could have a romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person regardless of their gender. I thought that fit me pretty well. I’d recently taken on the label of genderqueer, so no longer thought that the label bisexual included people like me (I had been told that bi=two=cis men and cis women). If it didn’t include me, how could I be a part of it? I was still engaging in biphobic thoughts, just of a different nature.

It was not until the last couple of years that I realized that I was being biphobic. This was, again, thanks to online media. After a lot of reading, I did away with the biphobic ways of thinking and took on the label of bisexual for myself. It felt powerful, taking on that label and knowing where I belonged in the community. Just as the label genderqueer had helped me to find a place for myself outside of our binary world, the label bisexual helped me to find a place outside of heteronormativity.

For some reason, the label pansexual never did this for me; it felt much like when I had said that I “had no label.” I can’t put my finger on it, but for me it didn’t feel as definite as bisexual. These labels have been important for me in forming my identity and finding community. They have allowed me to find people with similar experiences, and to figure out where I “fit.”

Keira is a bisexual genderqueer person living in Australia. They spend their spare time making ‘zines, studying for a Master in Human Rights degree and reading comics.

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