The problem with labels is that they are labels. Words attached to packages in stark lettering that can only be deciphered through the lenses of each individual’s experience. Which sticker “fits” according to our own self view has little to do with others’ interpretations. How we interpret what’s inside another’s Self, based on the label they slap on themselves, varies far too greatly for labels to be unifying. After all, one person’s tuna surprise is another person’s cat food.
I get that. I do. But the thing is, we need to label things around us. It’s what our little monkey brains do, whether we want to or not. I think we fail, though, when we try and make labels to describe ourselves that carry the entire genome of who we are and what makes us us.
Sexuality is hardly the only thing that struggles with this. Politics, for example (at least in the United States), is similarly problematic. You are either a Republican, a Democrat, an independent unaffiliated voter, or you associate with one of several marginal parties (Green, Socialist, etc.). But that’s not all there is to it. All Republicans are not created the same. Nor are all Democrats. And an independant might still always vote for one party or another.
There are these people who cut hair and we call them “barbers.” However, within barbers there are those who cut hair with their left hands. And within that group of lefties, some have red hair. And within those ginger leftie barbers, some have facial hair. And drive a Prius. And are Geminis. It’s entirely possible those left-handed, ginger, hirsute, eco-freindly and astrology-obsessed hair cutters really want to stand out as distinctly unique among the other barbers and come up with their own word (which I can’t possible even imagine because my example is so silly). But if they did and, when asked what profession they were in, answered with it they’d probably get some rapid eye blinking in reply. “You mean like a barber?”
Which is not to say that these very specifically distinct people don’t deserve their own identity. As I said in the original post, I love that we live in a time when there is so much diversity in our understanding of sexuality. When I was a boy, there was none of that. Barely two buckets you could put yourself in. Now, you can roll your own. But, I appreciate Suggestive’s point on this:
I found bisexual the easiest language to pass along a simple message. “I am not straight.”
I would only change that to include, “…or gay.” “Bisexual” means I’m living on something other than either end of a bipolar, black and white world. Somewhere in the middle gray space in between.
No, bisexual is not a perfect word. But it is one most people will have some understanding of when hearing it and that’s not nothing. We need labels because by creating that word we also create an identity that is greater than ourselves. An identity that requires acknowledgment by others. However, I think we need to see these labels as not the end of the conversation. They don’t need to perfectly summarize all that we are. They should be seen as a jumping off point for further discussion. No matter how well we categorize and label, at the end of the day, we are all unique and deserving of respect. Any label is nothing more than a broad categorization.
I’ve struggled with this before. I’ve even thought of myself as not “bisexual.” I’ve honestly hated that word most of my life and have only recently decided to reach an understating with it. If I want to have a conversation about myself or sexualities other than those dominant in the popular culture, I need to start somewhere.
That’s all “bisexual” is to me. A starting point that says I’m not straight. Or gay. I’m different. Let’s talk about it.