In the past few years, there’s been a surge in new terminology and identity labels. Let’s talk about why labels matter and the LGBTQIA+ community:
- Labels Describe, Not Define
Having a word for your identity means you can describe who you are to others. If you don’t have the language to describe how you feel, you can’t articulate it to others. This can be incredibly isolating for trans people. However, labels can change over time, and that is okay. Sexual orientation and gender identity are fluid, and can change over time, and the language you use to describe your experiences is allowed to change to reflect that.
- Finding a Community
Discovering that there is a word for your experience can be an extreme relief for queer people. Not only can you finally describe what you’re feeling, but you can then find a community of people who share a similar identity and experience. Having peer support can help to reduce internalised shame and promote better wellbeing.
- But Why All These New Words?
While these identities have always existed, there haven’t always been the words for us to describe ourselves and find a community. Thanks to the internet, social media, and greater societal acceptance, the language and terminology is developing to create new communities.
- But I Don’t Want to Label Myself!
That’s okay too! If you don’t feel a deep connection to any label, you don’t have to label yourself. However, please do respect the language and terminology that others use for themselves. For others, labels can be a very important and deeply-felt part of their identity.
- What Are Some Common Labels?
- Gay: attraction to persons of the same gender.
- Bisexual: attraction to two or more genders.
- Pansexual: attraction to individuals regardless of sex or gender identity.
- Asexual: a term for someone who does not experience sexual attraction
- Aromantic: a term for someone who does not experience romantic attaction
- Queer: an umbrella term for a wide range of non-conforming gender identities and sexual orientations
- Demisexual: a term for someone who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone.
- Transgender: an umbrella term that describes a wide range of gender identities where an individual’s gender identity is incongruent with their assigned sex at birth.
- Cisgender: a description of a person whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth
- Trans man: assigned female at birth and identifies as male.
- Trans woman: assigned male at birth and identifies as female.
- Non-binary: an umbrella term for a person, regardless of assignment at birth, who identifies as a gender that is not exclusively male or female.
- Agender: does not identify with any gender
- Bigender: identifies as fluctuating between the two binary genders (male and female)
- Genderqueer: identifies as a gender not exclusively male or female (often used interchangeably with non-binary)
- Demigirl: identifies as partially, but not exclusively female
- Demiboy: identifies as partially, but not exclusively male
- Trans masculine: assigned female at birth and identifies more strongly with masculinity. This includes trans men, demiboys, and other masculine-of-centre genders.
- Trans feminine: assigned male at birth, but identifies more strongly with femininity. This includes trans women, demigirls, and other feminine-of-centre genders.
For me, finding the words to describe what I was feeling was an incredible relief. I’d spent my whole life knowing I was a boy, but not knowing that it was possible to do something about my body to make it align with my mind. In the absence of a label for my identity, I had other labels like ‘freak’ and ‘dyke’ thrust upon me, which was negative and damaging.
When I stumbled upon the word ‘transgender’, I felt like a weight was lifted. I thought I’d have to live my entire life miserable and uncomfortable in my own skin. Once I knew the word for what I was feeling, I used the internet to find role models, resources, and information. I went from being completely alone in the world to finding an entire online community in less than a day. Discovering that there’s a word for what you’re feeling can bring with it an immense feeling of relief and connection. Labels aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they can save lives.