The Limitations of Labels

It’s human nature to try to make sense of things. To try to put things into organized boxes so that understanding them becomes easier. And in a lot of cases labels can be beneficial. They can create a sense of community and belonging, which for some is all they’ve ever wanted. There comes a point, however, where labels become limitations.

One interesting group in regards to labels is the LGBTQIA community, which in and of itself is just a series of labels, which (if you don’t know) stand for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. These are the umbrella labels under which people can identify. I, myself, identify as both gay and queer. Queer can mean different things to different people, but for me it’s the best to describe my sexual orientation because of its diversity. When I describe myself as a queer man I am not only saying that I identify as homosexual, but I also try to rid myself of the societally imposed ideas of masculinity and femininity and simply be me.

English comedian, writer, and actor Eddie Izzard is someone that I really admire. He is someone that I would consider to be under the queer umbrella, but not because of his sexual orientation. He identifies as a straight man, or more accurately a, “straight transvestite”, or a “male lesbian”. Eddie Izzard is someone who doesn’t ascribe to any societal pressures of proper masculinity or femininity. In an interview Izzard was asked why he was wearing women’s clothing, to which he gave the most glorious response: “They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.” To me, queer is an extremely freeing label because of its ambiguity and mystery, but it frustrates a lot of people who hear it because they don’t understand it right away.

Dating in the LGBT+ community is sort of like finding a job; you either do it online, or you have a reference. And while I love many aspects of online dating, one thing that I find incredibly frustrating is the absurd abuse and misuse of labels.

Communities according to the dating app Scruff: Bear, Geek, Daddy, Muscle, Chub, Chaser, Guy Next Door, Leather, Poz, Discreet, Jock, Queer, Military, Bisexual, College, Transgender, Drag, Twink.

Eighteen labels…eighteen fucking labels in one app. Some may view this as a good thing, to be all-inclusive, to think “yeah that’s great there’s something there for everyone.” I disagree. You can use filters on the app to search for people who describe themselves using these communities, to hone in on those that horn you up. I’m probably biased because I don’t feel that I fit into any of these communities, aside from queer, but even gay men are frustrated by this word. I often find myself being asked if I’m “super feminine”, or if I’m a “queen”, or “princess” (in a derogatory sense) because I describe myself as “queer”. And my answer is usually to congratulate them, because it’s so hard to find a homophobic homo (actually not really). If I’m such a queen, then why are you wearing your ass as a crown?

The Gay community is known for sharing so much love, for including everyone with open arms. However, a large portion of gay men use these labels as defining characteristics and pride themselves on being in that “tribe.” They will often tell people that try to fit into those labels that they’re wrong, and not welcome. I’ve been told that I’m too fat to be a twink, not hairy enough to be a cub, too skinny to be a bear, not techie enough to be a geek, and not muscular enough to be a jock. It’s unfortunate that vanity in the gay community is so pervasive. Because when labels become so confined, they become harder and harder to fit into, sort of like jamming a triangle peg into a square hole. So because of the restrictive nature of these labels, I felt like I wasn’t attractive to anyone. Everyone was looking for something, and it wasn’t me.

It has taken a lot to become comfortable with myself. I was the kid who wore t-shirts in the pool because I was so self-conscious about being heavier than other kids. And now as an adult I’m not heavy enough, or thin enough? What kind of fucked up Goldilocks parallel is this? Like I said, I may be an exception because I’m not a perfect fit in any of the gay “tribes”. To be honest, it really took a toll on my self-esteem for a while, but I have come to love my body. I’m 6’4” and 220lbs, and have twice that amount of love to give. I am really happy that I don’t quite fit in, because it’s challenged me to find validation from within myself. I couldn’t turn to a group to seek approval, so I had to create it, and because of that I have a much stronger sense of self than if I had fit perfectly into a gay tribe.

 

Much love & many adventures,

Wolfe