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Label Mayhem: The Problem With a Binary System of Sexuality in a Society That's Changing Its Views on Love

I am a queer woman. I flip-flop between identities. I have been "straight," then "bisexual," then "pansexual," then a weeping puddle in the middle of the floor (which has occurred frequently enough to be considered an identity, in my opinion). But I have figured out a few things (probably).
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I'm going to get a little personal here, so please bear with me.

I am a queer woman. I flip-flop between identities. I have been "straight," then "bisexual," then "pansexual," then a weeping puddle in the middle of the floor (which has occurred frequently enough to be considered an identity, in my opinion).

I often feel "not gay enough" to hang out in queer spaces; I feel like an intruder or a wannabe. I have had friends "jokingly" tell me that I should just "pick a side already." And sometimes I actually contemplate it: I would just be happier being straight, and I wouldn't have to deal with homophobia as frequently! Besides, some men are hot. I could deal with being straight.

But then I see a really pretty girl, so I think, "I'll just be a lesbian. Many men don't bother learning about social justice because of their privilege, and I don't want to date someone I have to educate. It's too much work. And some girls are just lovely."

But then I see a very attractive guy.

See the problem?

It gets even more confusing when it comes to people who don't fit into either "box." I've dated FTM trans* men, and I've been attracted to MTF trans* women, as well as a handful of androgynous/non-binary people. If I didn't have internalized biphobia and confusion before, I really have it now.

I often get concerned about how many of the qualities I'm attracted to in a person are a result of growing up in a heteronormative, patriarchal society. I am often attracted to masculinity (either in cisgender men or in male-identifying persons, and occasionally in women with masculine characteristics). Am I attracted to masculinity simply because I have been raised in a society that places on a pedestal and reveres all things male?

Then there are all the stereotypes I have to consider. "Bisexuals/pansexuals just want to have it all! They want to have sex with everyone!" Well, that's certainly not me. By nature, I'm not a very promiscuous person, and I'm a tiny bit of an intimacy-phobe. "Bisexuals/pansexuals are just straight people who want to experiment while they're young." Experiment? I'm not a scientist; I'm just some confused dork who has too many crushes on too many different types of people. And if that stereotype were true, then what is "straight"? Are there degrees of straightness?

Sometimes my tendency to ruminate and overthink these issues causes me to sigh (or scream, depending on the day) and throw my hands up; I just want to be attracted to whomever I'm attracted to! Why is this so difficult?!

I'll be straight with you (or bi with you? or pan with you?); I still don't have it all figured out. I spent last night bemoaning the fact that going to Spectrum (the LGBTQ+ student group on my campus) meetings are so difficult because despite the fact that I have a crush on 35 percent of the room (true story), I still don't feel comfortable telling everyone why I'm there, for fear of being pressured into securing a label for myself.

But I have figured out a few things (probably):

  1. Sexuality is fluid.

  • Sexual fluidity varies in viscosity for different people.
  • If you identify as something, it doesn't matter who you're dating/have dated/have never dated. You are who you decide you are, and nobody should be able to tell you otherwise.
  • Don't make assumptions about other people's sexualities. I don't care if you know a boy who has been in a three-year relationship with another boy. He might not be gay (or even a he).
  • Not a lot of people have it all figured out. As I've shared my personal confusion, a lot of people have confided their own struggles to me as well.
  • Living in a binary-obsessed society is the pits.
  • So go out there and make out with whomever you please. Or with no one at all. Your call.