Labels: What are They Good For?

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Author: Audrey Pitcher, Ursinus Intern The LGBTQ+ community has a lot of labels. Most people probably know the five most commonly used to describe the community: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning.

However, these are far from the only labels we use, and everyone has their own opinion on them. Some love using them, while others abstain from them completely.

I’ve always found these labels useful for a number of reasons. First of all, I like knowing there’s a name for the way I feel. When I was a kid, I didn’t know the term “bisexual.” Although I felt attracted to girls at times, I told myself I couldn’t be gay because I also felt attracted to boys.

I was overjoyed to learn that I could be both, and that there was a word for it. For many, labels provide an easy way to connect with other people who share our experiences. They allow us to find communities and resources specific to us, and make us feel like our identities are valid.

People who choose not to use labels have equally valid reasons. Some simply don’t feel the need to quantify their identities. Others may feel that their identities are too nebulous to pin down with a specific term, or that no words they’ve heard work for them.

Some people are content to know what they are and what they feel, and view labels as something more for others’ benefit than their own. In other cases, people are still exploring their identities and aren’t ready to subscribe to a certain identity yet.

The most important thing to remember about labels is that no one can tell you what yours are. You have a right to identify however you want, whether that means having a term for every aspect of your romantic, sexual, and gender identity or using no labels at all.

Humans are messy and complicated and don’t always fit into neat little boxes. Even if you don’t fit the textbook definition of a certain identity, you can still use that label if it feels right to you. Your identity is valid, and you are the only judge you need.