Throwing labels out the window

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The first time I found myself attracted to a woman I was about 13 years old, watching Step Up in a local movie theatre. Partway through the sweaty hip-hop scenes and corny dialogue I realized I found the female lead more attractive than (gasp!) Channing Tatum. The thought paralyzed me. Did that mean I was gay? For the rest of the film I was stressed out, confused by how I could find this woman sexy and at the same time have several different crushes on the boys in my class.

If our culture didn’t try so hard to define an individual’s sexual orientation, maybe I wouldn’t have been so alarmed by what I now deem a harmless thought.

Today, nine years later, if someone were to ask me my sexual orientation the answer would be preceded by a pause. In order to give them an honest answer I’d have to ask myself: What am I feeling today? “Mostly Heterosexual?” “2.5 Kinsey units to lesbianism?” Or maybe “A little asexual to be honest?” The elusory task of solidly defining sexuality is exactly why I don’t want to label mine anymore.

How could I encapsulate both the subtle nuances and swift emotional ebbs of my sexuality into one or two words?

Whether we are conscious of it or not, sexual preferences are rarely black and white. There’s always a grey area, and I don’t mean the 50 Shades of Grey book you finally got around to reading. The well-known sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues were the first to explore this concept in-depth. In their book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female they explained: “It is a characteristic of the human mind that tries to dichotomize in its classification of phenomena…Sexual behavior is either normal or abnormal, socially acceptable or unacceptable, heterosexual or homosexual; and many persons do not want to believe that there are gradations in these matters from one to the other extreme.”

For the majority of my life it’s been fairly consistent, leaning towards a boy crazy, straight, cis-gendered woman. But, say I only tick the box on Facebook that says “interested in men”—that’s ruling out the idea that I may fall madly in love with a woman.  If I click both boxes, suddenly I’m “bisexual”, of which everyone has varying interpretations. To some that means I’m equally interested in men and women. Others might make the judgement that I’m only curious, dabbling in Katy Perry-inspired frivolity. Others still might think I’m unable to admit my homosexuality. A word like “bisexual” just doesn’t seem to cut it. So instead of trying to find one that fits, I’ve decided to stop worrying about it; because is it really necessary? And for myself, is it even possible? How could I encapsulate both the subtle nuances and swift emotional ebbs of my sexuality into one or two words?

I’m aware of the fact that shunning labels won’t make already complicated tasks like dating easier. I’m also not suggesting we give each other daily updates of the kind of person we’re hankering for. Sexuality is a journey, and I’m only partaking in the conversation so we can continue moving forward. In a world where gay people are still fighting for rights, it may be a bit much for some people to hop on the blind-love bandwagon, where there isn’t just a grey area but a full rainbow. I like to think that maybe one day our youths won’t have to panic just because they unexpectedly find someone in a movie attractive.

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