The importance of the LGBTQ+ Label
Recently, in sociology, we looked at a study of gay men in the sixties. The researcher found that heterosexuality had almost no influence on a straight person’s identity whilst homosexuality had a massive impact on a gay man’s view of himself. Fifty years later, I still think the study is relevant. My bisexuality is a massive part of my identity. I know I’d probably still be the same person without it, but it’s still important to me.
The same goes for a lot of other LGBTQ+ teens that I know - whether it be that they’re gay, transgender, genderfluid or pansexual. The rainbow flag is part of who they are. It’s part of who I am. I have a big ass flag hung above my desk and thanks to the many mirrors hung around my room (I’m quite vain, I suppose), you can see it from every angle. I think this works as a metaphor for life - being LGBTQ+ can influence every aspect of your life.
For example; employment. I remember filling out application after application and one of the questions that appeared in all of them was the sexuality one. Sometimes, there was just the two options - gay and straight. There was also a notice that referenced the Equality Act, and it made me wonder; do they purposefully employ gay people for diversity? Obviously, it’s a strong question and I have no study to back it up, but surely, my sexuality is not relevant to how well I can stack shelves or serve food?
It affects my education too. I study sociology and politics, so sexuality comes up a lot. We were looking at identity in the aforementioned and I mentioned I was bisexual. Immediately, people began asking questions, from the perfectly interested ‘how did you know?’ to the presumptuous ‘are you more likely to cheat?’ - I don't want to be know just for being bisexual. But, somehow and to some people, that is the most interesting part about me. It’s stuck with me since September.
The sense of identity, pride and community that the group of gay men from the study accumulated 50 years ago has stood the test of time. People often ask ‘why is it that they have to have a community?’ - and my theory is that it was the judgemental, anti-homosexual majority of society that gave it to them. Because being gay wasn’t the norm, it became their most significant label. They were lumped together as a group, known only as a singular word. Gay.
And since people’s identities have grown and evolved, so has that label. It’s no longer just gay - there’s lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, genderfluid, agender, transgender. Or, there’s the umbrella term of LGBTQ+ (along with alternatives such as the reclaimed slur of queer, but for some this is not a comfortable option). I am a member of the community but I also fit labels outside - I’m cisgender, for example. Some of my friends are not and as a result, I’ve been educated on the different identities.
So, to conclude - it’s a part of our everyday lives because it affects near enough everything. There’s the history of the label, and how others might view it. We’ve come a long way in five decades but there are people who aren’t quite as forward thinking. Some people still believed that the human idea is being born one gender, and being attracted to the opposite.
But that’s not how the world works, and I am thankful. I am thankful to be part of a diverse community with accepting, lovely people. It’s a community that welcomes people with open arms. It helps people who have been alienated feel welcome.
And that’s why the label is important to me.
Girls, society and sexuality
I've found, as a cis girl, that people find it weird for me to talk about my sexuality. I don't just mean my bisexuality, but people have actually frowned upon me using the word 'masturbation' in public. Equally, I've seen my male friends talk in some explicit detail about things they've done, and no-one batted an eyelid. So why is it weird for girls to talk about it? It's not like women - in fact, because gender is a spectrum - it's not like people who possess vaginas (I googled alternative words and believe me that was by far the most pleasant) don't experience sexual feelings.
My mother isn't traditional or anti-sex - she gave me the birds & the bees conversation ('or the bees and the bees, if that's what you're into' she also said). She also talked to me about consent and all that stuff, but she never delved into the idea of masturbation. In fact, I first discovered what that word meant by reading a Wattpad book. That says a lot, doesn't it?
And I thought it was weird. I'd never heard another girl talk about the idea of masturbation. It wasn't until a sleepover that one of my friends, a no filter, very open friend, suddenly brought it up. It was quickly shut down. Meanwhile, some of my male friends - from as young as fourteen - were openly talking about watching porn and reading magazines they'd found in their older brother's room.
It wasn't until I was about fifteen that I actually began to push aside the idea that it was weird - It's not like anyone will find out, I thought. It was definitely a milestone for me in terms of maturing. In fact, it's likely a milestone for a lot of people. The legal age where I live is sixteen, so for a lot of people being fifteen is only a few months off becoming sexually active with other people. I've learned a lot of my likes and dislikes from my me-time and I imagine that it'll help me out a lot in the future with partners.
Even as I'm writing this article, I'm wondering if it's TMI. But why? Just today, one of my friends was telling me very openly about his sex life with his boyfriend. So again, I ask, why is it so weird for girls to talk about it? People with biologically female parts feel the same kind of hormonal things that people with male parts do, with the exception of ace people.
I try to include advice in my articles - obviously, when it comes down to sexuality everyone has different likes and dislike so I can't promise 100% success rates, but there are a few things I've learned.
1) Don't be embarrassed. Teenagers feel ten million different things and sex hormones are probably about a million of those things. Chances are, most people you know have whacked one out at one point or another. It's a totally natural thing.
2) You'll discover a lot of things. Sexuality is such a vast spectrum and you might find things out about yourself, such as turn ons and turn offs. Some people embrace these, and other people push them aside and find their own thing. That's totally fine. Go with whatever feels right for you.
3) It's different for everyone. Some people might start to feel sexual attraction younger than others - puberty works at different rates. One of my friends, who didn't start her period till she was 17, didn't actually feel sexual attraction to her boyfriend until a few months after they'd had sex the first time. (She actually offered that piece of information for this article, I'm not just typing up all the tea on my friends.)
4) Be careful. Some people like to watch videos or read things of a sexual nature whilst they masturbate, but a lot of websites can have viruses or dodgy adverts. This wouldn't really be an article for teenagers unless it had a piece of advice on cyber safety, would it?
5) Don't feel pressure to do anything. Some people might feel nothing at all and you shouldn't read this and think 'Jazz masturbates, so should I.' I'm a very open book when it comes to sexuality but some aren't. Only do what feels right and natural for you.
As I said, everyone's experiences are different. Some people could easily read this and think 'she didn't start till she was fifteen?!' while a twenty year old might read this never having masturbated at all. My advice is very general but might not apply to everyone. Sexuality is a thing that cannot be forced.
It feels weird to sign this article off with good luck. I think a better alternative is 'have fun.' Don't hold back - embrace what you feel and for what must be the tenth time, don't force anything. That is probably the most important thing to take from this article.
The twenty first century has had many wonderful advances for same sex couples - marriage equality was achieved in June of 2015 and more and more lesbian, gay and bisexual celebrities are coming forward and being public with their same sex significant others.
But, with that being said, I was completely oblivious to the idea of same sex couples as a kid. I grew up watching superhero films where the hero finds his heroine, or saves a woman in an epic love story - just good ol' heterosexual storylines.
I was eleven years old when I first started questioning my straightness, for lack of a better term. I thought I was weird because I had a crush on a female superhero, and I can only blame my confusion and ignorance to same-gender attraction on the fact that people assumed that I was straight - because that’s the normal thing to do, right?
No, not in the slightest.
It appears as though society has taken the legal system’s rule of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but only changed it to ‘straight until proven otherwise.’ People act as though being gay or bisexual happens overnight, or that it’s a choice.
Quite often when I speak openly about my bisexuality, I get comments such as ‘when did that happen?’ or ‘since when?’
And the answer is that I have always been this way. The ‘admiration’ I had for the Pink Power Ranger as a kid? That wasn’t admiration or idolisation, that was a crush. Not a girl crush or a I-want-to-be-her crush, it was a crush, the same type of crush that I had on Harry Styles.
But at the time, I didn’t know that - because nobody ever told me that liking girls was a completely normal thing. I didn’t know that there was a whole community of people who had that one thing in common.
And personally, I believe that the whole discovery of my sexuality and the entire process of understanding and coming to terms with being okay with it might have been a lot easier if I had been introduced to the idea at a much younger age - telling younger kids about same sex marriages and how it’s completely natural and okay might be the beginning of creating a more accepting and comfortable society in the future.
If I could give my eleven or twelve year old self a word of advice now? Embrace it and learn about it. Rather than shying away from the idea and flat out denying it because it seemed so strange, I’d tell myself to get educated on the subject, thus beginning a process of realisation; the realisation that same sex attraction is the same damned thing as opposite sex attraction.
And that’s my word of advice, whether you’re the one that’s questioning your sexuality or the one who might not know much about the subject - learn about it, become more familiar with it and embrace the fact that people love who they choose to love.
Coming out to people - whether it be your family, friends or people in school - can seem very scary and stressful. When you’re still young, you know people might question you or try to make you change your mind.
I was around twelve when I first had a crush on a girl. I identify as a cisgender female myself, so this seemed a bit crazy. How could I like girls? I wasn’t even a teenager. Am I weird? Is it wrong? Is it bad?
The answer to all those questions is no - Liking people of any gender is not weird, wrong or bad. I thought this at the time because I was raised in a house where literally everyone I knew was heterosexual. My family aren’t homophobic in any way, as I later discovered, but they had never said a word to me about homosexuality. I didn’t know how they felt, or how I felt.
So I left it. I said nothing about it, except to my sister, who didn’t care. Not in a bad way, she just genuinely saw it as something so casual and normal, and she simply just shrugged and said, ‘Okay, cool.’
It’s been three years since, and I know I’m not straight, but I’m not gay either. I could be bisexual or pansexual, but I don’t to decide anything yet.
There’s so many more labels these days - bisexual, pansexual, asexual etc - and these can be very helpful and comforting, but also make it so much more confusing.
Labels are such a huge part of our identity, but do they really change who they are? It’s just giving a name to something that we are. Not having a label doesn’t mean you’re not something.
It doesn’t make you any less valid, or any less important. You’re still you.
And that’s a label right there - You.
It’s great if you do find something that suits you, because it can give you a sense of fitting in.
But if you don’t, it’s nothing to worry about. Not at all.
You’re still valid, you’re still important and you still matter. You’re still you, and that label is good enough as far as anyone should be concerned.
I really hope this helped, message me if you need further advice and have a good day!