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August 8, 2011 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Bent – I am a…?

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that everyone reading knows what the word ‘homo’ refers to. Ditto for ‘dyke’. But just in case you don’t, they’re oft-pejorative terms for men and women who have sex with others of their own gender. Glad we’ve got that cleared up.

The reason most people are familiar with these terms is because they’re, unfortunately, in common use. And if you’re anything like me, at school you found yourself perving on the wrong kids in class. There was a word for what you were—and being able to label your sexuality or gender is a major step in establishing your identity.

Labels like ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘bisexual’ give us guidance, and definitions for who we are, just like ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ also help many people to develop a sense of identity. In being able to say “I am a…” we are able to define ourselves, giving us a sense of identity within the wider world around us. We know where we fit.
The problem with this system is that only works if you have the right words. “I am a homosexual male.” Sweet. Problem solved. Everyone knows what that means, even if they don’t like it. I can place myself within the spectrum of both gender and sexuality quite easily because the words which fit—the ones which I use to define myself—are readily available.

But what if your words aren’t readily available? Many people in the queer community have grown up in environments completely lacking in dialogue around alternative sexuality or gender identity. For many, it’s never been as simple as “I am a boy. I like boys.” How are you supposed to communicate deeply personal and complicated concepts to those around you when you can’t even describe them to yourself? You’re missing that last piece of the puzzle: “I am…?”
Spare a thought for the kids growing up without a definition that fits, never realising there’s a word for people who feel the way they do.

June had been in lesbian relationships before, but oddly enough whenever she had sex with a male it felt somehow ‘homosexual’ to her. She had problems interacting with other women and when she looked in the mirror she looked ‘wrong’.

Then she heard the word “transsexual” and it all made sense. By the time I met her, June was happily a dude, but none of that would have happened if he had never found a word that accurately described his place in the gender/sexuality spectrum. He used to be an uncomfortable lesbian, but he changed, and is now a happy heterosexual male.

Karen faced a similar problem, not with gender, but sexuality. The problem with sexuality is its pre-occupation with attraction. Its prevalence in society, particularly advertising, makes it somewhat unavoidable;

“Sex! Sex sex sex! It was everywhere, being shoved in my face. I didn’t want it, I didn’t care. And that makes you a freak, apparently.”
Karen was 19 before she accidentally found a word that fit. She was watching 20/20 with her mother when an article came on where a man described the same feelings she was having. After watching the article Karen now she had her word, and it became easier to understand why she was different, but more importantly that she wasn’t a freak. She’s just asexual.

Having to squeeze yourself into the role of ‘homo’, ‘dyke’ or ‘bi’ is no less damaging or invalidating to your identity than it is for any run of the mill gay to pretend that they’re straight. It can cause severe mental, emotional and personal damage. Which sucks.

The problem is a lot of people simply don’t realise there are other options available. There’s an entire GLBT-ABC available for you to choose from, and if you have any questions the good folks at UniQ will be more than willing to help you out. Drop them a line, they don’t bite (unless you’re into that, then ask for Genevieve).


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