Labels are everywhere. They’re on the things we buy, the places we go, and the people we connect to. In some way, each of us is labeled. Boy or girl, black, white, Asian, a descriptive mix of tall, short, fat, thin, and masculine or feminine are all used to define us by the use of a simple label. They make up everything we are and everything we identify as. For most people, the labels they paste on themselves are as freeing as a pair of wings.
I still remember the day my friend told me she was Bisexual. She called me up late one night and told me she really needed to talk to someone. We made some plans, and that weekend she spent the night at my house. After she got there and dropped off her stuff, we took a quick walk to a park near my house. Lying on the top of the table, she grabbed my hand and told me she liked girls. She was so tense, so silent, and when I responded with a quiet “me too,” it was as if something snapped into place. All of the tension and fear left her body along with a few tears that were shed.
We talked for a bit, and she explained that she was bi, that she liked both boys and girls. I told her that it didn’t matter to me; I liked people, rare as it was for me to admit. After a bit more talking and explaining (and maybe a tad bit of googling) I figured out I was something called pan. And that was amazing. My family never has and never will support LGBT+ and they have made it known that any of us falling into that lifestyle will not be tolerated. If for only a few blissful hours, I’d felt like someone had released me from my shackles and given me wings.
Then she went home, and I was alone. A day after I glued the pan label on myself, I felt the shackles lock around my wrist and ankles, the chains wrap around me and tether themselves to the ground. The very label that had freed me now trapped me more than my own ignorance had. I knew what I was, so I needed to be extra careful in preventing my family, and anyone who knew them, from finding out. I was held captive once again, but this time there was something else bothering me as well.
Figuring out that I was pan had been easy. Your body has its own way of acceptance, and it let me know, with some very obvious signs, that another’s sex or gender wasn’t an issue to me. But figuring out my own gender was much harder. To be honest, I still don’t understand my gender. As far as I know, I am not cis. Some days I don’t feel either male or female, and other days I feel so distinctly one or the other that it’s painful. So maybe I’m gender fluid. Then again, there have been times where I have thought that maybe I was Trans. As time goes on, I find myself wishing that I were the opposite sex. I secretly dress like it, refer to myself in the opposite gender, changed my name at my school, and have done many other things to present as such.
Yet, I’m terrified to come out, even to myself, and paste another label onto myself. It makes me feel sick. My heart races, it’s hard to breath, my vision narrows, I end up crying, and end up having a panic attack. I hate it! I want to admit with pride that I am different, that it’s okay, that I’m not wrong, or a mistake, or a sinner, and that I am me and that is enough. But choosing to wear the label makes me feel as if I’ve lost the freedom to be myself; to be a confused, curious, and questioning kid. I don’t know if I am Trans, or gender fluid, or possibly non-binary. I feel like all of those and none of them in equal parts. I’m afraid. What if I label myself wrong only to feel differently later on? What if I lose my family and it turns out that I was wrong? What if, what if, what if? What if I was brave and willing to try? What if I’m right? What if instead of hurting and trying to protecting myself, I was just me, happy, prideful, and strong.
Right now, there are so many possibilities for me, so many things I could do. I’m afraid that as soon as I label myself, I will have lost that. I mean; think about it. There is no test you can take that will give you a definite answer. You have to figure it out for yourself and just hope you aren’t wrong. There are no guaranties that what you feel today is how you’ll feel tomorrow. The future is so vast and filled with uncertainties. It’s sometimes too much, and sometimes, I wonder if there’s anyone else who feels like I do. Am I the only one? Are there others out there also afraid to label themselves? What should I do? What did you do?