Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I don't like labels (except when I do)

My WHAT?/those are big teeth face.
Okay, so I know how I posted this really long-winded (and really fun to write) novella about how I identify as far as sexual orientation goes, and I probably gave off the impression that I was somehow against labeling sexuality.  Which I kind of am (at least I thought I was).  However, the other day I read an article that kind of threw me off, forcing me to re-evaluate how I feel about labels and how I use them in a real-world context.  The article was titled "I'm a straight, twenty-something woman. And so is my girlfriend." You can find the article here, but I'll summarize it for you. Basically it's a twenty-something woman talking about how she identifies as straight, despite being in a relationship with a woman (and they are talking about getting married, so we know it's serious). She says she is a straight woman, in love with another straight woman, and she wants to get married and have her babies.

Did I mention that she says she's straight?

I was a little confused. So I asked around (in other words, I texted my friends random questions-- they should be used to that by now-- about sexuality and labels), and I got a similar response.  If a straight woman is dating another woman, she's not really a straight woman. Now, I know that the use of labels and identity gets murky, especially those who identify as bisexual-- often times if, say, a bisexual woman dates a man, she ends up passing as straight, even if she doesn't intend to. Society at large tends to be very black and white on this issue: either you're straight or you're gay, there's no in-between. You can't play for both teams, as they say. I definitely disagree with that. Just because a woman dates a man doesn't mean she can't also be attracted to women, it doesn't cancel out the gay.  And I think we should just all be okay with that.

But I feel that in this instance, the scenario does not compare.  This woman is not claiming to be bisexual-- in fact, she is explicitly stating that her lady-loving is pretty much a fluke. She's a man lover, through and through.

Doesn't that just piss you off?

For me, it can be seen in a few ways. On the one hand, she's trying to have her cake and eat it, too. She is clearly in love with her girlfriend, and wants to spend the rest of her life with her. But she also doesn't want to lose straight status, which comes with considerable privilege in this country. Straight people can get married legally in all 50 states (and um, the world), which comes with all sorts of financial/legal perks. Being straight (and in a couple) gives you a serious status boost, as well. Look at how much money we throw at weddings, how much time we invest in marriage and heterosexual love ideology.  And heterosexuality is enforced and rewarded pretty much everywhere. I can understand the appeal, I really can. But at the same time, I don't think you can claim to be straight while locking lips with your girlfriend, know what I'm saying? It just doesn't work that way.

I would perhaps understand if she just didn't want to be labeled.  I don't really like being labeled either. But that's clearly not the case, because she DOES label herself in this article, she labels herself as a straight woman. This would be a totally different story if the article was all about how she is in love with a woman but doesn't want to label her sexuality as one of two choices. Totally get that, got the t-shirt for it. But the way I see it, she seems to fear being labeled as gay (which is a shame, because I don't think she's gonna get any more support from her family by claiming she's a straight woman dating another straight woman).

I'm just saying, even if you're a woman who dates hundreds of guys and then has a relationship with a woman, that makes you at least at little bit gay. You aren't necessarily a lesbian, but come on. You're at least a little queer. And is that such a bad thing?  Does that just completely shake the foundation of your whole life? No. You're a little gay. Embrace it! We get parades! And we've got fight in us, a lot of us are really trying to make this world a better place. Don't be afraid to admit who you are (at least to yourself).

That said, I don't think that post got any negative feedback-- everyone was pretty much like "Don't worry girl, you don't need to label yourself!  You're so courageous for sticking to your straightness!" or "Your story is so inspiring!"

Maybe I'll post an article on there, entitled "I'm a twenty-something kinda-gay woman. And so is my girlfriend." Would I get the same feedback?

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