Dear Fannie,

I am a 23 year old lesbian who occasionally sleeps with men. While the queer world usually understands and accepts this, I find it difficult around my heterosexual friends. They like to label me as "bisexual" or "bicurious" when that is not the case at all. Why does everyone in the free world feel the need to put me under some sort of label?

Queer and Proud

As talkingtranny addressed in her earlier post, labels make us feel safe. They offer us a little bit of space that we can call our own. They help us form connections with people like ourselves. They help us create communities and safe spaces. They allow us to form identities to rally around. Labels do a lot of good things, but there are also downsides to this culture of rigid identities.

When one defines identities it often becomes imperative to define what doest not fit in this identity. This process of de-identification is what leads to a lot of needless squabbling over who deserves entry into the assorted identities out there. I find it interesting that there seems to be an over enthusiastic interest on the part of straight people in the sex lives of queer people. The ever so politically correct terminology of LGBT seems so clinical. It seems quite odd that we feel a need to develop specific labels and completely seperate identities to describe a man-who-sleeps-with-men, and a woman-who-sleeps-with-women, and a man-or-woman-who-sleeps-with-men-or-women, and a woman-who-used-to-be-a-man or a man-who-used-to-be-a-woman… *whew* that’s exhausting! I personally prefer queer to the acronym, which I think speaks to how society requires non-straight sexualities to be categorized, classified, and studied because we’re oh so strange and dangerous. Hide your children!

And in your case Q&P, despite self-identifying as a lesbian, the fact that so much attention has been directed at the few men in your sexual history speaks to a deeper issue. Queer people, for some reason, have to “prove” their sexuality through empirical evidence. We are asked to divulge our entire sexual histories, fantasies, dreams, aspirations, experiences in order to be correctly cataloged into our proper label. But, we don’t seem to have the same kind of interest in straight sexuality. This kind of discourse implies that straight sexuality is somehow ordinary, uniform, and the status quo. Now, I’ve read enough of Savage Love to know that there are PLENTY of kinky straight folk out there. And that’s the thing… sexuality isn’t limited to what gender or sex your partner is. There are so many axes on which sexuality is influenced: age, race, ethnicity, language, body shape, height, personality, socio-economic class, etc.

It’s not enough to think of sexuality as a spectrum, with a b-line from straight to gay. There are an infinite number of variable axes that run through sexuality it offers an infinite selection of sexualities. So, Q&P, I hope that answers your question about why people keep trying to peg you down like a butterfly pinned in a museum display. But I also don’t think you should be afraid of labels. They can be very powerful, invigorating, and empowering. It’s important to embody the mindset that labels of course help define us, but aren’t the be-all end-all. So saying you’re a lesbian that occasionally sleeps with men isn’t so much of an oxymoron anymore.

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