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Labels in the LGBTQ+ Community

The process of navigating labeling yourself in the queer community can cause a lot of stress for some individuals. Realizing you’re queer is one thing, but the weight of assigning a label to yourself? That might be worse. I’ve met a lot of queer clients and people in my life that struggle with the process of labeling their sexuality. Some people find comfort in labels. It can provide a sense of peace to know that someone shares a similar experience to yours. It gives a sense of community. 

But, the process of labeling yourself and deciding that you fit in the box of being xyz label can create anxiety for some people. Usually, this anxiety comes for people that realize their original label wasn’t right. It can cause feelings of guilt or bring up a fear that they were lying about their identity for years. This can also cause anxiety about having to explain that you identify differently now to all of the people in your life. 

The pressure to label yourself can feel overwhelming at times.  

A lot of people in the community only use queer or gay as a label and I’ve met some people that shrug when you ask them what they identify as. A lot of queer individuals realize that they’re some type of queer in their teenage years. For those of you that knew in childhood, I salute you. You’re braver than the rest of us and your ability to understand yourself is impeccable. The realization of being queer usually comes with a lot of confusion and denial, but eventually we get there. We begin to understand ourselves more and use the label that feels comfortable to us. 

But as we grow and change as people, it’s okay to realize that the label you felt comfortable with at fifteen might be different now. Maybe you’ve done a lot of introspection and realized that you were dealing with compulsory heterosexuality – or maybe you didn’t have the capacity to understand that your trauma making you avoid men doesn’t mean you’re not attracted to them.  

My point is that we are allowed to choose how we identify ourselves and we are allowed to change those labels whenever we see fit. If that means realizing you don’t feel comfortable with your chosen label after years of identifying as that, that’s okay. There isn’t a guidebook on how to be queer (or at least I haven’t seen one) and it’s okay to take the time you need to figure yourself out. 

Whether labels make you feel comfortable or the idea of putting a label on yourself makes you feel weird, no one is legally bound to pick a label and stick to it for the rest of their lives. Taking the time to understand the intricacies of queer identities and who you are as a person is important. This is your journey – but it’s okay to ask for help. That’s what we’re here for.  Reach out to a Mindsight therapist today!

Shelby Case is a clinician offering in-person sessions at our Louisville office or telehealth sessions! She strives to make long-lasting connections with her clients in order to facilitate positive change. As a well-known homebody, Shelby enjoys living a cozy life outside of her time working by focusing on hobbies, spending time with her spouse, getting overly invested in TV shows, or cuddling with one of her cats. 

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