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Why labels hurt the LGBTQ+ community

Updated Wednesday, September 21 at 1:20 PM: A previous version of this article published with the incorrect name of the author. The author of this piece is contributing writer Anika Nacey.

When it comes to gender, sexuality and romantic attraction, we live in a world of shifting values. As a whole, things are definitely improving. Gay marriage is legal in the United States, the transgender population is beginning to be recognized and more wholesomely represented and gender expression is viewed through a less binary lens, especially in communities like Westminster’s.

Not everything is perfect, though. The world has not embraced these populations as a whole, and I’ve noticed a certain pressure even in the LGBTQ+ community.

There is an unspoken rule that everyone needs to identify as something. And even if that identification is as straightforward as heterosexual and cisgender with no inclination towards polyamory, those labels exist and are perceived as something almost essential to that person’s identity.

As the LGBTQ+ community builds, people find more ways to mock the varied representations of gender identity and sexuality. I would like to propose that we move beyond the labels. Of course, there is value in having something to identify as, especially for those individuals trying to determine where exactly they fit in the world.

Wouldn’t it be better, though, if we focused our efforts on normalizing every sexuality, every gender identity and every lifestyle choice—be it the way we dress or our choices to wear makeup or not—without the need to file every single one of these choices into a category? Labels restrict all our ability to fully come to grips with our true selves.

For example, how many cases have there been of bisexual individuals being dismissed as “confused,” even by other members of the community? Especially when they are part of monogamous relationships, which supposedly reveal what they “really” identify as—be that gay or straight. Even those who “strictly” identify as only gay or straight often have sexual experiences that don’t fit within that label.

Why, instead, can’t we just move past the ideas of gay, straight and bisexual completely, allowing these relationships to exist as they are, no matter who else those people may have dated or may date in the future? This openness to just letting people live as they will would not only set the stage for a more wholesome community but would also allow for the social rights movement to be a stronger, more united group.

Instead of fighting for transgender rights, gay rights, rights for those in polyamorous or polyromantic relationships and countless others, could we just fight for the rights of people? Let everyone use the bathroom they are most comfortable in, let everyone marry who they wish, give everyone access to employment, equal wages and opportunities no matter what.

Sexuality has been accepted for a long time as a spectrum; we should treat it like that instead of hoping to come up with a neat set of categories and fit everyone into one of those boxes.

What’s the bigger issue—respect for everyone’s rights as individuals or fighting for the chance for people to disrespect others under the correct label?

We can’t erase bigotry. But if we unite as a community and stop forcing each other to find a label, we can create a stronger force and hopefully achieve the next big step on the road to equal rights.

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  1. Okay, I see you, but not quite about this. There is power in identifying as a label, taking that otherness and owning up to it. Also, this main idea definitely seems to lack a certain intersectional lense and perspective. I would also argue that even though states are forced to be ok with the idea of gay people getting married, we are a long ways off of being able to shed the otherness we embody.

  2. I understand the intent, but it’s missing the key factor for why labels exists, as a way to signify you aren’t alone. This is especially important in the ace community, because it is so marginalized. If it wasn’t for the label, I would think I was some freak of nature that just doesn’t connect properly to other people. That’s a very isolating and damaging way to think. However, because I found the label I know it’s not just me. That this is real and just as normal as any other sexuality


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