Here’s the Deal: People Can Label Themselves However They Want


Alphabet Soup

Last week, The Huffington Post published a commentary by a 19-year-old female, Brie, titled “I’m Demisexual: Here’s What That Means.” In it, the writer describes demisexuality:

“I don’t feel sexually attracted to people in the ‘normal’ way. I’m demisexual (that’s on the asexuality scale), so I honestly can’t feel attraction toward people unless I already love their personalities and minds along with a few other special snowflake qualities.”

Of course, I couldn’t help but notice a good amount of my gay-identifying social media friends sharing the article, mostly poking fun at the author’s “need” to label herself as a sexual orientation that was, in their opinions, “fictitious.” As one person put it, “We’re going to run out of letters of the alphabet to describe people soon. What’s it now? LGBTQD?”

I felt like responding, “Actually, there are a lot more letters that you can add to that acronym,” but I didn’t.

In reality, sexuality is a big old can of alphabet soup with a ton of pasta letters floating around. It shifts. It changes. It’s fluid. And just like each can of alphabet soup has a different amount of letters and vegetables, human sexuality and how humans define their sexualities differs from one human to the next. You’d think we, as gay people, would “get” that.

But I’m not sure we do.

When I talk to LGBTQ youth, or youth in general, they desperately want to express that the one size fits all binaries that our culture has created around orientation, gender, and sexuality are simply not adequate to describe their own experiences. As someone who works closely with youth on an almost daily basis (I’m an English teacher), I’m amazed by how sound their beliefs and perceptions of sexuality really are. The truth is, they very well may know a lot more than we think they know. As simple as it sounds, can’t we let people describe themselves however they want?

Earlier today, I was talking about this with two training facilitators from The Attic Youth Center‘s Bryson Institute. They interact with thousands of people a year, sharing basic information about gender and sexual orientation, at schools, offices, religious institutions, and healthcare settings. You could say that the Bryson folks have seen it all, but one of them told me just last week a middle-school boy mentioned a sexual orientation neither of them had heard before—-it had to do with being attracted to a person’s brain and intelligence before gender. We all agreed that was pretty cool.

Perhaps it is best put by Brie: “I wish adults would respect us as emerging leaders instead of acting like we are inmates-in-waiting … I think once we actually open up to each other and speak without fear about our experiences, we grow into people we can be proud of.”

I’ll drink to that, Brie … maybe even with a cup of alphabet soup.