Saying "bye" to labels: I'm not sure of my sexuality anymore, and that's okay

August 19 | Guest post by Elle
Vial Labels by Tim Holtz Idea-ology
Vial Labels by Tim Holtz Idea-ology

I'm a cisgender woman. I was probably in fifth grade or so when I realized that I was attracted to girls as well as boys. But it wasn't until I was sixteen that I felt comfortable labeling myself as bisexual. For years that's how I identified.

But I changed. I gained a lot of weight, and the fibromyalgia I already had became worse. I started taking various libido-killing medications. The thought of sex, once an exciting way to express my intimacy, became dull and tiresome. Eventually I named what I was feeling: asexual.

But I still found both men and women attractive, even if I had no interest in sex. Can a person be both bisexual and asexual? There are both sexual and romantic spectrums — am I a biromantic asexual? Am I bisexual but just celibate? What am I?

There was a time when having a label to my sexuality was very important to me because it helped me name what I was. It made me feel more "normal" to know there was a term for what I felt. I recognize some people also might take comfort in knowing a name for how they feel, and that's perfectly fine.

I'll tell you now: I still don't have a nicely labeled answer for what I am. And I don't care.

Even though I don't have a name for it, I know what I am. I'm a loving wife. I'm a hard worker. I'm a doting pet-parent. I have a husband who loves me and who accepts me as I am, and that's really all that matters to me.

My having or not having sex, my attraction to people, all pale in comparison to the major pillars of my personality. Having a label won't change those vital aspects of Who I Am, so rather than troubling myself with "what am I?"… I'm busy living my life.

Who else has given up on labeling themselves? Or is the idea of fitting into a specific category still super-useful to you?

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  1. I do identify a certain way because it fits me best of the available options, and I'm definitely not straight so it's important to me to acknowledge that (to myself if no one else), but I often feel like I'm somewhere on the edge of it. I also have a lot of confusing factors involved, so I definitely get this.

    2 agree
    • I totally get this, though in my case, the issue of coming up with labels is about religion. For a long time, I struggled with my inability to identify my beliefs with any specific religion, because I thought I had to put a name to it for my religion to count, but I have thankfully reached the point where identifying my beliefs by name doesn't really matter to me anymore.

      3 agree
      • I am both this way with my sexuality and my religious affiliation, and I'm glad you brought up the latter! I'm trying to become more comfortable with the idea of religious affiliation for the sake of community rather than for the sake of ideals or beliefs, but it's hard because in the church I was raised in there were a lot of people paying lip service to the idea of their faith and who only claimed the Christian/Catholic label when it benefited them and didn't act like true Christians/Catholics most of the time anyway (Oh, you engaged in premarital sex and are divorced but you are anti-gay? Hmm…)

        3 agree
  2. I completely get this because I am living this exact scenario. I am attracted to my partner, a male, and also to women but have very little sexual desire. I'm not sure how or why it happened but I don't know where to put myself in terms of identification. All I know is that I've had fulfilling romantic relationships with both men and women and have a crisis, maybe, of libido. Thank you for sharing this.

    2 agree
    • Are you me? Because this is exactly the way I feel! I'm kinda bisexual-ish, but I don't experience a ton of sexual desire. But I'm married to an awesome guy. I'm at the point where I really just don't care anymore about how to define myself. I guess that's a good thing.

      4 agree
  3. I think labels are only really useful when you're trying to describe yourself to a stranger. Once you start surrounding yourself with people who care about you, labels kind of disappear and you're just you. I never think of my straight sister or my bisexual friend, and I imagine that my sexuality is only relevant to them if they see someone who would trip my trigger. So yes, I have a label, but I don't really use it. It's like my shirt size–just a description of one aspect of who I am, and mostly irrelevant (unless someone is shopping for me).

    9 agree
  4. I love labels oh god I love labels. Hearing how people self-identify is my favorite thing in the world. I totally 100% understand and support folks who are done labeling themselves and find joy in the ambiguities, but as a word AND identity junkie, I don't know that I could ever get over my own personal enjoyment of labels…

    I love how we're all different, and all awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚

    13 agree
    • Totally there with you! I respect the whole "I don't do labels" thing but it's foreign to me because finding my labels has been like finding myself. I was raised in such a way that I didn't even know the words for me (pansexual agender/genderfluid). I didn't realize that people like me were "a thing". Since finding out that there are other "me"s has been so freeing (I'm not broken! Huzza!), I LOVE fine tuning my identity with new terminology, and redefining it as times change me.
      My other big reason is that (as stated above) being out is very important to me. If I'm not out, I feel erased and it's all too easy for people with my identities to be erased by society (in both straight/cis AND queer cultures).

  5. Oh man, I love this article. I struggled for a long, long time to find a label for my sexuality… and I'm honestly not sure why. It just seemed like something that needed a label, and there are so many to choose from! I found that trying to find a label caused me to agonize about my sexuality in a way that I don't when I am label-less, though, and so I'm much happier this way. There are some great labels out there, that suit me perfectly (Feminist! Vegetarian! Pro-Choice!), but there just isn't one for this arena. And I am (finally!) just fine with that.

    1 agrees
  6. Thank you for this post! At nearly-30, I've been doing a lot of internal handwringing about my inability to neatly label my own romantic/sexual identity. I grew up in a super-heteronormative environment, which I think delayed my "aha" moment of recognizing that any labels other than "straight" were open to me. I feel retroactively liberated about a lot of my adolescent crushes, but still feel like a late bloomer… or a poseur (I wear men's clothing with increasing frequency, but I've never been harassed because of my gender presentation.) Anyway, getting the message that maybe it's okay to just relax is good for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    4 agree
  7. I feel like I was done with labels years ago. It shouldn't matter who I have sex with, how I dress, or who I date. Though I've realized the importance in other areas of my life in the past couple years for instance "disability," while I hate the word itself because its definition is insulting, letting others know that I have certain physical limits can be helpful in situations. I guess what gets under my skin is how others take those labels and make assumptions. We'd have a better world if people just let prejudgments go.

    If people want to identify as a certain sexuality, I think that is up to them and if it helps with coming into who they are, then more power to them. Sometimes we give power in names and having a word helps us be the person we would like to be.

    2 agree
  8. I totally needed this post.

    If I have to label myself, I'd say I'm a straight cisgender woman. But I hate that label. I hate being compared to the stereotypical woman. I'm so not. I also feel weird when I watch media because I can't imagine wanting to have sex that much. I mean, I enjoy it when I do, but sometimes my husband and I go months without it because I just don't feel like it.

  9. I have never been comfortable with labeling myself. I have had relationships with both men and women, and I find both men and women attractive. Which is pretty much just what I tell people if it comes to that point in a conversation. It's not something I bring up, because I don't like to talk about labels.
    Many of my friends don't know I'm attracted to women, even ones I've known quite a while. While I don't hide the fact and am not ashamed of it, I don't mention it because it always leads to awkward conversations where they try to define me by a label. Also, I am a pretty private person in general, so I don't discuss my relationships much with other people.
    It has been many years since I've dated a woman, and at this point in my life I am seeking a relationship with a man (maybe because I just got out of a 2-yr relationship with a man?) but I still find women attractive in a theoretical way. I've gone through phases in the past though where I was almost exclusively attracted to women, or even felt nearly asexual for long periods of time.
    My gender identity is the same way, although to a lesser extent. I am constantly going through phases of being more feminine or more masculine, although my default is a sort of just-slightly-feminine. I spent several years of my 20s wearing almost nothing but men's clothes – and just this past winter I spent several months wearing form-fitting feminine clothing, makeup, lots of jewelry, and feminine scents. Currently I'm using men's deodorant because I like the smell better than anything made for women, but I paint my toenails and wear jewelry (but no makeup). I've never felt the need to label myself as anything but female, but there are some days when that hat fits better than others, for sure.

    2 agree
  10. I use the label "bisexual" because it is easy for other people to understand. But honestly, it changes: sometimes i prefer one gender over another, or don't fancy either, or both/all etc. This flux is my norm. Flux also shows in my gender presentation, sometimes i feel more feminine or masculine but as I (mostly) don't have discomfort in my female body, i feel more Cis than Trans. Binaries and me eye each other suspiciously.

    My internal experience is : My sexual physical attraction is not dependent on body/gender (although rejection of gender norms is HOT) but on the person. My gender expression changes. I am totally comfortable with this and I feel really lucky.

    I can see that labels solidify internal experience because it facilitates communication. To the people I am closest to, I describe myself as "non-heteronormative". After all – what's life without fluidity and a little gender bending? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1 agrees
  11. I am so much the same way. I haven't wanted to have sex in so long. I do it sometimes, but most of the time, I feel like I don't even want my husband to touch me beyond cuddling. If he goes to kiss my neck or do anything frisky, I feel an aversion to it, and it's so weird because we had a very fulfilling and happy sex life for so long. I keep trying to think of an explanation for it, but I don't know that there really is one. I just hope the issue resolves itself soon. Thanks for sharing. It's good to know I'm not the only one in this boat!

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