The labels we wear

There comes a point, for me, where I dissect the labels, I affixed myself in my teens. Trans, lesbian, student. Young. I have an ongoing conversation trying to define and be more precise, yet it always comes back to the fact that those labels are not for me. Rather, they are to help others pin me down and define whatever aspect of my identity they choose to label. Yes, I am trans, but the intersecting nature of who I am is a kaleidoscope of fractals that shifts with each slight turn.

This matters to me in so much that who I am to those who see me defines who they act, think, and behave towards me. Perception is hard to shift once it sinks in, and if their perception of me is negative or sideways it will impact me in ways I probably cannot see or understand. This is why I take the time to ponder and think about the labels I identify with, as what I say and write on forms does dictate the end result.

Young is the label I wrestle with the most. I am most certainly not young in any real sense of the word, yet also not old. In the middle, jaded and cynical enough to have had my wings clipped a few degrees, yet spry and resilient enough to rebound and carry on. The halcyon days of always on have slipped into enjoying that extra hour in bed and a good night’s sleep. Yet, my heart still beats a youthful tattoo, tat tat tatting away in its desire to run with the pack and chase every ball down. Young is within me, but a fractal that takes more than a few turns to bring into view.

Feminist is my label of choice, the one I declare and fight for. It comes easy, or rather, comes easy off the back of much work and contemplation. No-one told me that this is the badge you will wear into the next phase of my life, but it is one that I am wholly glad is pinned to my chest. For every back slid step and hidden agenda I have taken many steps forward, and if I could be called one thing feminist is it. Plastered all over my research and life, stacked as high as my books. With pride.

Then there are the labels shed. Christian, shed in revelation and frank discussion, both the hardest and easiest thing I have probably ever done. There are many things, many moments that the Christian part of me did that found succour and solace, yet since my renunciation I have not regretted it. Once it was a core vital part of me, now it is a milestone leagues past. Lesbian evolved into queer. Boy morphed into woman. Centrist is slowly ambling left. Sister becomes aunt. My labels shift and change.

This is as much a part of getting old as it is finding more of ourselves. We are not chained to one version of me; rather, with introspection always comes new ways of seeing ourselves. Trans is a label I wear lightly, for me it is no cross. For many others it truly is the road to Calvary, a perdition through which they are flagellated for cis people’s sins. Mine is the bridge of hospitality, a translation of the inner me into the flash made real, and it is this label that cannot be erased despite what some people may think. There is no shame, no deviancy, and certainly no shade. One foot follows in front of the other, and this body of mine has no need for remorse or penance for no sin has been committed.

Our labels say more about the world around us than they do about who we are. Labels are for everyone else, for is we are allowed to be comfortable in our own skins no label can truly define what and who we are. Our identities are intersectional precisely because we are forced to define ourselves in relation to others, the innate tension this brings perpetuating inequality and injustice. Forced labels strip back as much as they add, and in the end it is a perpetual struggle against labels that often defines us as much as the ones we give ourselves.

At the end we are all but dust labelled in elegy and three square inches. All other intersections are stripped back and the barest of deeds left for posterity. Our personal labels matter to us because it defines who we are in the moment, for what comes next is beyond our control. Discrimination, violence, and hatred seek to define us in narrow confines, but the very fact we liberate ourselves with queer, trans, non-binary, ace and all the other spectrum of labels shatters any attempt to enforce one way of seeing the world. This liberation is possibly the most powerful reason why labels matter, for while they do signal to others, they also help give us our freedom to express the best fractals of who we truly are.

Writer, researcher, and generally curious

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