Question of the Week: August 29th, 2017.

Have you ever been afraid to use a label because you thought people would judge you?

In the past I’ve worried about using too many labels. The more uncommon words I use, the more at risk I feel of people labelling me as a special snowflake or asking me about Tumblr in a derogatory way. My discomfort is linked to quantity. I can’t remember the last time I was afraid to identity as asexual by itself. Sometimes I worry because people usually don’t understand what I mean by asexual, but this is more mild discomfort than fear. Every disclosure risks becoming an educational moment that teeters on invasive. I have been afraid to identify as nonbinary because people who haven’t heard the term before can be almost aggressively defensive in their initial surprise. Maybe it means we’ve come a long way in outreach that I am not afraid people will be aggressive about my asexuality.

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is petuniaparty.tumblr.com
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10 Responses to Question of the Week: August 29th, 2017.

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    There are certain contexts where I’m afraid people will judge me, so I stay closeted, but it’s not really about the particular labels. This is generally pretty similar to me only disclosing details about my (lack of) relationship with my abusive mom slowly in certain contexts, if disclosing at all, or similar to revealing my fandom hobby especially my decade of fanvideo editing. I often expect people to judge me not for the label “vidder” but rather for what it means, or at least what they think it means.

    The quantity thing you mentioned *is* another concern. Even in certain online contexts where I might feel willing to reveal it all, like perhaps even on tumblr itself… identifying with too many specific labels can make me feel more likely to be judged more harshly, or even more likely to be judged at all in the first place.

    And then there are the labels or identities I don’t expect be judged for but am anyway, like when I recently found myself trying to defend (to my straight brother and father) that people can be “femme” who aren’t lesbians, because even I consider myself a cis woman who’s femme, and they seemed to be judging me for not being femme but just for my use of the label, but they more thought I was incorrect in my use of words rather than “judging”… So, I don’t know.

  2. Rivers says:

    I’m more likely to be afraid of how people might judge me based on the meaning of my labels, rather than the fact that I use labels, especially in a situation with different power dynamics. However, there certainly are times/places where I’m more likely to be judged or punished for using a label. The only bad experience I had coming out was when the person I was coming out to went on a ten minute rant on how the world would be a much happier place if no one used labels.
    (note: for the record, she was straight, and I have only come out to a select few people, which probably explains why I haven’t had too much trouble with it).
    A lot of conservative people in my life are perfectly okay with who I am as long as I don’t relate it to/or bring up my sexual orientation.

    I also agree that the longer or more specific your labels get, the less likely people are to tolerate your labels. Longer labels tend to be more obscure (though not always) and more complicated, which can often lead the person coming out more vulnerable. Almost every time I’ve come out, I’ve only come out as asexual, leaving the specifics of my experience (including romantic orientation) for if they have any questions or if they later reveal their ignorance about certain aspects of my identity. This obviously isn’t the best for education purposes, but in my experience, it is easier for people to accept things when it isn’t in their face all at once. And then, when I do end up elaborating on stuff, the fact that I’m asexual is already established, so it feels like there’s less up for debate. It’s definitely not perfect, but it works for me in my limited position.

  3. astarlia says:

    So i’m a big fan of ‘everything is a spectrum’. I find a lot of labels really intimidating because i second guess if I am *enough* of whatever thing it is. But I think labels are a really useful way of collecting a series of things that often occur together in people, and so you can more easily find things you relate to and people that can help you make sense of your experiences.

  4. Rachel says:

    I’m already not inclined to disclose being aro ace anyway, primarily for my comfort and privacy. One thing (I haven’t settled on a label as such) that I disclose even less than being aro ace in the first place is that I experience aesthetic attraction to men. Sounds innocuous enough, but given how my aro aceness is already considered “basically straight” by naysayers, that really discourages me from talking about my aesthetic attraction. Having my aesthetic attraction wielded as ammunition against me is incredibly insulting, given how much is misrepresents my own experiences: my sense of aesthetic attractions is very incidental, whereas my orientation is absolutely dominated by my lack attraction, rather than by the one kind that I do experience.
    Also, trying to ply my aesthetic attraction as proof that my aro aceness is “straight-leaning” is like saying that Uranus is “closer to habitable” because it is closer to the sun than Neptune. Technically true, but entirely deceptive.

    • Jess says:

      Just want to say this is exactly my experience as well, and I never thought to put my frustrations about my ace aro-ness & my aesthetic attraction to men in the same way, but that is the perfect way of putting it. I can’t imagine trying to explain aesthetic attraction to anyone, either, because it took quite a bit of time just for me to get that that’s what I was feeling, rather than any other kind of attraction.

      • Rivers says:

        Although I haven’t had this as strongly as you two, I can definitely relate to confusing aesthetic attraction with other kinds of attraction. Most of the time, I don’t find real life guys remotely aesthetic, so when I do, I always have a moment of panic before I realize that it’s aesthetic attraction.

  5. Cracticus says:

    I tend to only refer to myself as grey-A in ace spaces. Everywhere else I just use asexual (or stay closeted). I worry that if I try to explain to allos that I’m grey-A, they’ll try to use that to invalidate my asexuality (like my mum did when I came out to her). I also worry that if I call myself sex-repulsed in front of some of my allo friends, they’ll judge me for it. I don’t talk much about how I’m questioning my romantic orientation either. I’m not sure where I got this impression from, but I feel like questioning is only respected if you’re almost certain you’re an identity that’s queer. Otherwise it’s seen as fake.

    • Rachel says:

      You got me so hard with this post. I totally agree that there is this subtle attitude of “questioning is only acceptable if you gravitate toward the ‘approved’ identities.” I’ve settled on calling myself quoigender, but almost never talk about it because of that garbage. I’m the very picture of “not non-binary enough” and absolutely fear that I’ll get a ton of invalidation/judgment for it from both sides. Makes the closet a lovely place to be by comparison.

  6. Jess says:

    It depends so much on the environment I’m in/who I’m around. I work at a university that is overall pretty progressive and has an LGBTQIAP+ group that is labeled as such. They had pamphlets on being aromantic and asexual last year for ace awareness week (along with ace & aro flag-colored cupcakes) and I feel pretty comfortable having those on my desk for anyone to see. In ace spaces I’m really open when I do share b/c I think ace spaces should be as open as possible, letting people use labels to help as much as they can. But it all definitely depends on the crowd. I usually don’t use the labels in conversation IRL if I think I’m going to have to explain what they are immediately after and be subject to a bunch of questions.

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