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Are Labels Important to GLBT Teens?

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People feel differently about labels.

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Question: Are Labels Important to GLBT Teens?
Some GLBT teens are really relieved to be able to call themselves something specific, like gay or lesbian. Yet others find labels restrictive or old fashioned. Here is a look at both sides of the issues.
Answer:

Labels like gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are really helpful for a lot of people. They give people a specific understandable identity and community. Telling someone that you are bisexual, might bring up questions, but many people have at least a loose understanding of what this term means.

Plus, it can be easier to find a community when you clearly identify as something that a lot of other people also identify as.

But labels can also feel really restrictive. Here are some teens' views on the matter.

Kyller54 says, "Labels are something that exist only in people's head. Some people actually need to be labeled. If they don't feel in a certain "niche" of society, they feel like they can't exist. It's a necessary evil. It can be obnoxious, though."

Kitterytide has a different view explaining, "I'm all for labels. They help me understand the world and the people in it. How you label yourself effects how people perceive you and perception is experience. I've been unsure of how of to label myself because I liked guys, so I assumed I was just gay. Pretty sure I was wrong. LGBT <---- that="" s="" a="" label="" and="" i="" love="" it="" p="">

Bunniez looks at both sides. "Labels have pros and cons, just like everything else. Pros: Labels allow for a sense of belonging, the LGBT community is a great example. They also help to identify people we might get along with especially well, and positive labels can be a thing to be proud of, to feel good about. Cons: Stereotypes. Bad ones that get slapped on people by others. The Jack McFarland [from the TV show Will and Grace] perception of gay men, and the Rosie O'Donnell-Gorilla hybrid that people associate with lesbians."

For Kayne the issue is purely one of semantics. "I would like to point out that while the stereotypes are usually bad, the labels in of themselves are not. A label is merely a noun; a way to communicate with and to other humans that there is a commonly used noun that is able to describe you is a suitable manner. For instance, gay is a label, but so is 5' 6", skinny, and farsighted. For that matter, apple, orange, tree, rock, and ocean are labels for all those things."

But a teen named Jeff feels quite differently. "I am “transgender,” for the sake of identity, but I despise the term, and, yes, it is very offensive to me. The label needs to be revised, or even better, no labels. I am not “becoming,” anything. Rather, I am just expressing who I have been from the beginning."

Finally Katattacksweetheart writes: "Doesn't it suck that people can't just be like "Oh, you like girls and sometimes you crush on guys? Cool." and not force you to have a label? Or that it's even required to come out."

Of course, today's teens aren't limited by the labels of the past. Today we have a whole range of terms that can capture someone's experience. Words like queer, panseuxal and omnisexual are being used by more and more people who feel that yesterday's terms don't quite capture who they are.

Remember, the decision to call yourself something is a personal one. No one should feel forced to adopt a label that they don't feel reflects who they are. At the same time, no one should feel that they are doing anything wrong if they embrace a specific term to describe themselves, or if a label that once fit, no longer does. As much as we like to use labels to help us understand the world, identity is too individual an issue to ever be able to foist upon another person.

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