Opinion: Sexuality Micro-labels Complicate Teen Identity

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Since the mid-19th century when the word “homosexual” was first put into use, the LGBTQ+ community has struggled to find the correct way to approach the use of labels—or in some cases—micro-labels.

Although the LGBTQ+ community is viewed as one of the most accepting groups of people, recently there have been uptakes in the amount of bullying within itself. The trials and tribulations of being LGBTQ+ and facing discrimination from homophobes is hard enough, but when it comes from the community itself it can become too much to handle.

Unfortunately, a person being LGBTQ+ does not mean that they are accepting of everyone. Lesbophobia, a hybrid of sexism and homophobia, is present even in LGBTQ+ people. Fetishization is one of the biggest problems in the LGBTQ+ community, with the word “lesbian” being one of the top terms searched on pornography sites, but actual lesbian relationships often being frowned upon. Along with this, the phrase “gold star lesbian” started to appear in 2016. This terms simply means a lesbian who has never had a relationship with a man, and is commonly used to “gatekeep” people from the LGBTQ+ community. Since sexuality is fluid, there is no reason to try to invalidate others for experimenting and finding what works best for them.

Some argue that micro-labels allow people to tag themselves as something more accurate, but if one unpacks the umbrella terms they fall under, it shows that these labels are simply another method to further separate the LGBTQ+ community from each other. Omnisexual, polysexual, skoliosexual, and more could be examples of bisexuality erasure. Bisexual, “sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender,” is an umbrella term used by people who experience attraction to multiple genders.

Different from pansexuals, who are considered “gender-blind” and experience attraction regardless of gender, bisexuals can be attracted to girls, boys, non-binary individuals, or others who do not identify on the gender spectrum. So, these micro-labels seem to be very similar to their umbrella terms. For example, skoliosexual is the attraction to solely non-binary and transgender people. However, this means that they experience attraction to multiple genders and therefore fall into the category of bisexual.

The argument that the term bisexual excludes transgender people has been used for years as an excuse for biphobia, but it just isn’t correct. The answer is easy: transgender boys are boys, and transgender girls are girls. So, if a teenager identifies as bisexual and is attracted to both boys and girls, transgender people are included in those categories. The fact that the term skoliosexual was created to mark attraction to transgender people clearly seems to be another version of fetishization and dehumanization of transgender people.

Unfortunately, over-complication of teenagers’ identity is something that happens frequently. Overthinking is a symptom of anxiety, which is a mental health disorder that 25% of LGBTQ+ youth suffer from.The human brain isn’t even fully functional and formed until the age of 25 years old, so it makes sense that teenagers need time to figure themselves out. Sexuality labels could be comforting to some, but it has been shown to change over time, so it shouldn’t be another thing weighing down on teenage brains. Micro-labels are something to look into and see whether they are truly necessary or not.

Through Teen Lenses: Do you believe that sexuality labels are a complication to teenagers’ identities today?

Labels give a sense of security to kids who are confused about new feelings, and it helps them feel like they are a part of a large community. Paige Hartley, 16, Year 11, England
I think that labels like lesbian or queer create communities where people who identify as different to the social norm can find and meet people who feel the same way as them and they can learn to love themselves for who they are and not feel ashamed of that. I also think that if someone has yet to find a label they’re comfortable with or never finds a label they’re comfortable with, then that should be respected and treated the same. Overall I’d say that sexuality labels don’t complicate teenage identities, they allow us to discover and understand ourselves better. Lauren, 14, Year 9, England
Teens who label themselves as a specific sexuality may tend to feel forced to adopt certain stereotypes or to act a certain way to fit in with their labels. This could make them feel pressured or invalidated if they fail to do so. On the other hand, sexuality labels could also bring a sense of security to curious teens who are still exploring the sexuality spectrum. This way, teens have an easier way to figure out and identify who they are by sexuality labels. Hannah, 18, Form 6, Malaysia
Labels serve different purposes for different people. Some teenagers feel that labels help them feel more comfortable, while others think they are restricting. In adolescence, sexuality is often something that is highly questioned by many and also very fluid. Pressure on teenagers to label themselves and their sexualitites forces them to fit their sexuality into a box that might not even work out in the long term and serve no real purpose. Kelly Ji, 15, Rising Junior at Wootton High School