There are so many ways to identify when it comes to your sexuality and gender, but how do you know which identity fits you best, if any at all?
First, what even is queerness? Being queer can mean anything you want as it’s a word that “intentionally seeks to defy lables,” says Coughtry. One definition, however, may be a person who identifies as L(esbian) G(ay) B(isexual) T(ransgender) Q(ueer) Q(uestioning) I(ntersex) A(sexual) A(lly of the LGBTQQIA+ spectrum). Queerness can also be about being non-normative, non-binary or not fitting into standard molds — anything that isn’t cisgender-heterosexual, aka cishet. This can include people who identify as agender, gender queer, gender fucking, non-binary, gender fluid, androgynous, bi-gender, third gender, demisexual, demiromantic, pansexexual — the list goes on.
It’s important to note that not everybody who is not cishet identifies as queer. There is a lot of emotion around the word queer, positive and negative, because of the political ideology it represents to different generations. The word was once a slur, but was reclaimed in the 80s as a positive, proud label for some. If the term does not feel empowering to you, it’s of course valid not to use it. But if “queer” resonates with you, it’s all yours.
But even if it does resonate, how do you know if you’re queer enough to use the word? If you identify as someone who is 95% attracted to men, but is interested in dating women, does that make you queer? What is bisexual enough to be able to use the label? What counts? What if you only start questioning your sexuality at the age of 50? Is it too late to identify as queer? While some people may be “judgy” about what qualifies as queer, filter the negative voices and attach yourself to whatever label feels right for you at whatever phase in life. Or attach yourself to no labels.
Sometimes it just takes a bit of experimenting to figure these things out. Coughtry describes their personal experience coming out as queer, non-binary trans, and how they experimented with various identies and ways of living before landing on ones that resonated. Trying different things can be an important part of the discovery process, though this can be difficult in environments where it’s not safe to be queer, or where there aren’t role models to show you the options. Coughtry says they didn’t even know they could be trans without fully transitioning because they’d never met someone like that in their hometown. For Coughtry, it took relocating to places with safe, queer communities, such as Seattle and New York, to come into their identities more comfortably.
When it comes down to it, all these labels, identities and terms are only meant to be used if they serve you. You can also embrace not knowing what your identity is, regardless of if you have an interest in eventually figuring it out or not. In the end, nobody is qualified to say where you fit in but you.