i’ve seen a lot of people concerned about questioning kids lately.
lots of people who were concerned that young girls might identify as nonbinary, for example, because of internalized misogyny. or young gay people who might identify as ace or aro, because of internalized homophobia.
i honestly have a lot of sympathy for people who mis-identify themselves. it’s something that most of us have struggled with at least once before realizing that we aren’t straight or aren’t cis. many of us have struggled with it twice, three times, or a dozen times!
it’s not fun to realize you were wrong. it’s not fun to live one way, feeling wrong and lost and strange and broken, because you wrongly believed that that must be who you are.
but. mis-identification is not caused by having “too many” options.
i understand this concern. i really do. I have no doubt that those examples i mentioned above do happen, very often. but it’s not really any different than my experience, and i would not blame it on any other person but myself. i was a “tomboy” little girl, i was gender nonconforming, i was a trans guy, i was a bi chick, i was a gay guy.
the way i choose to identify is ultimately up to me. i went through the trials of finding my identity in the haystack like everyone else.
i care a lot about the people who mis-identify, and i’d like to offer them support. this support does not mean that the groups that they mis-identified with are wrong or evil for allowing this person into their ranks. it means spreading the message that mis-identifying is okay! that it’s okay to change your labels as much as you want, and to try out different identities, and to change your mind or change over time. THAT is how you support a confused, questioning person.
try to remember that for every confused gay kid who thought they were ace because they couldn’t cope with the idea that they were gay, there was also a confused little ace kid who thought they were gay because they couldn’t cope with the idea that they were just “broken”.
try to remember that for every young girl who has been taught to hate femininity and herself, there is also a trans or nonbinary kid who is constantly being told “no, you HAVE to be a girl. there is no other option.”
we will make mistakes. everyone mis-labels themself. practically no one just knows themself without any effort – it’s a process of self-discovery, and it is painful and complicated. and we should be helping each other.
mis-identification happens when someone doesn’t know all of the options that exist. it happens because of stereotypes, because of bigotry, because of societal pressure and peer pressure and and and.
it is too complicated to blame on one thing. and you don’t know another person better than they know themself. assuming that is dangerous.
present all of the options to someone who is questioning instead of disguising, denying, or slandering some options rather than others. knowledge is power. that questioning person should be well-equipped to think, and try, and get to know themself, without you adding even more prejudice to the list.
concern is one thing, but pushing other people to identify one way instead of another because YOU think it’s right or better (or more likely!) is another thing entirely.
be careful. be kind. and support that questioning person no matter what they end up identifying as.
I identified as ace and gay before I accepted I was bi – a combination of confusion and internalized biphobia.
But I will forever be grateful to the extreme positivity I encountered in the ace community right when I was figuring things out that kept pressing on me /its ok if your identity changes. Its ok if you got it wrong. Its ok if its fluid./
That changed so much for me. That, over time, opened me up to exploration and released a lot of the pressure I felt to get my true identity exactly right, as soon as I could. I relaxed and delved deep until I understood things about myself, and all the wrong identities I used really helped me along the way.
Using incorrect identities for any amount of time isn’t the problem. Teaching people that doing so is wrong, makes them a fake, or that its not an option, is what makes that so hard on them.
We have got to start taking the most vulnerable people into serious consideration, and actually doing what helps them most and targets the source problem, rather than blaming all the symptoms.
I pretty much had the exact same experience while I was questioning, thinking that I was ace before realizing that I’m pan. I feel extremely fortunate that there was so much love and positivity for a-specs back then, I can’t imagine how much worse off I would be if there was as much hostility then as there is now. Questioning can be a confusing, scary time in your life and love, positivity, and support are extremely important. This post summarizes why exclusionary discourse is so harmful for questioning kids better than I could articulate. There’s nothing wrong with trying on identities just to see if they fit.
I thought I was heterosexual for more than 30 years. I thought I had only 2 options: heterosexual or gay (the gay option was never presented to me during Sex Ed, may I had). I knew I wasn’t sexually attracted to the opposite gender so I had to be hetero, right?
Nope, turns out I’m AroAce. I’d have loved to know that before because that would have spared me the hassle of trying to date to do like other people, and the disappointement of realising each time that I hated going on dates and that something was probably wrong with me because all my friends were married with kids.
Now I know, and I feel great about myself and I’ve never been happier.
I thought I was bisexual because I was attracted to everyone equally. I thank tumblr for educating me that the amount of attraction I was experiencing was actually “none” and that being ace is an actual option!
Another important caveat:
Just because a label was true or useful to you at one point doesn’t mean it can’t change or evolve over the course of your life and your experiences!
Identity is not a fixed thing. We ALL explore different ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.