Tags are a way for a person to understand who they are and how to communicate them to others. But are they important and do we need them so much?
You may have noticed that LGBTQQIP2SAA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual) becomes LGBTQQIP2SAA. This transformation shows how the Queer community has grown by recognizing and including many different sexual orientations and gender identities, as there are more than two of them. These have always existed, but now in the name of inclusion and equality, we use language to create a place for other identities within an already marginalized group.
We all have roles that give us meaning and direction in life, and we use labels to describe them. Labels like Christian, Husband or Disabled tell us about another person’s experience. They gave us a lot of the labels we use and they feel real. However, some do not accurately describe our true selves, and we use tags to describe and honor who we really are and to communicate that.
Having labels creates community and connection, but more importantly, it creates the validity of all people who feel different than the identities they were assumed or assigned. For some, this journey recognizes that they don’t want to use labels on their own, but it’s still a tool to identify who they are and to cultivate understanding and acceptance of others. This process can be confusing and full of doubt and fear as you explore a world that excludes you. Knowing that this tag is a word to describe how you feel or who you are, that you are not alone or that you are not wrong or weird and that there is always a place for you, a label or not.
Empowerment that comes from recognition and validation enhances self-worth and how a person interacts with the world. Such confidence and support have been shown to reduce general symptoms that can affect depression, anxiety, self-harm, and the daily functioning of a person. When we disrespect and acknowledge who others are, we harm them. We’re saying that the comfortable words that come out of my mouth are more important than them. It’s the trauma that breaks you when you deal with this everyday, which is why LGBTQIA + teens have one of the highest suicide rates. Our children feel so unloved, they begin to believe that existence is not the best option and will no longer be a burden to others. But, when you accept yourself as a person, you are helping to improve their existence and the mental health of your community. You help keep people alive by informing them that they are no better dead than in this society.
Acceptance does not always mean that you fully understand it. It does not mean that you know all the definitions and dictionaries of each group. It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert or make mistakes when interacting with people who are different from you. It does not change your etiquette or identity. Acceptance is just a demonstration of your values. It means that you do not take or speculate on being someone else, that you do not police the identity by asking for evidence or explanations, and that you accept that your consent is not necessary because the identity is true, not opinion. Acceptance means that you value respect for others. Acceptance means that you value your child’s life and well-being more than the image of who you will be.
If you are exploring any part of your identity, know that self-discovery is not linear, and can be a liberating adventure. You don’t run out of time because there is no age limit. As you discover new parts of yourself, you are allowed to change the language of identification, and you can live in truth even if it is understood or accepted by anyone. Surrounding yourself with love and acceptance improves your life, and knowingly allows you to put limits on those who hurt you. Whether you are Pansexual, non-binary, Christian, or Native American, you decide how to express any part of your identity. You do not need to obtain the right to use the tag. Most importantly, you are your own expert. No one will ever know you exactly, not the way you know yourself.
We have a lot of labels, because people are a lot of wonderful creatures, supposedly not the same, because we don’t have a single role, and we don’t have to have all the answers. The next time you venture online to take a quiz to see what your personality tastes like, remember that studying your identity can sometimes be much more difficult and that the only hope from you is respect. Kindness to yourself and others improves your mental health.
So, for the sake of the children of your life, your neighbors, and the well-being of your mental health, reject judgments and rejections to practice acceptance and kindness.
Be proud of your many tags, and if you have them, your Queer tags as well.