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Labels Are for People Who Like Organization

Labels Are for People Who Like Organization

Human sexuality is obviously more complex than gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, straight-but-not-close-minded and the 500-plus letters we could add to our ever growing LGBTQ ... I understand that, at least I think I do. But it's easy to get caught on spin cycle in your head trying to fit someone into the four or five letters in the commonly accepted acronym of our community.

Human sexuality is obviously more complex than gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, straight-but-not-close-minded and the 500-plus letters we could add to our ever growing LGBTQ ... I understand that, at least I think I do. But it's easy to get caught on spin cycle in your head trying to fit someone into the four or five letters in the commonly accepted acronym of our community.

A few nights ago I ran into a former acquaintance from high school. We cheered together for a year and were both very, very straight, or at least that's what I thought at the time. My high school was a 3,000-student stew full of awkward high schoolers whose knuckles would be white from strain if their assigned social grouping was actually an object they were mandated to carry through the halls. I held a secure spot in the totem pole and had no intention of bucking the trend and coming out. I thought it'd be  “social suicide” as they say in Mean Girls. So I dated boys I didn't give a damn about, tried not to hug any of my girl friends for too long and never let anyone know how much I really, really liked being on the bottom of the pyramids. When I moved thousands of miles away to a liberal east coast city I raised my Pride flag and reveled in finally not being afraid of being struck with Janice Dickinson syndrome.

Then I moved back to the town of my high school years. I surely wasn't going back in the closet and figured it didn't really matter because I didn't have much interaction with the people I knew in high school and everyone I cared about from that time moved anyway. When I ran into acquaintances at the various gay bars around town we would generally have great “What? I never knew!” moments and we'd laugh and talk about how closeted we were in high school. Thanks to Facebook and small town gossip, I figured that word of my gayness would spread.

I walked into “Tues-gays” at a local hipster bar clasping my lady friend's hand. I saw Kim, the former captain of my cheerleading squad, walked over to say “hi” and subconsciously scanned the crowd trying to figure out  who she was with and why. I found a really attractive femme looking girl next to her. I wanted to scream “Are you gay too?!?” but for once had a little less to drink and a lot more tact. Instead we just exchanged pleasantries and I walked away whispering in my friend's ear about how strange it was to see Kim out at the gay bar without one of those mandated -- for straight girls -- sassy gay friends.

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Hours later I was still trying to figure out why Kim was at Tues-gays. I searched for her Facebook profile for gay signs. The L Word was listed as one of her favorite TV shows. Not enough… Her profile picture was of her and the attractive woman she was with the night before. Intriguing, I thought.

And then I realized how utterly stalker-ish I was being. I didn't know this girl. I hadn't said a word to her in at least six years. And now I was like a greyhound following her Internet trail to figure out who she sleeps with. Furthermore, knowing she was gay or straight or whatever label I could drum up wouldn't change anything. Apparently, not being able to smack a label on someone I knew a long time ago drove me crazy.

As much as I hate explaining my orientation to guys at work who make it clear they are more interested in masturbation material than my actual dating life (I don't hate men. I just hate the ones at my job) and hate explaining to potential girlfriends that I've actually slept with a lot of men rather than just a few, I need to put people in a box. It's an ugly side of human nature as natural as farting at inappropriate times.

I abandoned my lesbian hunt and let reason grab the wheel, but not before I forgave myself for my  one-woman lesbian witch-hunt. Obviously people are complex beings, but labeling and filing makes life much simpler. I know that every person wearing a stars-and-bars shirt isn't a racist homophobe hell-bent on “taking the country back,”  but I'm probably not going to invite them to the next lesbians of color poetry slam. I know that everyone at a gay bar is not gay, but I will add an asterisk to their card in my file box labeled “straight girls I knew in high school.” Maybe I'm just a sucker for organization.

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