Well, let’s see. People invest emotionally in their identities. If you take a genderqueer person who has identified for years as pansexual, for example, they are likely strongly attached to both “genderqueer” and “pansexual.”

Perhaps years ago as a teenager, those labels helped them out of a morass of anxiety or depression over gender and sexuality issues that led to rejection from many of their peers.

Then comes along a person who identifies, say, as nonbinary and bisexual. They’re just as attached to their identities, maybe for almost identical reasons, and before long the two begin to clash and argue, even though at their core, each believes strongly in the same values — that gender and sexual orientation are social constructs that exist on a continuum, that all humans deserve love and respect regardless of such constructs, and that judging or discriminating against people because of sexuality or gender ought to be considered morally wrong.

Then it turns out they’re arguing because neither of them has spent time studying gender theory. They’ve each heard negative things about bisexuality or pansexuality. They’ve each heard negative things about nonbinary or genderqueer.

They each attack negative ideas that are mostly straw men. They conflate the label with the person and misunderstand the commonality that lies underneath their labels.

I realize this may sound unusual for folks who mostly associate with highly educated people who cut their teeth on Judith Butler, but I run into people every day who are strongly attached to labels without any real grasp of the history of the labels or how other people might understand them.

Sorry to be so long winded!

I guess what I’m really asking for is a relatively concise vocabulary guide for queer-label questioners that focuses on how much people have in common rather than on how much they differ.

I mean as basic as starting with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender — then moving on to other common labels like pan, ace, gender fluid, genderqueer, and so on.

I realize guides like this already exist, but I’ve never seen one written by anyone with your background and sensibilities, and I think you could do a great job with it.

The need is certainly there!

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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