Born of Love, Drowning of Fear

   My freshman year, I began slowly coming out to my friends and had my first girlfriend. She made me the most fortunate of those who were going through the first few phases of coming out, and she was the first person I ever had genuine feelings for. Although we are no longer together, I am entirely grateful that she has permitted me to love her and has taught me a lot of what I know now emotionally. I was pretty sure I had defined myself as being a lesbian, until I met another individual who I also had a relationship with. This person did not identify as a girl nor a boy, and then the label I had defined became blurred. I was torn between my sexuality being fluid and letting someone else's identity change my own. Now I'm romantically interested in a boy, and I don't want to believe I'm a hormonal mess. When approaching a teacher about my situation, they told me that I was too caught up on labels, and that if the feelings were there, to let it be. I knew that there was truth in what they said. However, I was stressing out over the fact that I couldn't find a word that expressed my feelings or that even though I knew I belonged in the gay community, that if I didn't figure out how I played part, I wasn't really a part.

   Labels are comforting when you're affirmative about your own, but distressing when you're not. Spending hours thinking about my sexuality prompted me to ask: Why do I feel the need to label my sexuality? Given the fact that I don't have a label on my sexuality, I had to ask myself why I felt the need for labels in general. I knew that many felt that labels separate us, accentuating a difference. However, they make us diverse, and if you share a similar label with others, it prompts communities. Perhaps I was just making these statements in attempt to provide some rationale for myself even pondering over this, and frankly, needed some affirmation. Therefore, I consulted others about what they thought about labels. I asked six different people whether or not they considered sexual orientation labels important or not. Four considered them important and two did not. The four stated that they were necessary so others could respect your beliefs and the two who did not consider the label important said that a sexual orientation is your own, and that one is not obligated to share it. No one has ever told me directly to pick a label, but I can feel it in my chest that I need to and I can see it reflected upon other people. If I ever want to speak to a friend who only knows me to date one gender, I catch myself playing the pronoun-dodging game, saying things such as “They are interested in” or “That person is”, because I don't want to confront the situation concerning the gender of the person I'm into. I was more comforted by their statements and the idea that I do not have to share my sexual orientation, but I still wanted to figure out what my label for my sexuality was.

   So just to start off again, I asked: What is my sexual orientation? I researched all existing sexualities, and was completely overwhelmed by the number of possibilities. I was already aware that sexuality isn't black or white, but the grey is deeper than I thought. I wrote down all the sexualities on a journal and started crossing them out. I can't be a lesbian, I'm attracted to the opposite gender. I'm not bisexual, I'm attracted to individuals who don't identify as either gender. I came to the conclusion of being pansexual. However, I did not feel comforted at all. “Not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity”. I knew that the definition fit into what I felt, but the feeling of hesitation in my chest that had been there for months had not gone away. This angered me. I had finally found a label and I wasn't feeling any comfort, ease, or confidence. Why do I feel the need to label my sexuality? I couldn't conduct an experiment to answer this, as it just required asking plenty of questions and a great deal of reflection. I thought about the situations I had made in my head that caused my jaw to clench and my palms sweaty. I thought about the number of times people have made fun of my ex-girlfriend because I wanted to pursue a boy. I thought about the time I spent hours crying because my parents argued that my feelings were confusion and a phase. I was even at the point in which I thought that if I had kids and married a man, how would I explain that I am attracted to women, too? All of these situations included other people, and the cause of all my distress was because I spent more time wondering about other people's thoughts than I spent taking care of myself.

   I decided to ask the two important individuals I had in my life romantically the following question: How do you feel about me not putting a label on my sexuality? My ex-girlfriend said that she believes people shouldn't tie themselves around labels because then they live around it and don't really live life. The person I'm trying to pursue said that he isn't concerned about me not choosing one, the fact that I'm with him speaks for itself. I found both comfort and truth around both of their answers. I had already been trying to fit into the social requirement of putting a name on what I felt, and if I were to finally classify my emotions, would I fall into wanting to fit into the stereotype of that sexuality? Hopefully not, because I look really bad in flannels and I can’t throw a ball to save my life.

   For the longest time, my sexuality has been constantly changing. I am not against labels. I understand that they provide an immense amount of comfort and make situations such as coming out a lot easier. I felt the need to label my sexuality because I needed validation. I felt that if I didn't choose a sexuality, I was straight by default or that something was wrong because I couldn´t decide. What I learned is that my sexuality, or anybody else's, is not an identifier. You get to choose what your label is. You get to choose who you show them to, and you choose if it changes. I am not indecisive or confused, I just know what I am not. Humans label themselves all the time, categorizing and then mistaking the categories for the self. I'm a student. I'm female, 16 years old. Those are categories, they are abstract labels which allow someone to learn a little bit about me in a short period of time. But those categories are also some of the least interesting and meaningful ways to understand who I am. They have a kind of limited truth; if I start, for example, worrying about whether my behavior is student enough, or female enough, or 16 enough, then I've mistaken the categories for the self. If I don't tolerate anyone else debating what I feel, then I shouldn't question myself either.

   Concluding this, I actually feel a lot more secure in my feelings with the realization that there isn't a terminology for everything and that I shouldn't be dependent on a label to validate my emotions. In addition, I am more appreciative for those who allowed me to ponder and rant in their presence. I’m aware that this is still going to creep up on me once the night settles, but this research has allowed for me to be reliable on myself and serve as a reminder that I don't need labels, and that it is okay to require validation. I am ready to reinvent myself and fulfill the image of comfort I crave.

Text by Norma Leyva and Visuals by Tazia Cira 


  1. the art is incredibly mesmerizing.

  2. The second picture made me shed a few tears. I'm in love with this concept, with your words, with everything. Thank you for making this.

  3. This is a very, very strong piece, everything about it—both the writing and visuals