So, What's Your GAYgue?
Updated: Apr 4
There are a lot of labels out there. A LOT. I personally find myself flipping back and forth on the ones that sound "almost right".
gauge (n): an instrument or device for measuring the magnitude, amount, or contents of something, typically with a visual display of such information.
GAYgue (n): an internal and external battle with yourself to discover, define, struggle with, and accept your gender, sexual, and orientational identity as you grow and learn more about being a queer and/or lgbtqia+ human being.
I don’t know why during middle school, my Christian summer camp leaders wouldn’t tell me what being gay was after a fellow camper called my dad “gay” while I was making my dad a choker necklace during craft time. How hard would it have been to tell a twelve-year-old being gay was when two men like each other, instead of leaving said child confused as to why everyone looked at her like she hailed satan? I still didn’t understand what being gay was when they made him apologize to me...
And then a few years later when some random kid called me and my friend “lesbians” while we were chill’in out on the floor together during youth group. I was like: can we not show affection without homoerotic subtext?
Stop making everything gay! People shout.
Well damn, I didn’t. You did.
These were my first vivid experiences with hearing the words gay and lesbian. I didn’t know what they meant exactly, but I knew that the words meant I could be something other than what everyone was saying I had to be as a young woman. Little did I know, there were so many more words out there that I could use to describe who I want to be and discover in life.
"––I knew that the words meant I could be something other than what everyone was saying I had to be as a young woman."
Now that I’m older and have consumed countless articles, books, media, and conversations that are helping and guiding me on how I want to be in life, my world has gotten a bit bigger. Here I say “how” and not “who” because who I am at my core will never change, but how the world sees me will. The same way that there are sub-cultures within cultures is the same way I understand how there are many sexualities and gender identities within the queer community. I even flip flop from saying Queer or LGBTQ+ because let me be honest, there aren’t a lot of “q” words in my vocabulary to begin with and I just find queer fun to say!
"––because who I am at my core will never change, but how the world sees me will."
I use the word queer as an umbrella term for me to explore, develop, and understand myself. The best way I do that is by creating some sort of artwork to visualize what I’m experiencing. I designed this bright illustration using Adobe Illustrator and turned it into a GIF animation in Animate CC to represent a few of the many names and labels for different sexualities and identities that I’ve been learning about and gravitating to.
The biggest thing I do to help myself for finding which lifestyle seem more right than others is to visualize my life according to what that particular label defines. If I gravitate towards the lesbian lifestyle, can I imagine myself spending my time and possibly life with a woman? If I pick the bisexual lifestyle (or should I be saying identity instead of lifestyle…?) can I see myself finding love in a man or a woman? What if I don’t care for a relationship that includes sex? Or I find myself with someone who has more than one partner? I know there are many names for genders, sexualities, and orientations, so what about someone who is non-binary or aromantic?
Identity is something everyone will, has, and is struggling with while simultaneously triumphing over by just existing.
As much as labels can help you find a good starting point in your identity, it can also be overwhelming. Am I a queer woman who likes women, or am I a lesbian? Or am I bisexual and I just find men aesthetically pleasing but maybe romantically too? Do I need a solid label, or can I be more fluid in how I define myself? As much as I try and think about what my life could be like with someone else and how I would want to love and be loved, I always come back to what I want my life to be like for myself now. So yes, I go back and forth and back again, but I still give myself permission to just be me in my growth.
"––I always come back to what I want my life to be like for myself now. "
So, what's your GAYgue, and how many labels did you go through before you landed on the one your own now? Or are you still working on what fits best? Either way, take your time. I'm sure taking mine.
The still image:
Artist Notes: I created this initial sketch during a family meeting that my parents called to talk about our family’s self-isolation and everything that it involves. I honestly struggled with creating a title for this artwork and I know I could have title it "gaydar" or something like that, but I'm saving that title for another artwork...