BY AZARIA HOWELL

Labels can be helpful in terms of self-discovery and coming out. The feeling of actually having a word to describe yourself can be freeing and gives you a sense of belonging. However, the struggles of finding the right term and explaining yourself to others make some members of the rainbow community reject the idea as a whole. 

Whether or not you identify as a certain label is a personal matter, but it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of LGBT+ identity. It’s okay to not know what you identify as or to not want to use a label. It’s also okay to experiment with different labels to see what fits. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you.

Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick details this in her ‘coming out’ post on social media. To her over 28,000 Instagram followers, she said her sexuality has “never been a secret.” 

“I think it’s rather messed up that if you’re not what people expect, you’re required to explain yourself.”

Giving yourself a label can also be liberating, and can act as a middle finger to homophobia and transphobia in society. Something I wish I knew when I was younger and still trying to figure myself out was that you don’t need a label to be a member of this diverse community. It can certainly be helpful in some cases, but if you feel as if a label doesn’t work for you- no one is forcing you to have one. 

Not only that, common labels in the LGBT+ community are western and often erase the identities of indigenous people. Māori and Pacific voices are often left out from the LGBT+ community. It is paramount we respect and understand these terms. Words such as fa’afafine and takatāpui carry great significance and have been used by indigenous people for years. The importance of respecting labels like these should never be forgotten, as each word is another step closer to knowing your tūrangawaewae- your place to stand. 

Labels can enhance the history behind your identity. It can be empowering to identify alongside the words associated with the original Stonewall riots, the details of the powerful relationship between Tiki and Tūtānekai, or the Homosexual Law Reform which shines through the windows of Parliament. 

But, at the end of the day, it’s up to you.

Out and Proud is a series of LGBT+ articles written by TEARAWAY writer Azaria Howell in order to help young LGBT+ people feel safe and confident in their identity. These articles are published with the support of RainbowYOUTH, find them online at ry.org.nz for more information.

AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots.

Check out more of Azaria’s work here:

Out and Proud: LGBT+ Role Models

Out and Proud: How to Support an LGBT+ Friend

My Journey with Endometriosis

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