Identity, labels and belonging

A couple of things happened to me on Twitter (where else?) today that got me thinking. When I was younger, I knew that I liked girls but never realised that I liked them enough to be labelled bi. I thought there was some kind of rule that meant you weren’t bi unless you’d been in relationships with people of more than one gender. It took a while, but eventually I realised that this was rubbish because, a) orientation is mainly about desire rather than actions, and b) there isn’t really a rule book, no matter how many people tell you otherwise. Once I’d realised that my desires didn’t just relate to one gender, I decided to adopt the label of bisexual for myself. Earlier last year, I pondered the meaning of the word queer and whether or not it applied to me, but I’d not really given it much thought since then. After all, I may lust after women, men, trans women, trans men, androgynous genderqueers and – much like Captain Jack Harkness – pretty much anyone who falls into my broad definition of ‘hot’, but The Bisexual Index’s FAQ has a very nifty section explaining how you can still be bi even if you don’t believe in the gender binary. Case closed.

I forgot all about it, until a friend posted the following on Twitter today: “I suddenly kind of wish I’d gone to BiCon just to learn how to properly identify as bisexual. Feel like I lack identity and don’t belong.” I’ve pondered going to BiCon a few times for this very same reason, but I’m not entirely sure that I’d fit in there. I went to one bi meet up at a pub a few years back and, do you know what? They were all very nice, but I didn’t really feel like they were my kind of people. There were no fantastic outfits or crazy hair colours, no amazing make-up, no feeling of creativity and enthusiasm for the silly side of life. Give me nerds or queers any day (ideally both!) and I’ll have a massive grin on my face. I feel like I belong when I’m at Festival of the Spoken Nerd. I feel like I belong when I’m amongst rowdy friends at the RVT. Another friend posted a link to Effing Dykes’ post about FemmeCon and I realised that I’d totally fit in there. I’d not figured out that the way I embrace feminine clothing could be anything other than ‘disguising myself as straight’. I’d not realised that this might actually be my gang. I feel like such an idiot for not working this out before!

If anyone needs me, I’ll be shopping for some gigantic earrings and picking up my brainy specs from the optician.

Image by the fabulous Ben Hopper.

9 thoughts on “Identity, labels and belonging

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  1. Hehe… there are already plans afoot for a European FemmeCon, although I can't guarantee it'll be UK. I'll be chatting to some super-awesome femmes about this in September. šŸ˜€ šŸ˜€

  2. As a first time BiCon attender this year, I can confirm there were definitely lots of nerds, fantastic outfits, crazy hair colours, and amazing make-up! Check out some of the ball photos – some costumes of total genius.

    If you're interested in the femme thing, I can sort you out a links reading list šŸ™‚

    @lola – this is so massively exciting!Sometimes I feel one of only a handful of femmes in the UK so it be be fantastic to hang out with a huge bunch of fierce femmes.

  3. When I was a student, I remember feeling like a fraud when I was out on the gay scene (too much makeup and cleavage), and like a misfit when I went out with straight friends (too many colours and flat shoes.) I'm not sure if “femme” is the label for me, because although it sounds very close to my style (DMs and fake eyelashes!), and like you, those really do sound like “my people”, I am way too lazy to put that kind of effort in with any sort of regularity! Can I come just to try and get off with the hot femmes/you?

  4. I kind of am in the same situation as your younger self. I'm attracted to some guys (omg Jack Harkness I totally would!) But I am generally (if we are just talking sexually) attracted to women more and more kinds of women than I am the kinds of men.

    I kinda like queer as a label. I feel like bi commits to too much. But maybe like other labels, we are part of lots of different things at lots of different times. I like that description. I'm a total barbarian when I'm with my mates airsofting all armed to the teeth in BB guns and looking intimidating, but I am mostly a nice guy when I'm at Pilates class or at a classical music concert.

    identity is a complicated thing. In a way I like labels because it is something you can identify with. I am shamelessly a fan of OTT macho action films (which don't have to be misogynistic in my view). But I also love ancient greek drama and Chopin.

    Sexually speaking I think I'm a bit more shy with labels. I know what I like but I dont know if that defines me so much in my other interests. Of course, I can understand if people find their sexuality a big defining aspect of their identity (like Bears).

    Great post! You always provoke my thinking. I'm actually thinking about going to a group for bisexuals myself. I'm kind of nervous but they all look pretty normal and nice. Here's to hoping.

  5. @MoreThanNuclear – Even femmes must have the occasional day off, right?

    @M – Labels are a bit strange, aren't they? Even when you hate them, they are sometimes necessary as shorthand or just realising that you belong somewhere. Glad you are enjoying my recent posts šŸ™‚

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