How comfortable are we with our own labels? Or rather, how comfortable are we with how we expect others to perceive our identifications? Confidence in one's self, does not always equate to confidence in others reactions to that self. So what does a coffee shop, an over-thinker, and a phone number have to do with LGBTQ+ culture?
The issue arose as I was talking to a man I recently met; I work in a café, he was a regular coffee with cream and extra sugar. After about two months of talking over the counter he gave me his number, and I was flummoxed. How do I explain to this guy—very cute, hipster extraordinaire, plays in a band, and seems super nice—that I would have to essentially date him before I knew if I wanted to actually date him? Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the conflict of identifying as demi-sexual.
Demi-sexuality is typically defined as applying to those who do not/cannot experience sexual attraction without forming an emotional connection first. More than that, this emotional connection needs to be a strong one, not just a passing fancy. So, in the age of Tinder and hook-ups and one night stands (not that there are anything wrong with these things), trying to tell someone you may like them, but that you’ve no spark yet, can come over as a bit awkward. Then of course, there is also the fun experience of trying to explain to friends, family, and potential romances that no, you are not just old fashioned—this is as much an identification along the LGBTQ+ spectrum as any other.
So, I agonized. Didn’t message, worked the stock room when I knew he would come in, and debated internally about if I really wanted to get into what I was sure would be an uncomfortable conversation, just for the ‘maybe’ of feeling something. Finally, I texted. I explained that I was unsure if I was ready for a relationship at the moment and asked if he would be down to hang out as friends instead—and I left the sexuality talk out of it. Cut to a bit later, and we actually started seeing each other. It was great, and I still had not told him. So, a while after that, when we were in the middle of watching a film and he brought up that time I avoided him; as tense as I was about it, I figured this was my chance.
He was completely chill. In fact, the only thing he really asked was that if I was having those kinds of worries in future, that I talk to him rather than pulling a Houdini. As we went back to watching the film and fighting over popcorn however, it hit me. It had taken a lot of courage for this man to give me his number (putting yourself on a limb like that always does), and instead of being open, I had shut him out. I am very comfortable with who I am and how I identify, but my fear of other people’s interpretation of those terms had lead me to hurt someone whom it turned out I would grow to care for. I was so concerned with intrusive questions I thought inevitable; or, worse, a simple but complete misunderstanding of what I was trying to say, that I almost sabotaged an experience that I really did want.
Living in the half space between multiple labels can be scary. However, if I learned anything from my coffee shop experience, it is that a term does not define you. You are you what you chose to be. Both exist together, and bleed into each other just, as (to stretch the metaphor) colours in a rainbow blend from one to the next. The important thing is not to limit with terminology, but to expand our approaches to others. How people identify themselves matters, because people matter. The important thing is to get to know them, not their labels.