THE CONFABULATION

NA­DIA HUQ LIVES IN LONDON AND WORKS IN DIG­I­TAL FOR THE GOV­ERN­MENT

Diva (UK) - - Contents -

Should la­bels be for prod­ucts, not peo­ple?

I first re­alised I wasn’t a fan of la­bels when I was chat­ting to a woman in a gay bar. She was in­tel­li­gent, cu­ri­ous and com­pas­sion­ate, a char­ity worker with a fond­ness for the out­doors. “I don’t have many gay friends so it’s re­ally lovely to meet other les­bians and bi women,” I said, sip­ping my wine. “Ac­tu­ally I’m queer…” she said with sneer­ing dis­dain. I had no idea what queer meant at that point. I had to squir­rel out the word, hunched over my lap­top, but the un­spo­ken sen­ti­ment was clear: we’re done here. As some­one who had only re­cently come out, it wasn’t quite the roar­ing wel­come to the LGBTQI+ com­mu­nity I had been hop­ing for. My girls- only dat­ing app is awash with la­bels: bi, bi- cu­ri­ous, les­bian, gay, (I’m still not sure of the dif­fer­ence be­tween les­bian and gay!), pan­sex­ual, queer, boi, femme. What­ever hap­pened to just tak­ing a girl out for cof­fee? Now we need to lay our sex­ual pref­er­ences on the table be­fore we’ve even swapped num­bers: “Sarah. 34. Hey! A happy-go-lucky yoga in­struc­tor with a pas­sion for peanut but­ter and walks on the beach. Also, I have sex with men some­times too”. Why do we prof­fer this pro­foundly in­ti­mate in­for­ma­tion about our­selves like we’re dolling out busi­ness cards? Whose busi­ness is it any­way? If I like girls and you like girls then isn’t that enough? Our pool of op­por­tu­nity is of­ten, let’s face it, too de­press­ingly small to be scor­ing such spec­tac­u­lar own goals against one an­other. In the past, la­bels like les­bian and bi­sex­ual made com­plete sense. The in­cred­i­ble, gusty women who came out 30, 40 or 50 years ago des­per­ately needed a com­mu­nity of like-minded women where they could find love, sup­port and ca­ma­raderie (and if any of you are read­ing this: thank you so much, you won­der­ful women). It might be that in those days you lit­er­ally were the “only gay in the vil­lage” which, in a pre-in­ter­net world, must have felt like a pretty lonely place at times. Iden­ti­fy­ing as a les­bian or a bi­sex­ual woman opened doors to a net­work of women who felt and loved just like you. But I won­der if the cur­rent pro­lif­er­a­tion of la­bels is help­ing us to forge con­nec­tions or driv­ing us apart? Yes, la­bels give us iden­ti­ties, but they can also cre­ate bar­ri­ers: if I’m “this” and you’re “that” then maybe we’re not right for each other? Real hu­man con­nec­tion holds no truck with la­bels. It lit­er­ally couldn’t give a toss. Love, when it comes, is blithely obliv­i­ous to your hang- ups and stereo­types, your prej­u­dices, narks and chips- on-your-shoul­der. What a ter­ri­ble shame then to thwart it with end­less road- blocks, to make life so bloody dif­fi­cult for our­selves. Maybe it’s time to call time on la­bels. Not just for us, but for the many peo­ple on the spec­trum who feel daunted by the prospect of hav­ing to whack a big, fat shiny la­bel on their feel­ings, to pub­licly and ir­re­vo­ca­bly “out” them­selves be­fore they’ve even had a chance to ex­plore this brave new world. Ladies – if you like it, you don’t need to put a name to it. I be­lieve a ti­dal wave of same-sex love and ex­plo­ration is com­ing. I can feel us hov­er­ing on the cusp of it. And when that hap­pens, we won’t need la­bels any­more be­cause it will be com­pletely nat­u­ral to love peo­ple of any ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der. The de­fault will be that there is no de­fault. Hu­man be­ings sim­ply love, and they love widely. So in that spirit: “Hi, I’m a hu­man who hap­pens to date women. Can I buy you a cof­fee?”

Maybe it’s time to call time on la­bels...

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