(Edit Oct 2017: man, I had some hang ups about being read as a lesbian. Yes you may ask about my girlfriend! It’s a perfectly reasonable question! I just don’t have one right now :P)
The other day somebody asked if I have a girlfriend. To be fair we had been talking about my coming out experience without being specific about what I was coming out of (my human husk, obviously), and they had made a guess. That IS one step less presumptuous than that one time a total stranger I had just met five minutes ago up and asked “so where’s your girlfriend?”. So… good job?
It’s such a weird question to answer because the short answer is no, but that does not address the several misconceptions inherent in the question, but I also cannot clear those up for the average cishet, or even many queer people, without lengthy explanation. (This may come as a surprise to nobody, but it turns out both my gender and sexuality are slightly endangered species.)
So, here’s the lengthy explanation for anyone who wants to get all up in my business. You could also not care, which would be fair since it’s really not that interesting, in which case just reread the title of this post and you’re done.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” “No.”
Gender labels I identify with: transgender non-binary genderqueer demiflux genderfluid, occasionally demigender. All you really need to know about this is that I mainly use they/them pronouns and do not identify as male or female, and would not like to have binarily gendered terms applied to me without express permission.
“Do you like boys or girls?” “Yes.” Those are not the only options, and neither are they mutually exclusive options.
Sexuality labels I identify with: queer, polysexual as a subset of bisexual, fluid, gay. Some explanation. Polysexual, not to be confused with polyamorous, is defined as attraction to multiple genders. The definition of bisexual that I personally use is attraction to more than one gender, and pansexual is attraction to all genders. Hence pan, poly, and others, are all subsets/more specific forms of bisexual.
Things you may want to know:
- I don’t identify as pansexual because attraction to ALL genders just sounds like too much of a commitment; how am I to know that there does not exist some gender I really don’t care for? Seriously though, it is because of fluidity in my sexuality, so I am really only attracted to a few genders at a time, rather than all at once. I used to be exclusively attracted to men, but now am attracted, afaik, to most genders.
- There is no word for “fluidity of sexuality”, and the phrase sounds kind of gross
- I identify as gay just to mess with people. Not really. Since both my gender and sexuality are fluid, I am occasionally on the more masc. side while being attracted to men, hence gay. The same is true to a smaller extent of “lesbian”. I also use “gay” to mean homosexual attraction to NBs, and thirdly as an umbrella term for myself.
- It greatly amuses me that I might be BOTH gay AND lesbian. I’ve got ALL the letters of LGBTQ covered.
- I have stopped identifying as biconfused and bifurious, both variations of bicurious, since learning the word polysexual. That was a relief. I also used to describe my sexuality as “no.”
- People expect a single word each to cover sexuality and gender, for eg “straight male”, or even one word for both, eg “lesbian”. Clearly “trans nb/gq demiflux genderfluid polysexual” is too long, and as mentioned, abstruse. Family friendly label pairs that amuse me are “queer genderqueer” which sounds redundant and “non-binary bisexual” which sounds like an oxymoron.
Tl;dr: I’m not a lesbian. Don’t ask about my girlfriend.
Some closing thoughts:
Saying “I’m gay/lesbian/bi” is pretty simple. Just about everyone knows what you mean, and you quickly establish yourself as a member of a community. Saying “I’m a trans nonbinary bi woman who’s celibate due to dysphoria and possibly on the ace spectrum”… not so much. You’re lucky to find anyone who understands even half of that, and explaining it requires revealing a ton of personal information. The appeal of “queer” is being able to identify yourself without profiling yourself. It’s welcoming and functional terminology to those who do not have the luxury of simplified language and occupy complicated identities. *That’s* why people use it – there are currently not alternatives to express the same sentiment.
–Glumshoe on the word “queer”