Thursday, 6 February 2014

Confusing labels cause fights!


Did you hear that Scotland passed the Equal Marriage law yesterday?! 

Yay, now I can get married! 

Well, almost. Now I would just like Finland to follow this example.

Rainbow flag at our university's societies' building!

Okay, because I wasn't going to go wedding dress shopping right now, I thought I'd write a little rant about a completely different topic. Is this even going to be a rant? Aren't you supposed to be angry at someone when you have a rant? I don't feel angry. And I actually really hope I won't offend anyone. I just want to bring these things up, so that they could be discussed. But this is partly about how people seem to get very offended by everything these days. 

People find it natural to label everything. So I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about labels we have for different genders and sexual orientations.

I got inspired to write this post after I read tau's blog post (in Finnish). She wrote about how very few people know about her pansexuality, because she's in a relationship with a boy, and doesn't really see why she should come out to everyone she meets. She also points out that in order to even talk about her feelings or orientation, she needs to pick a box and stand in it.

And she chose pansexuality. This made me want to write about pansexuality.

Picture from

Do you know what "pansexual" means?

Does anyone know?

Is pansexuality just the ultimate category for those who got tired of questioning and finally felt that they don't really mind what gender their partners represent? Or is it just a fancy word for bisexuality that some people use to confuse people? Is it a fashion trend?

It could be any of those things, but probably for most pansexuals it's not. It could be a conversation starter. If you ask about their sexual orientation, and they reply pansexual, then they've only told you that gender is not important to them when they are looking for a partner. But you still haven't got an answer to what kind of people they're interested in.

But why do you need to have a label? Why can't people just be people?

I used to label myself pansexual when it was less acceptable for me to just be gay. It was important to have a label, because people would keep asking questions. I'm still bitter that I had to fill a form to university where the options were:

Gay man
Prefer not to say 

Because back then I had a boyfriend, I felt that I couldn't really tick the lesbian box. I was kind of tempted to claim that I was a gay man just because I didn't see the point for separating "gay men" and "lesbians" when the other groups were grouped together and when there was a separate question for my gender next to it. And I didn't want to choose the last option, because I really preferred to tell them that I was LGBT since they were asking. In the end I answered "bisexual" although I felt that that label didn't really describe me. And later I realised how unfair it was for all the bisexuals that I would even call myself bisexual. 

There's enough biphobia without me jumping around as a bad example. 

"You can't like both genders, they'll all eventually just go back to men/women."

"Bisexuality is just a phase before they come out as gay." 

I don't want to make it worse and just ticked the lesbian box the next time I had to fill the same form. It felt a lot better.

Maybe everyone who identifies as a pansexual has their own definition for the term?

Oh, there are so many different kinds of pans.

I kind of feel like it's a term for people who feel that love doesn't depend on the gender. Which according to my little and naïve worldview describes everyone. Gender is just one aspect of a person and there are so many other qualities. But gender can be important for some people, whereas others find other characteristics more interesting. It's all about what characteristics people are attracted to, and it can be difficult to define them. Especially if gender expression is not that important for you.

But awkwardly the term "pansexuality" kind of means that you're possibly attracted to everyone. Which for most pansexuals probably isn't the case. But then you run out of labels to describe your orientation. Pansexuals are just people who like people. But it doesn't tell you what kind of people.

Some pansexuals prefer to call themselves bisexuals, because it's a term that's more commonly understood. For some people it's more important to emphasise that fact that they are interested in all genders, not only men and women.

Can you even know who you're attracted to before you meet them? What if you need to change your label? Is that embarrassing?

No one can really know what kind of interesting person they might meet in the future. It could be someone you thought wouldn't be your type at all. I thought I didn't like people with brown eyes. Then I met my first girlfriend.

I guess you can just pick a label based on your past feelings. It's only important if people ask. But for some of us it's calming to have an answer ready. Other people are happier to say something provocative like: "labels are for jars". But humans just happen to like labelling everything and get very nervous when there's something you can't define.

Scientists especially enjoy defining things. Science wouldn't get anywhere without definitions. You can't argue about anything without defining everything first. And if you don't define things, someone will come and disapprove your point.

Look, I drew a unicorn!

It's difficult to fight for equality if we don't know who we're fighting for. It is important that people speak about about how they feel. There are umbrella terms are a way to make minority groups more visible. Do you know what LGBT means? Or should I say QUILTBAG? 

LGBT term makes some people really hungry, because it makes them think of sandwiches. But QUILTBAG, although it might make you think of sleeping, it makes it easier to remember how many different groups can be included under the sexual and gender minorities umbrella.

Queer, undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans*, bisexual, asexual, gay.

But when you group everyone under one term smaller groups often get forgotten.

And it's really quite sad how much hatred there can be within the community. People really like to argue about labels and who should be included. When you try to bring awareness to any topic, there's always a lot of people getting offended.

Arielle Scarcella has a YouTube Channel called GirlfriendsTV where she talks about LGBT related issues. So far she hadn't talked about the T group, and decided that it was finally time to start talking about trans* things as well. Last week, she posted this video where she explained the difference between trans and trans*. She admitted that she didn't know the difference herself but said that it was time to find out and promised that she would post more videos about minorities falling under the trans* category.

The comments went crazy. Some warned her that there might be anger from the trans community. And there was So many people were complaining. Some said that crossdressers shouldn't be included. Some laughed that it's impossible to talk about anything these days without stepping on someone's toes.

The whole term trans* is kind of as undescriptive as pansexuality. It kind of includes everyone who doesn't identify cisgendered and express themselves according to the stereotypical norms associated with that gender. It's an umbrella term just like LGBT. Groups under the umbrella might not have much in common and there is a lot of hatred towards other groups within the umbrella group. Maybe it's because the term is so wide.

But I really don't understand why when someone who is not an expert, but tries their best to help a community and to raise awareness, there's always a lot of angry people complaining about small things they disagree on. It's good to discuss things and disagree on certain things, but why all the anger? 

It is true though, that every time a large label like LGBT* or trans* is used, no one really knows anything about all the different individual people under those labels. Trans* invisibility makes it difficult when fighting for equal rights. But it's quite scary for cisgendered people to stand up and try and do anything about it. I considered writing a blog post about that, but then got scared that I might offend people. Do you think I should still try?

Maybe this is another peak of the iceberg scenario though. Most individuals just get along with their life and we never really hear about them, because the loudest people get all the attention.

What do you think?


  1. Tää oli mielenkiintoinen postaus! Meillä on näköjään melko paljon samanlaisia ajatuksia aiheesta. Etenkin tuo lokerointi ärsyttää mua suuresti. Mulle panseksuaalisuus tarkoittaa vain sitä, että tykkään ihmisistä. Naisista, miehistä tai kolmannesta sukupuolesta. Varmasti joku toinen pan saattaa tykätä taas ihan eri asioista kuin mä ja määrittelee siksi panseksuaalisuuden eri tavalla. Panseksuaalisuus ei oo ehkä niin tunnettu käsite, että sitä on helppo vähän muokata oman mielen mukaan. Jos sanoo olevansa homo, silloin on homo, jos sanoo olevansa pan, silloin tykkää mistä nyt sattuu tykkäämään.

    Olis mielenkiintoista kuulla lisää tän tyyppisistä aiheista, näitä on aina mukava lukea :3

  2. Minä päätin jo ajat sitten, että lokerot ovat aika turhia. Oleellista on, kenestä tykkään nyt, ei se, kenestä voisin tykätä. Jos joku nyt välttämättä haluaa luokittelun, sanon olevani panseksuaali, mutta minustakin se on vähän hassu termi, koska se kuulostaa siltä, että olen kiinnostunut kaikista.