When Labels Fail

I joined the LGBTIQ movement as a teenager because I was shocked at the levels of hate I was seeing when the first few Pride marches were being organized in Riga, Latvia, and I wanted to help, somehow.

From early on, those I met there asked who I was. Was I a lesbian, was I an ally, was I bisexual? In the 19 years of life prior to meeting my LGBTIQ community, I had only been attracted to men. So I guessed that I was straight, and because people asked, I identified as such. But I didn’t like the label.

Then at 24 I fell in love with a woman. And it confused me. And my Latvian LGBTIQ friends said - finally, you’ve come out of the closet! And it made me so angry, that they presumed to know my identity better than I did. It made me question myself and whether I had been lying to myself for 24 years. I hadn’t. My next love was a man. And the one after that too. Then people said - oh, maybe you’re bi! And I thought, maybe! And so, when asked, that’s what I’d say. But that didn’t feel liberating or empowering. In fact, I felt the opposite. I felt constricted, and imposed upon.

6 years later when I fell in love with another woman, I didn’t try to define what this meant about my sexuality or which letter of the acronym I fall, or don’t fall under. A few years after that, when I had one of those beautifully blinding crushes on a non-binary person, I didn’t think about it at all.

Essentially, labels have forever failed to define quite who I am.

I moved around a lot when I was growing up, and people would ask: “Are you Latvian? But your English is so good! Are you an expat? But you were born in Latvia! So what are you? Oh, I know! You must be the child of a diplomat.” I’m not, by the way.

It felt much the same when I joined, and stayed in the LGBTIQ movement.

It seems to me that labels are there to help other people define and understand me, not for myself. So I have never had a coming out. Because I have not found a term that I’m comfortable with, and mostly because it is no one’s business but my own. I’d like to live in a world where we don’t have to come out, where we can just be, where all of our multitudes of intricately interwoven identities are accepted, where arbitrarily assigned norms don’t exist. So for me, coming out day is about being true to yourself.