The Truth About Loving Without Labels

When my sexuality didn’t fit in a box, I chose to redefine the way I saw love.

Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash.

For the first thirteen years of my life, I assumed being straight would cover the full extent of my sexual identity. As a kid, I was obsessed with boybands, crushed on several guys while I was in middle school, and spent more time than I’d like to admit dreaming about marrying Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender (a dream that has unfortunately gone nowhere).


The point is I was straighter than uncooked spaghetti. I was so certain my internal dialogue would begin and end with boys, I didn’t bother wondering if there was room for more. Then highschool came along and, overtime, I realized there was.


Suddenly it wasn’t just hot guys I was drooling over, it was a girl with pretty eyes, brown hair, and the cutest fucking smile I’d ever seen.

Jujutsu Kaisen | Gege Akutami

So maybe I didn’t think anything of it when she recommended a show I spent the next two weeks binge watching, just so I had an excuse to talk to her in class. And maybe I could feign ignorance while I cracked stupid jokes becuase I thought her laugh sounded like sunshine and rainbows and all the other fluffy bullshit my Hot Topic ass secretly loves. But there was no way in hell I could look at her—while she was wearing my damn hoodie—and not realize two things:


1. I love boys but I also love girls 2. Uncooked spaghetti’s only straight until it’s wet

These two little things changed my entire world, but they also posed one of the scariest questions I’ve ever had to answer.


If I’m not straight, then what the hell am I?


Not labeling my sexuality wasn’t as easy as I thought.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Warner Bros.

In highschool, I’d say, “I am bisexual,” in my mind and see how I felt about it. Unlike the certainty that came from other labels in my life (i.e race, gender, my Hogwarts house, etc.) I didn’t feel connected to the word, and though there are other terms out there I could use (pan, omni, queer), the disconnect was even stronger with them.


I’d say I was bi in my head over and over and I’d feel nothing.

I was still coming to terms with myself and since it was only one girl, I chose to push the topic of my sexuality to the back of my mind. I told myself that if I didn’t feel connected to being bi, then I should keep my feelings to myself and not bother my friends with it. I had—and still have—so many friends in the LGBTQIA+ community, and though they’ve never given me a reason to believe so, I felt like talking about what I was going through would take away from their experiences.


Now I know that’s a load of shit, but that feeling didn’t just come from thin air.


I was halfway through college when I realized remaining labeless, and coming to terms with that, was hard as fuck.

Howl’s Moving Castle | Studio Ghibli

First, I noticed that the small alienated feeling I had with the LGBTQIA+ community was only growing. Combined with the fact that I’m naturally a private person, I knew I’d never have a traditional “coming out” moment and therefore felt (and unfortunately still feel) like I’m intruding on a community others worked so hard to be a part of. There are flaws in this thinking, I get that now, especially because I know if someone said this to me I’d tell them that there is a home of love and acceptance within the community if they want it.

Even so, in a community of labels I wasn’t certain that I wouldn’t be imposing.

Second, when I eventually did try out a label, one regarding a different aspect of my sexual orientation aside from liking boys and girls, things got...weird. As I started exploring what it meant to me, I couldn’t shake off the pressure to be a poster child for the label, especially since it's relatively new. I was scared to say the wrong thing, I was struggling to understand if I was even enough to qualify for the term, and I was constantly worried I was just confused and lying to myself.


By the way, I am enough, and later on I realized I was never confused.

Although it was comforting to know there was another title out there that fit me, I knew I had to drop the label when it gave me insecurities I didn’t have before. I never thought words could make me feel so detached from my sense of self.


Which leads me to my third and final point:


Labels are for boxes and containers, I thankfully am neither.

My Hero Academia | Kohei Horikoshi

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say labels are inherently bad. I know that when it comes to sexuality, labels can grant many a reclaimed sense of identity, and thus can become their most powerful tool. That's just not how it works for me. I didn’t feel empowered and free, I felt restricted and held down. Part of understanding those emotions came down to making sure I was asking myself the right questions:


In regards to my sexual identity and preferred relationship dynamics, am I secure in how I feel?

Yes. I know who I am, and if labels make me question myself then labels are the problem, not me.


Is there any chance I’m choosing not to adhere to labels because I’m afraid to “come out”?

No. The disconnect I feel with labeling my orientation is too strong, and aside from mental safety, I’ve never denied or tried to hide my identity.


How does the idea of not having labels actually make me feel?

Honestly? It’s both terrifying and freeing at the same time.


It’s terrifying feeling like I’m the only one like this. I’m sure there are others, each with their own unique story, and each with their own wave of insecurities. I won’t pretend there aren’t nights I stay awake, wishing I didn’t feel so alone or wondering what it’d be like to fit neatly in a box, but I also won’t pretend those nights weigh me down.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Warner Bros.

Even though it sucks feeling like I’m different from everyone else, I wouldn’t change it for the world.


There’s just something so freeing about loving who you love and simply existing as a being in the universe, completely untethered from the bonds of a label.

Finding security in the undefined, even if you know it’s right for you, isn’t easy, it never is.


But if this is your path, I promise, it’s worth it.


You are not alone.


With adventure and self discovery,

Draco Rose