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[personal profile] sev
So, I'm sloooowwwwly decommissioning my website. However, it's been pointed out to me that in at least some cases the stuff I've been pulling down is exactly the stuff that's still getting read, and it's going away because I'm not entirely comfortable being represented online by things I wrote a decade ago. So I'm republishing selectively.

So.  Following is the essay which starts "I collect labels..." from 2001.  I have resisted the temptation to edit it, other than to remove most of the images & links that don't go anywhere.

I collect labels; currently, I can describe myself as a "non-monogamous bisexual pervert" as well as a "polyamorous kinky queer." These labels have lots of different connotations for different people -- that's why I answer to so many of them. I use labels not to restrict myself, but to give people some frame of reference in which we can begin to interact. Later comes a fine-tuning process in which assumptions are reexamined, and hopefully, I will be able to better communicate exactly how I fit into the spectrum of people who fit my description. Why labels and sexuality? Certainly, my sexuality isn't the only part of me that gets labelled -- either by myself or by the outside world. I can label myself geek, daughter, sister, friend, or poet, and all those labels need further explanation, too.

But most of those nonsexual labels (tho I have to admit I've met those who were geek-sexual) don't raise the same kind of emotional response in people as do the sexuality-related labels to which I answer -- like queer, bisexual, polyamorous, fetishist and pervert do.

Maybe it's my culture's close-mouthedness about sex and bodies in general. It's that same reticence that makes it so hard to get people to listen when you talk about safe sex. Maybe it's because the general public hasn't put as much thought into sexual labels as other ones, so we're just going through a consensus-building time. There's certainly a similar confusion about the definitions of "hacker" and "cracker" now that the mainstream is becoming more interested in computers.

I am not defined by the labels I choose. Rather, the labels I choose, like queer, bisexual, polyamorous, fetishist and pervert are a place to start when I wish to convey information about myself. If someone wants to start a dialogue with me, I am free to further define what I mean by these terms. If someone isn't interested in talking with me about sexuality, it's more difficult for me to care that these labels are not a complete picture of who I am -- better that people be aware that people like me exist than for them to be under the mistaken impression that these kinds of labels only apply to "those kinds of people." Labels, for at least some of us who embrace them, aren't supposed to be all-encompassing, strictly defining, or perfectly describing. They're just labels, not definitions -- like an opaque jar labeled "coffee," which doesn't say if it's beans or grounds or already-brewed or coffee-flavoured candy, if it's dark, light, weak, strong, flavoured, sugared, fresh, or stale. It just says coffee, and if you want more details, you need to shake it, or open it, or taste it, or find the person who applied the label and ask them what they meant.


Why bother with labels at all, then? If they are such a poor approximation of who I really am, why do I use them? For me, labels are necessary because my sexuality is both personal and political. In the personal realm, I want my friends and lovers to know more about me than just what can be conveyed with a label. However, it is also important to me that I be visible as a non-mainstream citizen; I want people to remember that people like me exist. For this, I find simple, one-word labels to be useful. And, hopefully, some of these people who encounter a label they don't understand will stick around, ask questions, and get to know me.


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