‘Not labelling yourself is safer’: LGBTQ+ young people on why they don’t label themselves

‘I just say queer because it’s such a big umbrella term’

The LGBTQ+ community is a vibrant community filled with a vast array of sexual and gender identities. Many people may choose to come out and use a specific label that feel fits them best but also some people don’t. Whilst you might be able to choose who you are attracted to, you can choose if you want to label yourself and officially come out. A lot of queer people don’t come out and don’t label themselves for a wide range of reasons.

With Rebel Wilson coming out this pride season and some people choosing not to come out because of harmful stereotypes, what about the people who choose not to label themselves? This Pride season The Tab spoke to those who have chosen not to exclusively label themselves and this is what they say.

Cayley, 21

Cayley is a final year paramedic student and she says she never really came out, only ever spoke to her mum about a girl she was going on a date with. She says: “I knew she would be my girlfriend and so I would have to tell her at that point.” When talking about the process of coming out and the idea of gay people having to announce their sexuality, Cayley says: “coming out kind of forces you to label yourself because people will have questions and ask what I am, and I didn’t know. So it was easier for me to just say I’m going on a date with a girl and see their reaction rather than sitting them down with no context or no actual reason and telling them who I am attracted to.”

Cayley chooses the word gay to describe herself. She says: “That’s my word because it’s non-specific and it feels less boxy, less closed in and restrictive.” She says she’s scared to use a label that might one day change because everyone changes and grows. Cayley feels as though labels restrict people and would make her feel pressured if she had one.

Lauren, 25


25-year-old Lauren first realised she was bisexual in 2018 and she told her family she was gay earlier this year. She says: “I didn’t feel the need to come out as bisexual because I could just continue dating boys and tell them just about guys I was going on dates with and hide the fact I was going on dates with girls.”

But when Lauren met her girlfriend Madison, she realised she liked her and that she was going to be important in her life. So that’s when she told her family.

Lauren also said another reason why she didn’t feel the need to come out was because she didn’t go through a time when she questioned her identity. She says: “I still am very feminine and straight presenting, like how people think a straight girl looks is how I look and so no one ever questioned it. It was easy to pass.”

Taylor, 24


Taylor identifies as queer because they feel it’s more inclusive and a non-restrictive term. They tell The Tab: “I used to say I’m a lesbian and I’m gay and that was pretty strict. Even now I guess it’s pansexual because I like personality, but instead of saying lesbian or pan I just say queer because it’s such a big umbrella term.”

The 24-year-old Art Gallery manager says: “I don’t feel it’s necessary to identify as this or that whenever I meet someone or when I’m talking to people, because who gives a shit? No one is asking straight people.” She continues: “Why can’t I go through life with the same kind of energy of this person just being who they are – why do I have to explain that?

“If you can’t tell from the way I dress or how I act that I am queer, or if you are not down with that from initial meetings why should I sit down and explain to you? You should just be ok with it. It’s not like I want you to be challenged by my existence, it’s just I’m another person in the street meeting you and that should be enough without a specific label that changes all the time.”

Another reason Taylor doesn’t subscribe to labels is a matter of safety. She says: “As progressive as things are in 2022, for me and people like me, not labelling yourself  is safer.”

Bree, 26


Bree, a first-year computer engineering student tells The Tab: “I usually just use the word queer because I feel like it kind of covers everything because I don’t like labels because I feel like ideas are always changing and my knowledge of things is always changing. So having a label just feels like kinda silly if I know that it might change”.

She did come out to her parents as bisexual because she met a woman and had always dated men. She came out because she wanted to tell her parents about the girl. But since then she’s thought about it some more and decided she can’t really say she’s bisexual anymore. Bree tells The Tab: “I think that the broader term queer works a lot better, in terms of knowing that I don’t know how I specifically feel towards everyone in the world.”

Sylvia, 22


22-year-old Sylvia tells The Tab: “I think the importance of labels and coming out depends on how you grew up but also how someone views sexual orientation. To some, labels can be helpful, and coming out can be very healing for some and can be really liberating.”

They continue to say how it’s important to come out when you feel ready. They tell The Tab: “But if you’ve grown up where that isn’t necessary then that’s a really beautiful thing. Some people aren’t sure what label they fit into and others don’t want to label themselves. Sexual orientation is such an individual experience that may greatly differ from person to person.

“I did try to be casual about it, I currently go with bisexual or pansexual, because I’m still figuring out the pansexual since recently identifying as non-binary” they tell The Tab.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

‘Love is love’: LGBTQ+ young people on the importance of their sexuality

A rundown of all the big gay Pride events happening this summer

11 of the most wholesome queer TV shows and movies to watch this Pride Month