Redefining Self

Figuring out who you are isn’t something that happens once. Life is an ongoing process of change, reconsidering, and redefining. But when it comes to some subjects, people don’t always remember that.

I’ve known people who came out as homosexual in their 40s or later, after years of giving no sign at all that they were interested in people of the same sex. In a couple of cases, they themselves didn’t realize they were interested, or at least they didn’t admit it to themselves. But then they realized, or they came to terms with what they already knew.

That doesn’t mean they were heterosexual up until that point. It means they were living in the way they thought was best for them, or the way they thought they had to in order to be accepted by others, but over time they realized that wasn’t who they truly were.

Online, I’ve seen teens and young adults accused of “faking” their sexual orientation or gender “to get attention,” or of “jumping on the bandwagon,” because they’ve changed their self-identification over time. That doesn’t mean they’ve ever been dishonest about it. It means they might not have thought it completely through before they first came out. They also might, over time, have seen references to orientations or genders they didn’t know existed, and realized one of those terms fit them better than the way they’d previously identified.

I’ve also seen people say that certain genders and sexual orientations were “invented” by people on the Internet. This is not true. Those genders and orientations might not have had names until recently, but they still existed.

The Internet has been a help and support to a lot of people as they work on defining and identifying themselves. People who might have thought something was wrong with them because of the way they felt can now learn they aren’t the only one who feels that way. Of course, the Internet also has its downside; people can be judgmental and bully one another.

But the process of defining and identifying oneself doesn’t have a finite ending point. We all learn new things about ourselves over time. Life isn’t stagnant, and neither are we.

In Your Own Time

Coming out can be a scary thing. You don’t know how your family and friends will react. You might still be defining who you are, and it’s difficult to explain it to others when you aren’t entirely sure yourself. You might fear for your safety.

Unfortunately, sometimes people think they have the right to dictate how others handle things like coming out. I know of two people who were not emotionally ready to come out, and were afraid of the consequences. They talked to people they trusted, who told them if they were “really” gay or transgender, they would be open about it.

Both people came out. Not because they were ready, but because they felt pressured. They felt as if they had to prove themselves to others.

Both experienced very negative results, which I’d rather not detail.

No one has the right to tell you how to be a “real” ANYTHING. You are you, and you are who and what you are. Whatever that is, you are real. And you have the right to approach everything in your life in your own time, at your own pace, in the way that helps you feel safest and most comfortable.

Trust yourself, and don’t let others tell you how to be you.

“Real” Names

This post might come across as a bit ranty. I apologize in advance.

If you’ve been on Facebook–which probably most of you have–you’ve most likely heard about the “real name” issue. People who are not using their legal name, or a form of it, on Facebook are being banned or blocked from their accounts. I think Facebook started doing this to try to eliminate the problem of anonymous harassment, though I am not sure.

The problem is… It doesn’t work. I am reasonably certain that things like “Scumlord” don’t appear on anyone’s birth certificates, but I’ve seen someone using that name on Facebook. Meanwhile, someone with a name like Amber is being banned–because Amber is a chosen female name for a transgender woman who is afraid to use her legal, male name because her family doesn’t know she’s transgender.

Even when fear isn’t involved, it’s wrong, in my opinion, to force someone to use a name belonging to a gender with which they don’t identify. In the above example of Amber, it would be just as wrong for Facebook to ban her because she isn’t male and so doesn’t want to use a male name as it is for them to ban her for using a name to protect herself from her family.

There is not consistent enforcement of this rule. That’s the biggest issue with it. People with blatantly fake names are being allowed to use them, while people with names that are at least realistic, even if not their legal names, are being banned or otherwise penalized. I think in many cases the people who are being banned are having it happen because someone else has reported them; I know at least one person for whom that was the case. But if that’s Facebook’s basis for enforcing their rule, it is an unfair basis, since people will report someone they don’t like and not necessarily someone who’s causing problems by using a fake name.

There is no need for the rule to exist. It doesn’t prevent any type of abuse, and in some cases it *causes* abuse. If Facebook wants to set restrictions on certain words or phrases it doesn’t want people using in their names, that’s fine, but to arbitrarily say “You can only use your legal name” and then not have any fair and unbiased means of enforcing that rule is, in my opinion, wrong.

“No One’s 100%”

Before I start this post, let me make sure I’m being clear. I am straight, and I’m completely NOT saying that I face any type of stigma or harassment or anything else because of that. I don’t, and I hate that anyone faces anything like that because of their sexual orientation. I’m just using my personal experience to illustrate the point of this post, which is that each person’s sexual orientation is *theirs* to define.

Disclaimer out of the way…

Like I said, I’m straight. I identify as completely heterosexual, no same-sex attraction whatsoever. And I’ve been told more than once that I’m wrong about that.

Um… yeah. People who *aren’t* me tell me that I’m wrong about *my* sexuality.

“No one’s a hundred percent anything, so you can’t be a hundred percent straight.” “Sexuality is a spectrum, no one’s at either end, everyone’s somewhere in the middle.” “Oh, you just haven’t met a woman you’re attracted to yet, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t attracted to women.” (Yes, someone really said that last one to me.) People I’ve known who identify as homosexual, with no opposite-sex attraction at all, have told me they’ve heard the same type of thing.

It doesn’t matter how the person you’re talking to or about identifies. Gay, straight, bi, pan, ace, whatever. No matter what you *think*, you don’t have a right to tell someone else what their sexual orientation is. Yes, sexual orientation is a spectrum, as is gender identity, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who fall firmly at one end of the spectrum or the other. And if someone says that’s where they are… they get to say that, and that’s the end of it. Their sexual orientation. They choose how they identify.

It can be pretty offensive to be told you don’t know your own sexual orientation, regardless of what it might be. If you wouldn’t want someone telling you that you’re wrong about how you identify, don’t tell them they’re wrong.