Top, bottom, twink, twunk, bear, cub, lipstick, butch, dyke, femme, fag, hag, fag hag, fag stag, fruit fly… oh my.
We use labels everyday. We use them to describe our sexual orientation, our ‘types’, our relationships, our first impressions and our life-long friendships.
Labels are often how we first get to know someone. When you meet a person for the first time, it’s a perfectly natural reaction to judge them based on the way they look or act, having had no interaction with their personality thus far.
The label ‘Fag Hag’ was originally an insult directed at women who lusted after their gay friends, but has since been converted into a term of fondness for a close female friend to a gay man.
This label has changed to mean something else over time, just like a lot of other labels we commonly use have too.
This is why I think the negative perception of labels exists. When you label someone, you’re putting him or her in a category that may have negative connotations to some people.
For me, I’m fine with just being labelled gay. Just like I am fine being labelled a student, or a Pokémon nerd. I’m not a twink. I’m not a bear. I’m not part of any subculture, nor do I actively search to be included in one.
In the gay community however, there seems to be more emphasis on categorising people into established subgroups.
Clubs advertise events such as “Twinkland” or “Bears Only” for specific demographics of the queer community. This perpetuates the idea of having a ‘type’.
A ‘type’ can be helpful when trying to establish relationships (intimate or otherwise) because it lends itself to the idea that someone who you identify with type-wise, will likely share common interests.
But how often have you dismissed a person on the pretense that they’re not your type? In terms of trying to establish lasting intimate relationships, we get bogged down in this idealistic ‘type’ for ourselves and more often than not, they’re unrealistic.
So when does a ‘type’ become a stereotype?
‘Types’ and labels are inextricably linked. But I believe a stereotype is the direct result of the dominance of preconceived negative ‘type’ mentalities. These stereotypes are often superficial when filling personal relationship criteria.
For example, the term ‘bear’ when used to describe a certain type of person in the gay community, typically describes a hairy, large, masculine man. It’s a purely physical description. It is interesting to note that if this type of physical appearance were describing a straight man, he wouldn’t have this label.
Just because someone falls into this typecast, does not mean they have the stereotypical correlating personality, i.e. uncaring, tough or emotionless.
By saying that you’re not compatible with someone who may identify as a certain label, you are closing the possibility to a potentially companionable person.
We have this set-in-stone image of what we want in our minds and when it’s not fulfilled we put it down to a lack of options.
We’re all guilty of judging the girl who you can hear before you see or the guy who hasn’t slept in his own bed for the entirety of the weekend, but labelling them is something I think we should all try to do less of.