Don’t Box Me In! A Teenage Guide to Labels

By Emile Button ‘19

Labels are part of every society and can be both good and bad.

They can help a person understand themselves and relate to others.

Or, people can be harmed by their incorrect use by others, or, alternatively, feel that they need to force themselves fully into a label that is only part of who they are.

They can be bad

The worst way to use labels is to feel that you need to force yourself to fully fit that label and have it be the judge of your self worth. You can often see this play out with labels of sexuality.

I see people all the time act like this.

For example, usually if a male feels like he is attracted to someone of the same sex, he feels like he has to fit the stereotype of a gay man, which isn’t true.

He doesn’t take the time to explore and understand that feeling.

Is it just teenage hormones or is it part of you?

Is it just a romantic attraction or a sexual one?

Is it just that one person or is it every male?

Individual sexuality takes years to understand, especially when you’re a teenager and your hormones are all over the place, so don’t jump to conclusions and force yourself into that “box.”

However, they can be good.

Using labels as guidelines is a better way to find parts of yourself and explain to others.

When describing yourself to others or explaining what you like, you can use what you know about yourself to see what you have in common with others. And being proud of those things is very important to using them in a good way.

My experience

My labels are short, artist, gamer, curly hair, bigender, asexual, shy, awkward, and creative.

I embrace these labels.

But sometimes I don’t fully fit them which is ok.

They are, for better words, guidelines.

To help others and, most importantly, yourself figure out who you are.

You aren’t 100% that label, and should never try to fit yourself into a box that isn’t you.

I had trouble with this when figuring out my sexuality.

For literally one week I thought I was a lesbian.

When I finally realized I was asexual, (which means I’m not sexually attracted to people and not interested in having sex, but I’m romantically attracted to people,) I thought this was fully me.

But when I talk to my friends, I joke about sex a lot and say sexual things because I think is hilarious, even though being sexual is not part of asexuality.

Yes it describes my sexual preference, but it doesn’t describe how I act and my personality.

It took me a while to figure this out, but it was a major part of finding myself.

Showing Respect

Respecting others and their labels is a huge thing we all need to do.

If you don’t agree with someone’s label because of religion or you think it’s wrong, don’t make them feel that they as a person are wrong.

However, if it really really really makes you uncomfortable, talk with the person and make a compromise.

For example, my dad is very religious and conservative. He isn’t comfortable calling me “Emile” or using male pronouns along with female. So, he calls me “Em.” I respect that he doesn’t agree with my gender identity or romantic preferences, and he respects that being both male and female is something that I believe is a part of me.

We compromise because we love each other and respect each other which everyone should do in these situations.

Keep in mind that labels are there as guidelines, and as a teen, it’s important not to box yourself in. Take the time to discover your true self, and embrace all parts of you!