Respect My Human

Queer (noun): A person whose sexual orientation or gender identity falls outside the heterosexual mainstream or the gender binary.

I am queer.

Through self-discovery, it feels like I traveled through many a lifetime of identity labels to finally arrive safely here. If you’ve never questioned your identity or sexuality, then such exploration may not seem familiar, but if you’ve been on a wide path of self-searching like I have, then I’m pretty sure that resonates.

For me, growing up in the Southern US in a religious household, exploration as a youth seemed far out of reach. Even though I’ve always been a critical thinker (questioning all the “normal” constructs), the thought of settling into my own comfortable skin was scarier than not, since much of how I wanted to express myself didn’t align with accepted cultural behavior. As for my pronouns, I’ve learned through trial and error that I truly prefer to be called by my name. I love my name. It suits me. It’s plenty. But for further clarity, I am open to any and all pronouns, as that best fits my expansiveness.

At the end of the day and at the baseline, I’m human no matter how snug the label queer fits. To me, that matters more than anything. See me as human, just as you see yourself, made of the same stardust and divine particles. I get that concepts need defining in order to be fully understood. Though, labels cannot be the defining ways we ultimately align at the core. When you treat folks a certain way based on labels only, honestly, it’s contrived. At times that even looks like reducing folk to their oppressions. Seems to me that instead of bonding over oppressions, we start to bond over our humanity, particularly since labels often seem a contradiction to their own purpose.

I have noticed labels are starting to overtake the human part. The more we desire to be seen as our individual selves, the more labels we create in order to self-identify. Particularly when it comes to the LGBTQIA+ spectrum—which is growing in letters everyday—but it’s also that way when it comes to being Black, being woman, being plant-based; being an emcee; a circus enthusiast and an artist. Folks tend to take such labels and shrink people within them to fit their own personal standards, not allowing for the whole person to be seen and heard.

Many appear to be more comfortable treating people according to their specific labels than just relating along human lines. This keeps us divided and separate from our human nature. Then there’s the place from which we force labels on people to make ourselves comfortable. A relatively harmless example would be when I stopped eating meat and dairy. People automatically labeled me as vegan, though according to vegans, I wasn’t vegan enough because I use honey and other bee byproducts. When I have to describe my diet these days, I just choose to say I’m plant-based. That’s just my baseline and everything else exists on top of that.

And it seems people have a hard time accepting there can be exceptions. This can be a thing even in the queer community within our own labels, but truly, even with the labels and boxes I’ve chosen, I don’t neatly fit into any of them, and never have. Back in high school I participated in almost every club, from sports to recreation, Spanish to math, and everything in between. Track and field was my main squeeze, but I tried everything available to me, because they all fit in some way or another. As a circus artist, stilt-walking is my primary discipline, but I’m truly a circus generalist, as I also greatly enjoy many of the other disciplines. With art, I describe myself as interdisciplinary because again, I create across multiple disciplines. I’m all over the place, so how would I accurately label myself in a way that accounts for both my fluidity, my expansion, and my growth. Hardly anyone is just their labels, and few fit neatly within any one definition.

Unfortunately, folks weaponize labels in a way that I don’t think is beneficial to any of us. Real and genuine areas of human concern should inform common sense behaviors and their personalities; also, consider this your friendly reminder that folks’ genitalia—and whom they share them with—is none of your business. I was always taught that my privates were personal and not for discussion, unless I say so. Home training anyone?

What is the condition of their heart? What is their energy like? Are they a solid person? How do they treat others? These are the kinds of things that are more important to know about somebody than their sexual preference and the other labels that often seem to precede the human.

Definitely respect any and all labels that I choose, though remember that, at the end of the day, human is the label I most prefer. Do not sum me up by the labels and your perception of what they mean—it’s not this or that. My very existence is revolutionary, never before seen or experienced on this planet. And yes, I am queer.

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