Some Thoughts On That One Time I Labeled Myself As Questioning

Today I’d like to talk about labels. Specifically, labels used by the LGBTQ+ community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, et cetera. (LGBTQ+ itself is a label as well!)

Even more specifically, I’d like to talk about the label of questioning.

The letter Q in LGBTQ+ does double duty – it stands for both queer and questioning. When the term is used in the context of the LGBTQ+ community, questioning has two definitions:

  1. “The process of exploring one’s own sexual orientation, investigating influences that may come from their family, religious upbringing, and internal motivations” (source)
  2. “Refers to individuals who are unsure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity” (source)

In this blog post I will use both definitions of the word, but mostly the second one, for… reasons that will become apparent later on.

So. Questioning – it’s a handy label, isn’t it? If you’re not sure of your sexual orientation or gender identity (or both), it’s an easier and slightly more eloquent way of saying, “I don’t know. I have NO FREAKING CLUE.”

And before I start talking about my experiences with this label, I’d just like to make it very clear that LABELING ONESELF AS QUESTIONING IS COMPLETELY VALID. Because I don’t want you to have the impression that it doesn’t work well as a label – just that I have a lot of weird feelings about it because of how I used it, or tried to us it.

Like, the existence of that label has really helped some of my friends. I met a bunch of LGBTQ+ kids and teens shortly after joining the NaNoWriMo YWP program in November 2011, several of whom identified as questioning back then.

And they still do. It’s been three, four, even five years since I met some of these people and they’re still not quite sure about their gender or sexual orientation, and that’s completely OK.

Some people take a long time to figure out their identity.

Some people take no time at all to figure out their identity.

Others are somewhere in the middle – they know how they identify, but they try to ignore it.

They try really really really hard to make it go away. They hope that avoiding the subject will just make the whole thing disappear, and they refuse to assign labels to what they know to be true because that will make their identity seem more real, more concrete – and they’re not quite ready to deal with their identity being reality. Not yet.

I know because that was me.

Back to the NaNo YWP thing – when I joined their LGBTQ+ forum group, I basically already knew who I was… deep down I knew. But I labeled myself differently, because it was convenient and helped me to stop thinking about how I REALLY identified.

When I joined that group, I was fifteen. I’d had loads of crushes on girls, and both the number of crushes and their intensity made it pretty obvious that I WAS SUPER FREAKING GAY.

And yet, when I joined that forum group and introduced myself… I kind of avoided the topic. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “Hi, I’m _____ and [more info about self] and I think I may still need to figure out my sexual orientation.”

HAHAHAHA. LIES. ALL LIES. I totally already knew I was a lesbian. Oops.

But hey, I wasn’t ready to accept that. It wasn’t until… several months? maybe a year? later that I came to terms with this part of me. (I don’t know exact dates because I spent so long trying to block any thoughts about this that I… I just don’t remember much from that time. Every time I thought about something gay I’d immediately switch my mind to another topic, or at least try to do so.)

After months and months of talking to the other queer YWP members I began to accept myself, but it took a loooooong time. It took a while for me to stop labeling myself as questioning, and begin to identify as a lesbian.

Because I didn’t want to be gay.

Because I didn’t want to think about all the ways being gay would affect my life.

Because I fell into the trap of thinking “I’m too young to know my sexual orientation.” From thirteen until sixteen, I kept telling myself I was just to young to know for sure! I kept telling myself that I should wait and see – maybe some boy would come along and then everything would be all right.

Except that, well, that never happened.

It was just so much easier to label myself questioning because that meant nothing was definite. I kept thinking of myself as questioning because doing so took away some of the pressure to admit to myself that I was GAY GAY GAY. Identifying as questioning didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t gay, but it gave me enough leeway to fool my brain into thinking I was “probably straight.” By labeling myself as questioning, I could almost almost almost trick myself into thinking that no answering had yet occurred.

Soooooo that is what that particular label meant to me, once upon a time, in a gaylaxy far far away. I spent the first twelve years of my life thinking I was straight (because I didn’t even know that queer people existed), then the next four years trying to convince myself that I truly had no clue about my identity, and only during the past two and a half years (or thereabouts) have I allowed myself to identify as anything specific.

I don’t know… I don’t call myself questioning any longer because when I did use that label, I felt very differently than I do now. I needed that label a few years ago because I wasn’t ready to accept that part of myself, and “questioning” gave me a level of flexibility and comfort that was necessary while I slooowly began to acclimate to the idea – the reality –  of being gay. I already knew some things about me were true, but back then I didn’t want to know. And the word “questioning” really helped me with that.

So that’s what one word, one label, meant to me, at one time, when my sexual orientation was exactly the same as it is now – exactly the same as it’s always been – but when I was also experiencing vastly different feelings about that orientation. Well, I hope this was at least mildly interesting to read, because I have a lot of feelings on labels and why they are So Very Very Helpful And Important. But that’s a subject for another day, another blog post…

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in LGBTQ+, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Some Thoughts On That One Time I Labeled Myself As Questioning

  1. Brilliant post ❤ ❤ I love how you're so open on here. Also, snorting so hard at "gaylaxy." But yeah, I hear about this from my friends a lot. Like, some of them labelled themselves as "bi" because that was easier for them, at the time, than labelling themselves as gay or lesbian.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thank you! 😀

      *nodnod* I spent a lot of time wondering if I might be bi, and sometimes I still wonder about that… there’s just so much pressure to like guys. There’s nothing wrong with being bisexual, but it IS very frustrating when my mind won’t let go of the subject and I keep pressuring myself to find a way to like men when I KNOW I only like women.

  2. Bridget says:

    I’ve been using the label questioning again recently, even though I have a pretty good idea of who I’m attracted to. It’s less because I’m confused or trying to hide my identity and more because I just don’t feel comfortable using a label yet, and I don’t know if I ever will? Long story short, I think that I’ve always had crushes on women, but I had always kind of pushed it off as “nah, I’m just objectively noticing how pretty she is!” (looking back, it was pretty silly). I had crushes on guys too, and they were always more intense than the crushes I’ve had on girls, so I guess that made the girl crushes easier to ignore? But then a couple months ago I got this major crush on Lyn-Z Way (the bassist for a band I like) and it became kind of hard to deny. So recently I’ve been trying to figure out a label. It feels pretty likely that I’m bisexual but… I dunno. I just don’t feel ready to pick a label like that yet :/

    • nevillegirl says:

      *nodnod* I appreciate “questioning” because it IS a label, but a very loose one.

      OH MY GODDDD YES I DID THAT TOO. I spent YEARS telling myself my crushes were just really intense friendships and that I too just objectively appreciated their appearance! And then after a while I was like… nah, Engie, you’re just really freakin’ gay. 😛

  3. Miriam Joy says:

    To be honest, I spend about half my life with no clue exactly how I identify. Some days I know, others I don’t. I’ve never really gone for the label ‘questioning’ but those definitions probably suit me, and while it doesn’t seem to fit exactly, I wouldn’t object if someone else were to use it about me. I mostly stick with ‘queer’ because all I know is that I’m not straight. I was, though, for about sixteen years of my life. At least romantically, if not sexually, I did genuinely like guys. But at some point something changed, and after a couple of months of denial I was basically like, “Screw it, let’s do this.”

    • nevillegirl says:

      *nodnod* I use “queer” now too, but I didn’t for a long time… same with “lesbian,” I used “gay” instead but now I’m more likely to say I’m a lesbian.

  4. questioning is such a helpful word. i identified as questioning (among other things) for years. gender-wise, i used questioning because i was in denial about being trans, cos it’s really freaking scary y’know? sexuality i used it until recently because identifying as gay as a trans boy means inviting all sorts of unwanted attention from cis men. (they’re really mean at times let me tell you)

    but yeah, questioning is a hella good word tbh

  5. Thank you so much for this post- I feel like this was exactly what I needed right now! I’m definitely in the whole “questioning” right now, though I’m preeeeeety sure that I’m part of that L in LGBTQ+. *sighs* WHY MUST STUFF BE SO CONFUSING?
    Anyhow. I digress. This was a super awesome post, and very honest and true. 😀

  6. John Hansen says:

    I love this. I never actually knew of the term “questioning” while I was still figuring my sexuality out (or even when I kind of had figured it out but didn’t want to admit it), but if I had, I’m sure I would’ve done the exact same thing. It’s just so hard to admit at first, both to yourself and to others. IMO, living in that intermediate for as long as you’re comfortable (or always!) is a great alternative.

    Thanks so much for sharing. You rock.

    • nevillegirl says:

      *nodnod* It is, isn’t it? I once read, somewhere, that “oftentimes the hardest person to come out to is yourself” and YESSSSS gah that was so true for me.

      Thank you! 🙂

  7. Well now I feel awkward as the almost only straight person commenting. I’ve had crushes on guys since kindergarten (one lasted THREE years–eeep XD) and I’ve never questioned that I’m straight. Since I’m still pretty young something could happen, but for now I’m straight.

    It was really brave of you to be this open and upfront with your readers. It helps us–or at least me–to connect with you. I love how bloggers write stuff like that and I wish it was more often.

    I remember when I first learned how to use colors and other fonts and sizes. ERMAGERD CONGRATS!!! 😛

    • nevillegirl says:

      Ehehe, sometimes I wonder if I had crushes when I was super little… the first one I remember was at age nine, but there might’ve been others earlier that I just didn’t understand because I thought it was a really intense friendship? It was soooo long ago and I didn’t know ANYTHING about being queer when I was little, so I have no idea if my BFFs from kindergarten/first grade were my crushes, or just friends, or… IDK. I spent quite a few years confusing my crushes with friends and vice versa until I finally learned more about being gay…

      Aw, thank you so much!

    • nevillegirl says:

      BAHAHAHA when my brother and I were little (four and five, I think?) we informed our parents that when we grew up we were going to “marry each other and move into the house across the street.” Clearly, we didn’t understand marriage…

  8. Really well said, I totally agree with you in saying that “questioning” is an extremely helpful label and it takes off a lot of pressure that might be present n’ stuff. Great post, I enjoyed it quite a bit 🙂

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