Where Did I Leave My Label Maker?

Welcome to the news and research reviews!  I decided to start my blog with an article by the most well known female sexuality researcher, Dr. Lisa Diamond.  Some of you may have heard of her book Sexual Fluidity.  She has also written journal articles about how women label their sexual identity.  I personally don’t like labels, and I feel slight anxiety whenever I’m required to label my sexual orientation.  It feels so restricting!

When I need to fill out a form, whether for a research study I’m participating in or an LGBT petition I’m supporting, if they don’t have a queer option I hesitate.  The thought process goes something like this: “Well I’ve dated men and women…does that mean they want me to choose bisexual?  But I haven’t dated a guy in…hmm how long has it been now?  Is there an expiration date on bisexuality, a point where it switches to lesbian after a set period of not dating men?  But that guy I saw on the el last week was cute, but he’s surely gay because I’m only attracted to those femme pretty boys anyway.  So I should choose lesbian.  Okay lesbian, check.  BUT WAIT!  What if sometime in the far future the planets all align just so, and I fall in love with a man?!  Damn these labels and boxes everyone wants to stick me in!”  Someone please lead me to the all-encompassing safe queer checkbox.

Lisa Diamond, Ph.D.

In Dr. Lisa Diamond’s article, A New View of Lesbian Subtypes, she redefines the constricting labels that make me cringe.  Instead of the limiting lesbian or bisexual labels, she discusses new categories.  The stable lesbians identified themselves as lesbians throughout the eight years of the study.  Fluid lesbians went back and forth between lesbian and other labels, and stable nonlesbians identified themselves as anything but lesbians over the eight years (e.g., they may have said they were bisexual at one point and then later said they prefer to not be labeled).  Okay, stay with me through the research lingo and you’ll feel the smothering confinement of labels give everyone a little more breathing room.  Over the eight years all of the women were asked about which sex they have relationships with and to which sex they are most attracted.  The stable lesbians were the most likely to only have relationships with women and be almost exclusively attracted to women.  Stable nonlesbians were more likely to have relationships and attractions to both men and women, while fluid lesbians fell in between these two categories.

So the gist of all of this is that labels don’t need to be so black and white.  Diamond’s view of labels gives everyone a little more leeway.  As much as I don’t like labels, I do admit that they do make it easier to talk research, and even to talk dating; so unfortunately they are necessary.  In a perfect world dating would be easy.  You see a cute girl, but can’t quite tell…is she straight?  So you just go up and ask, “You’re cute, are you a lesbian?”  She smiles and responds with, “Yes I am, let’s go get dinner.”  I did say in a perfect, nonexistent, world.  In my ideal world, where labels are less restrictive and not lurking around every corner trying to confine me to their claustrophobic boxes, the conversation would go a bit differently.  “You’re cute, are you a stable lesbian, fluid lesbian, stable nonlesbian, or straight?”  She smiles and responds with, “Well actually I prefer to define myself as a lesfluidtrisexual.”  While the previously interested woman blankly stares and walks away muttering about how women always have to be so complicated.

Okay so maybe labels do have their place, but I’m going to stick with Dr. Diamond on this one and at least go with a less restrictive label.

The Fluid Lesbian

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About Dawn

Dawn is a Chicago area native and loves the city she calls home. With a strong passion for both the field of psychology and LGBT issues, she strives to combine the two through gender and sexuality research. As the Women’s Outreach Chair for the Illinois chapter of the Human Rights Campaign she reaches out to the lesbian community to further their involvement in the fight for equality. Whether putting on fundraisers or spreading the word about equality at local festivals, she is always thinking of new ways to serve the LGBT community. When not doing research or fighting for equal rights, she loves to take long walks around the city, enjoy the street festivals, go camping, and hunt for the best Persian food in Chicago!


7 Responses to “Where Did I Leave My Label Maker?”

  1. My “type” doesn’t include gonadal structure. Love can occur between two people at anytime. As much as we want to define each other, or ourselves for that matter, in order to better explain who we are we are each still nothing more than OURSELVES. Who I love or what I do doesn’t define who I am. I define who I am. I’ve watched my “lesbian” friends marry men and be happy and my straight friends fall in love with another woman. I’m not gay, straight, or bi or queer. I’m open to living life and cold care less what you do with yours…unless of course…YOU are my type. Whatever that is.

    Posted by Meg* | May 18, 2011, 12:51 pm
  2. Wow! I was thinkIng about this yesterday…get outta my head lol! Great article 🙂

    Posted by Aimee | May 18, 2011, 2:11 pm
  3. @ Meg: I totally agree. Your comment reminds me of this great quote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” ~Audre Lorde

    @ Aimee: Thanks so much! I can read your mind LOL.

    Posted by Dawn | May 18, 2011, 10:11 pm
  4. I loved that you wrote about fluid sexuality, and I’m also on board with giving Lisa some love on The L Stop as she was a wonderful mentor to me in Salt Lake City. 🙂

    Posted by JT | May 23, 2011, 10:18 am
  5. Thanks JT. I’m actually finishing up my Master’s now and will be applying to Ph.D. programs this fall and The University of Utah is definitely on my list. Dr. Diamond is quite an inspiration!

    Posted by Dawn | May 25, 2011, 9:35 pm
  6. An interesting piece on ‘fluidity’. I hate labels they can get sticky:-( Worlds can change and us with them. My cultural/sexual needs/identity could easily change if I moved to a country with definite mores where fluidity flows less easily. Best keep options open I say.

    Posted by lesley | December 29, 2015, 3:46 am


  1. […] surprise I’m a lesbian!” No I would never say that, not even now. I don’t like the way labels make me feel restricted. Instead I decided to just tell everyone that I “date girls.” It was easier for me to say the […]

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