These Words that Build Me: Invisible Identities

The ancient Greeks didn’t have a word for blue. Does this mean they could not see the color blue? No; rather it means blue, as we see it, was a part of a larger color (likely green). It did not mean blue didn’t exist to the ancient Greeks, it meant the distinction was invisible to them without the words to define it.

The same can be said of sexualities and gender identities. In the vast spectrum of sexuality and gender, many identities are often overlooked, lumped in with another identity, or dismissed. With the evolution of language, we now have terms for these minorities. No longer will they be invisible, as long as the words exist to describe them.

I’ve had the privilege (and oftentimes burden) of having my identity evolve with the language. As I learn new terminology to describe how I feel as a person, the way I define myself has changed. At the moment my identity feels long and takes some explaining, but it feels right to me. To accurately describe the way I am is a truth I want to share, even if it’s hard for others to distinguish it.

I identify as demisexual, panromantic, and genderfluid. Long ago, I first came out as bisexual, which felt not quite right. Then pansexual, which felt a bit more on track, but was still not exactly right. Like Goldilocks, I was searching for what fit me just right. And that’s when I found the just right word. Demisexual: a subset of asexuality, a sexuality where there is no sexual attraction. There are a myriad of different sexualities in the asexual umbrella, and most of them are overlooked. For me, I am demi, which means I can feel sexual attraction only after an emotional connection has been created.

If sexualities are diverse, so are romantic attractions. For most people, romantic attraction mimics sexual attraction. Wanting a sexual relationship with a man often means wanting a romantic relationship with a man. There are as many romantic attractions as there are sexual attractions. I, for example, am panromantic. Panromantic: having the ability to fall in love with anyone of any gender.

Some of you might be wondering what I mean by ‘any gender’. Not only is there a sexuality spectrum with a corresponding romantic attraction rainbow, but there’s a myriad of different gender identities out there. Which brings my gender identity into the light, the wonderfully confusing genderfluid. Genderfluid: identifying at any time as any gender. Sometimes I’m male, sometimes I’m female. Sometimes I’m both, sometimes I’m neither. It varies day to day, moment to moment, and is often dismissed as a fickle personality.

There are so many more identities out there! The few I mentioned barely scratch the surface. If you or anyone you know ever feels like they’re broken, confused, different, alone… remember this: you are not alone. There is a whole community out there. The words might not exist yet, but that does not invalidate how you feel. As words are created to fit these feelings that haven’t had definitions in the past, our world deepens. If we look closely, we see there are many more hues and shades of people than we could see before.

The invisible orientation : an introduction to asexuality / Julie Sondra Decker.
The conscious parent’s guide to gender identity : a mindful approach to embracing your child’s authentic self / Darlene Tando.
A list of romantic orientations
A Glossary of terms!

1 reply
  1. Susan, Library Associate
    Susan, Library Associate says:

    Thank you so much for this post, Olivia. The idea that humans don’t need words just to communicate, but also to conceptualize themselves and the world is fascinating to me. (Book person. Go figure.)

    It wasn’t that long ago that exploring who we actually are was frowned upon in favor of struggling to portray someone others might have preferred for us to be. At this point in history we seem to be gaining some momentum in understanding and valuing our complex selves. The words demisexual, panromantic, and gender fluid are new to me and to our language, if I understand correctly, but such words may be the “blue” of our times. I think someday we will wonder what we ever did without them.

    One more thing. Even now, it still takes a certain kind of person to discuss topics of gender and sexual identity, especially their own, with such calmness and candor. The words one uses to describe the qualities of such a person have been around for a long time: sincerity, perception, and bravery to name a few. Thanks!


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