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I love words. (This is perhaps not surprising. I write and talk at you a lot for someone who doesn’t, eh?) That said, labels and I have mixed history. I love some of them, I cling to some like a life raft, I want some to burn up in flames (ambiamorous, as soon as I get a new word, I’m coming for you!), and some are burnt into me like brands I won’t ever be rid of. They’re going to be identifiers in my head whether they match my reality or not, forever.

So, I understand why some people fight not to use an abundance of labels for themselves. As much as they know (and many studies show) that most humans find labels comforting, their primary concern isn’t to comfort others, it’s to sit well in their own skin, and the word that is sitting on their psyche is not the word they actually want to present, and the cognitive dissonance is too great today. Minimal labels it is for those people. (There are many of those people. I have been one of them, although I think I’ve given in and taken all mine up at this point.)

Some labels for sexualities help people identify that who they are is a perfectly reasonable, normal, natural way to be - that being in a small minority does not make them wrong, it just makes them part of a group that doesn’t get talked about much. Representation is important and you need a name to represent a group, typically. So labels do good work there. Other labels help umbrella those so that folks don’t feel so alone - you may be the only fraysexual in a room but you’re almost certainly not the only person on the ace spectrum and you’re not the only LGBTQ+ person in my virtual living room, dear.

Some labels for relationships help folks understand what norms they should follow, and others muddy the issue and require worlds of negotiation because communication is the only constant we can really be sure of, besides love.

Regardless, words can be almost as beautiful as people when passed between the lips of our loved ones with reverent respect for our needs and identities, and that is why labels matter if we name them on ourselves.

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