What’s in a Label?

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What’s in a label?

Saturday 11th October is Coming Out Day, Joel Korn, our Lifestyle Editor, finds himself asking “What’s in a label?” Read what Joel has to say.

This year on this Coming Out Day I find that I am having a conversation with myself about labels. In terms of how they can cause additional stigma, sometimes make you feel like an outsider in the community and that you do not belong. Particularly, if you feel that you do not identify with some characteristics of the stereotypes of the LGBT community.

When I think back to 18 years ago when I was coming out and thought about how I looked, dressed and treated entering the gay community. It was like a marathon wanting to be seen in all the best places and try everything the gay scene in London had to offer. As I was much skinnier then I got far more attention from guys, it was like getting all the candy I wanted in the sweet shop. Most of all I would want to apologise to my parents for giving them sleepless nights worrying about when would I be home and if I was OK. At one time I used the gay scene to escape into, which for a long time helped me numb my own difficulties of accepting my sexual orientation. I wish I could go back and tell myself to slow down and there is no rush.

Recently, I have just finished working on a project with people that live with learning support needs and counselling them around sex and relationships. For plenty of the clients I worked with, when I first met them they would say whilst bowing their head I live with Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Asperger syndrome. I felt saddened that a label that should support them could be bound in so much shame when disclosing it. I also am aware how privileged I am to somewhat be able to understand human feelings, emotions and physical gestures.

I also though learnt a lot about labels and our relationship to them. How we have a choice of them helping us grow stronger, or that we can use a label to hide behind, though never quite feel that we can live up to the expectations that comes with the label.

So my biggest advice this coming out day, is to review where you are at with the labels you choose to define you and build a better more healthier relationship to them. Whether that is being LGBT, being Jewish or having additional learning or support needs. Improving your relationship with how we choose to define ourselves, will help keep your emotional well-being healthy. If you need support to help with feeling more positive about your identity know it is out there. Find someone you can trust to talk this over with. Most of all know that there is life beyond the labels LGBT.

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About Author

Joel is a qualified counsellor and psycho-therapeutic supervisor working with both youth and adult clients. He has worked in the LGBT community for over 14 years working in the fields of health, social care and youth work. This has included working in HIV prevention and supporting adults and young people who are living with HIV. Since 1999, Joel has delivered training and workshops in the voluntary and statutory sectors around the themes of sexuality, homophobia and sexual health.

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