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  • Writer's pictureH Llama

Put down the label maker

It’s that time of year when we can celebrate our community and identity and reflect on those moments that led us to where we are today. 

Some of us knew early in our lives that this is the community where we belong, and others took the long way around before they could confidently define themselves. 

Labels are a comfort, and being sure of your identity is a privilege. Not many of us can say that we identified our label and stuck with it, and yet there’s a certain level of loyalty that comes with labelling yourself—almost rendering rediscovering yourself a disloyal act. 

The truth is, labels are tiring (at least for me), and it’s exhausting trying to find the right fit when, in reality, I’m just me. A certain label won’t mean the same thing to me as it might do to you. Yet, as communities within a society tend to do, we police labels and identities like moral codes. 

Hey, I’m Hannah, /help’s social media assistant, and if you haven’t already worked out, I’ve had some trouble with labels.

When I was younger, my only exposure to relationships was through my mum. My parents divorced when I was barely old enough to string a sentence together, and so I knew from my mum’s relationships that love was between a man and a woman and that most of the time, men were going to give you a hard time. However, I also believed that being loved by someone (a man) was a necessity—that it made us whole.

So, when I became old enough to get butterflies in my tummy when boys spoke to me, I wanted to be in a relationship. I got fake married in primary school, and I chased and kissed boys. Then, in high school, I kissed more boys, got into relationships, and did whatever they asked. They were in charge, and I did my bit by letting them. 

This, of course, led to a whole lot of heartache and ridicule (in the classic high school style). My first kiss with a girl was part of a dare, and I remember it altering my brain chemistry. Kissing boys had been fun, but kissing girls felt right. There were no caveats or expectations around kissing a girl. 

My school was a strange place. I had friends who were gay, and it was never something I questioned. But, there was a particular unease in our school of those who identified as bisexual. So, when I came out as bisexual at around 14 (albeit not overly officially, but word gets around), there were more than a handful of comments, especially considering my previous history with boys. 

The bottom line seemed to be that I couldn’t be bisexual if I’d never been in a relationship with a girl. In fact, so many people told me this that I started to believe it, and my reputation with boys continued. I entered my first long-term intimate relationship at 15, and once that one ended, as they inevitably do, I entered the next. Then, I continued my obedient ritual, and by the time I was 17, I was pregnant. 


It hit me like a tonne of bricks. I was pregnant. I was having a baby. Me. 17. A mother. 

I knew I couldn’t be a mother; I was only a baby myself. It dawned on me that I spent my entire adolescent childhood focused on relationships and monogamy, and I didn’t even know who I really was, never mind how to care for a little human with all their complex needs and demands. 

Yet, to cut a long story short, I had the baby—a wonderful baby boy. No, we didn’t live happily ever after—that relationship didn’t last. One thing that did come out of this experience, though, was that I had the most amazing support network, and pretty soon, I was able to dedicate my time to the one boy that really mattered—my son. 

Suddenly, keeping a man happy didn’t matter so much to me anymore. If I was going to show up as a mother, I needed to keep me happy and, most of all, figure my shit out

I went to college, got amazing grades, and cut my studies short so I could go to university early. Not only did I start to study what I loved, but I got involved with extracurriculars, met people who shared my interests, and discovered more about myself! I actually had humour and charm, and people liked to spend time with me, not because I was people-pleasing but because I was just me.

My support network grew, and along with that, so did my exposure to the queer community. I knew I’d buried my gay. I’d kept that part of me locked away; I was well and truly in the deep, dark depths of the closet. However, it wouldn’t take long for me to realise that one of my closest friendships felt more than platonic to me. I had spent the last two years being best friends with someone that I was pretty sure I was actually falling for. 

I certainly was not straight. In fact, I’d started to realise that in all my straight relationships, I don’t think I’d ever truly felt love. I had felt loved but never in love. But gosh, I was in love now.

Three years later, we’re married, raising my son, who is as much theirs as mine, and I am happy. 

Look, I don’t mean to reel off my whole life story, but the bottom line is that I don’t think I’ll ever honestly know what label I have. I identify with many aspects of the community to varying degrees. I use she/they pronouns. I identify as a lesbian, but I still understand the attraction to men. I believe I’m somewhere on the asexual spectrum, but that’s undefined. 

I exist in identity limbo, and I’m okay with that. I’m only in my 20s, and I’ve already discovered so much about myself—I have many years to go and can’t wait to learn even more. I guess the point I’m trying to make is not to rush who you are. 

There’s no time limit on when you have to get out the label maker and define yourself. This is who I am right now - I could be completely different when I’m 80, and I am proud of every iteration of myself that I have been and which is yet to come.

Happy Pride Month! 

By Hannah

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