Definitions and Labels

Do you ever really wonder what you are?

How about human? I know, it’s a bit of a cop-out. You were hoping for something more definitive, something to put your troubled mind to rest.

As humans we tend to classify and label just about everything. There are dozens of different types of lawyers defined by the area of law they practice. For instance, maritime lawyers practice admiralty and maritime law. A maritime attorney deals with the business and commercial use of coastal and navigable waters, including inland waterways such as the Mississippi River among others, the Great Lakes, bays, harbors, and ports. Maritime lawyers do not deal with recreational water use accidents or issues. However they do work with legal issues which include maritime jurisdiction, maritime or shipping contracts, maritime liens, rights to shipping lanes, liability of US shipowners and USA flagged ships, harbor or port access and operations, seaman rights, salvage rights, and ship or boat accidents, including property damage, personal injury and death to maritime workers. Family law as practiced by a family lawyer covers the state regulation of family relationships including spouses, parents, children, guardians, wards and domestic partners. This is one area of law that the gay community may utilize more frequently than maritime law. Family law is divided into domestic relations covering marital and domestic partner relationships and juvenile law. Legal issues can include domestic violence, marriage, divorce, child custody, marital property rights, paternity, juvenile issues and parental rights and obligations. All issues that can impact the gay community. Personal Injury lawyers deal with such issues as seeking compensation for physical or psychological damages suffered by a person resulting from tortuous conduct or a private or civil wrong or injury caused by another person or entity. Under personal injury law the recoverable damages a lawyer will seek typically include medical expenses, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of spousal companionship known as “loss of consortium”. Other legal issues a personal injury lawyer deals with includes proof of liability or misconduct, scope and extent of injuries and proof of damages. This is again another important field of law for the gay community.

Well, homosexual is generally defined as an attraction to members of the same sex. For males, the common label is ‘gay’, but ‘queer’ and ‘fag’ and ‘homo’ are all quite common — and also either funny or insulting, depending on various factors. For woman, the term ‘lesbian’ is often preferred. ‘Gay’ is also used, somewhat less commonly than for men, and ‘dyke’ has been utilized both for good and evil purposes…

There’s also ‘bi-sexual’ or just ‘bi’, which is taken to mean that a person may be attracted to members of either sex. If you want to get really in-depth, there are all sorts of divisions of bisexuality drawn up by obsessive labelers with nothing better to do. You might be ‘85% hetero, 15% homo’ or vice versa, in any combination of percentages; the whole thing starts to get a little silly when people try to be that precise.

Anyway, because sexuality and gender are related, transgendered people are often included in a broader ‘homosexual’ category — despite the fact that each transgendered individual may occupy a very different point on the spectrum of sexual orientation. You can be straight and transgendered, gay and transgendered, et cetera (in fact, it’s relatively common for a male-to-female transgendered person who is attracted chiefly to others like themselves to refer to themselves as a lesbian — though often tongue-in-cheek).

Indeed, the whole topic of transgenderism is full of categories and labels and definitions. There are drag queens and cross-dressers, who occasionally dress as members of the other sex for various specific reasons; transvestites, who pursue a more comprehensive lifestyle as members of the opposite sex; and transsexuals, who firmly believe that they were meant to be the other sex and take various steps (up to and including major surgeries) to correct that mistake.

Things get even more complex when you take into account ‘lifestyle’ as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many gay men who embrace the diverse and specialized opportunities that the gay community has developed, catering to common interests but not necessarily (or even frequently) revolving around sexual matters. On the other hand, there are also many gay men who aren’t overly interested in the ‘gay community’ or the ‘gay lifestyle’; the only detail that distinguishes their lifestyle from that of a heterosexual man is their sexual orientation.

Yet all of these definitions and divisions are mainly over-simplifications. You can identify with one or more of them as much as you like, as much as you feel it helps you. Ultimately, your identity, sexuality, and lifestyle are unique to yourself, as complex or simple as anything else in the human experience. My only advice is to learn to be who you are (a life-long challenge!) and make your choices from your full range of options, rather than limiting yourself to someone else’s narrow categories.

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