By Richard Patrick @IncrediblyRich


There was a time when the word gay meant light-hearted and carefree. There was even a time when the word gay meant homosexual. But over the last few years, the word gay has slowly transformed into the ultimate playground insult for anything deemed tacky or uncool. It should come as no surprise then that many young LGB people are choosing to ditch the word entirely, even when referencing their own sexuality. Instead, restrictive labels such as lesbian, gay and bisexual are actively being dissolved in favour of a more casual approach to sexual identity.

Speaking at the American Psychological Association annual conference earlier this year, psychologist Braden Berkey presented several studies on how modern teens categorise their sexual preferences and behaviour. “Many young people do not actually say they are gay, even though they talk about sexual encounters with same-sex partners or same-sex romantic attraction,” he said. “Instead, many teens are now choosing to describe themselves as ‘mostly heterosexual.”

Tom Daley was similarly vague when he announced his departure from heterosexuality, confessing his ongoing attraction to women in spite of his commitment to a same-sex relationship. Many news outlets were extremely confused by this admission and immediately sought to label him as either gay or bisexual, despite him identifying as neither. Instead, Daley chose to align himself with his more progressive peers by smashing down the closet doors with an enormous question mark.   

Jacob, a 21-year-old law student from Manchester, agrees with this approach: “I just think those words seem a bit outdated and old fashioned,” he says. “Our generation is much more open-minded about these things so labels seem a bit unnecessary. I might be dating another guy, but his gender makes up such a small part of the relationship that it seems pointless to even talk about it.”

Even celebrities who have previously identified as straight are adopting this defiantly mellow attitude towards sexuality. After members of the boy band Blue admitted to sharing same-sex experiences, Lee Ryan took to Twitter to deny accusations he was gay, saying: “Sexuality doesn’t need to be defended or justified. We have created change as a society, a really brilliant change. Please just open your minds and begin to think equal. Everyone is allowed to be individual.”

It seems unlikely that people would turn to Lee Ryan for inspiration, but this reformist trend is undeniably gaining momentum and could potentially benefit our community in many ways. If sexuality becomes much harder to define, then it’s quite possible that opponents will find it even harder to challenge. It could also mitigate the difficult process of coming out. “I happen to be seeing a man/woman now, but it’s no big deal,” undoubtedly packs a lesser punch than the traditional two-word revelation.

This new coming-out narrative is far from the norm though and raises many problems of its own. Jessie J recently caused a social media firestorm by claiming she’s no longer bisexual. Although Jessie had simply exercised her right to self-definition, many people felt she had done a great disservice to bisexuality by referring to her interest in women as a phase. But if young people wish to define sexuality in more fluid terms then they must also accept that orientation can potentially move in either direction. Veering towards the straight side of the spectrum should be just as acceptable as a step towards the more sparkly side of the rainbow.

Additionally, it would seem rather naïve for young people to assume they can leave behind the trappings of traditional definitions just because they don’t quite match their liberal-minded attitudes. Millions of people still depend on those imperfect labels for support and comradeship and, in a world where the battle for equality rages on, it’s unlikely that the word gay could ever truly become redundant. On the other hand, there are only so many letters you can superglue to LGBTQAIK before the umbrella term inevitably implodes upon itself. The younger generation may seem prepared for this eventuality, but the rest of us might need to rethink our views if we are to understand the next chapter of queer culture. Otherwise, we may be forced to seek further guidance from Lee Ryan. And nobody wants that. 


FS SAYS: Don't box yourslef in to please others.

Figuring out who you are as a person is never an easy thing to do. Some people glide into who they are in their teens, some in their twenties and others go through life constantly trying to figure out who they are as people. When it comes to your sexuality, the only person who needs to figure it out is you. As much as the media makes it out that sexuality is a national story, it doesn’t have to be like this. Boxes are for putting nice pretty things in. You don’t need to box yourself into a label. Gay, bi, straight, whatever. Who you want to put your penis in is your business. However, if this is something you are struggling with there are lots of support services out there that can help you figure it out.

Online:

Stonewall: www.youngstonewall.org.uk/get_support/coming_out
www.RUcomingOut.com: a blog dedicated to true life coming out stories. 

Phone:

Stonewall: 08000 502020
London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard: 0300 330 0630

Youth groups:

Find a youth group near you: www.ygm.org.uk/home/comingout/youthgroups.