The Importance of Microlabels
By Wendy Garcia
Image via Elenyan
As many people question their sexuality, it can be daunting to see many different labels for one’s sexuality, especially if they overlap with another. Everyone’s view of their sexuality differs, and one label might not fit someone for a myriad of reasons. One example is with the label bisexual and microlabels such as pansexual, omnisexual and polysexual.
What is bisexual?
The term bisexual can mean different things to people, but it generally involves the attraction to more than one gender. For some, it can be strictly men and women. For others, it can be men, women, and non-binary people. Some people may find that gender is insignificant in their attraction to people. Some bisexual folks have a preference for one gender, and others don’t. No two bisexual people are the same, and bisexuality encompasses a wide range of experiences and definitions unique to each individual.
What are microlabels?
Microlabels are more specific labels that fall under or overlap with a broader term. In this case, bisexual would be the broader term, and pansexual, omnisexual and polysexual would be microlabels that can overlap with bisexual. Although people who use microlabels can have slightly different interpretations of these terms, pansexual is the attraction to all genders or regardless of gender, omnisexual is the attraction to all genders but gender may still play a role in a person’s attraction, and polysexual is the attraction to many but not all genders.
Why not just use bisexual?
There can be many reasons why someone would opt to use a microlabel to define their sexuality over a broader or well-known label. Some people feel that the broadness of bisexuality doesn't accurately describe their sexuality, and some may just prefer a specific label over a broader one for their own reasons. At the end of the day, no one knows their sexuality better than that individual.
Are microlabels harmful?
There’s been debate both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community on whether microlabels are harmful or necessary. In my opinion, it can really come down to why a person may choose a microlabel to define their sexuality. In my case where I used to identify as pansexual because I thought bisexual was binary and exclusive towards non-binary people, using a microlabel might’ve been harmful and contributed to misinformation of bisexuality. However, if a person knows what bisexuality encompasses but feels that a more specific label like pansexual, omnisexual, and polysexual is more fitting to them, then that’s completely fine. Even if the definitions of these microlabels overlap with bisexual, the distinctions can matter to people and are valid.
No matter how a person defines their sexuality, it’s important to recognize why microlabels matter to many people and not force someone to use a particular label. It’s already difficult as it is for people to come to terms with their sexuality, and debating the validity of certain labels on the basis of them being unnecessary doesn’t help anyone.
“Microlabel.” LGBTA Wiki, 2021, lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Microlabel. Accessed 3 May 2021.
“Omnisexual.” LGBTA Wiki, 2015, lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Omnisexual. Accessed 3 May 2021.
“Polysexual.” LGBTA Wiki, 2012, lgbta.wikia.org/wiki/Polysexual. Accessed 3 May 2021.
“Understanding Bisexuality.” https://www.apa.org, 2017, www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/bisexual. Accessed 3 May 2021.
Zane, Zachary. “What Is Pansexuality—and How Is It Different from Bisexuality?” Prevention, Prevention, 11 July 2019, www.prevention.com/life/a28365203/what-is-pansexuality/. Accessed 3 May 2021.
Written by writer Wendy Garcia