Do LGBTQ Labels Matter?

A few weeks ago when running a training for counsellors someone asked “do we really need all these labels, can we not just call everyone people?”

This inspired me to write a blog about labels in the LGBTQ community.

Labels such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary, pansexual, asexual, intersex are the kind of words we were exploring the meaning of in this workshop.

Many counsellors get very confused about words and what they mean and desperately don’t want to offend. They are so scared of getting it wrong and not knowing enough. However, I often reassure people it is not about swallowing a dictionary of vocabulary, instead we need to take the time to consider what labels mean and if they are helpful or harmful. Learn more here.

Simply put, in my experience, in my queer circles of friends and with LGBTQ clients in my counselling practice ...

labels can help people understand who they are, what they are experiencing and to connect with LGBTQ communities.

I often ask fellow counsellors who join my workshops to think about what words they might use to describe their own gender and sexuality. Sometimes counsellors tell me that they don’t need a label as we should all be treated the same.

It is common for counsellors who are straight and cisgender (not trans) to tell me that they have never thought about exploring their own sexuality or gender in their personal therapy as they are certain of who they are.

The thing is LGBTQ people I see can also be pretty sure of who they are, but because our society is heteronormative and cisnormative this can make identifying as LGBTQ and using these labels much more difficult. This is because in society we are often assumed to be straight or cisgender (not trans) unless we say otherwise. And this is why for LGBTQ folks labels can often be more important.

Have you thought about what labels you would use to describe your gender and sexuality?

What do you think about the labels that your clients use?