With all the labels and all the struggles- trying to find a term that fits everything I am, only one word seems to encompass it all. Queer, femme, butch, lesbian, woman, genderqueer, genderfuck, and dyke have all been tried on with varying degrees of success. Each one felt like a plaster mold into which I was pouring and conforming myself to meet its definition.
When I stopped writing over these past two years, I stopped trying on words, frantically, as if they were outfits five minutes before a date. I took my time and slowed things down. I came out to my family. Coming out to strangers had been no problem in the past, but my uber-religious family was scary. Turns out I didn't have much to be frightened of. But in the time that I stopped searching for words to mold myself into, I found the word that molded itself to me.
Such a simple, unhindered word, traditionally used for the male sex, but that doesn't hang me up. People understand it immediately. Unlike other terms which begin a lengthy discussion of who I am and what I identify as (don't get me wrong, I love lengthy discussions, but not every time) the term "gay" is very quickly grasped.
To be gay in society has a certain connotation. Gay is not a phase, not something to be outgrown or moved past with "the right person." Gay is not a lifestyle choice. Gay is unchanging; gay is forever.
Gay is definite.
Everyone has a word they feel most comfortable with, and when they say those words with pride, when they announce to the world, "I identify as genderqueer," or "I'm a femme," it gives that person strength, power, joy- a sense of self and confidence.
But for me, each time I tried to label myself, the words rang false. Instead of joy and pride, I felt an emptiness and a longing. Until now, when people ask, and I can simply say, "I'm gay," and it makes me smile. If it's with a random passerby, the inevitable question thereafter is, "so are you butch or is your girlfriend?" because a lot of people still believe all lesbian relationships are butch/femme.
"I'm just gay," I laugh, and who cares if they're confused. It's my word, and the freedom attached to it has never felt so good.