This Label is Enough
By Kim Barrett
From inside my own head, I can only see myself. I am stuffed in here with only my own thoughts and feelings. I only have one way of perceiving the world: mine. My head is where I am alone.
I’ve never been very good at empathy. I can imagine myself in a situation but only as myself; I can’t imagine how someone else might react differently. Looking at the state of the internet, it seems like that’s something other people struggle with as well.
If I could open my head and pour out everything I know and understand, you would maybe be able to understand my choices, my feelings, my life better than any flawed attempt at communication. But if I could do that you’d be able to help me too.
“Hey, I recognize this one.” You could say, poking at the soup of thoughts, feelings and
reactions that has sloshed in front of you. “The way you feel about people of all genders. That’s pretty common among bisexual people. You’re allowed to use that label.”
External validation is never necessary, particularly when we can only be judged by our
actions. Bisexual people who have only dated people of one gender; trans people who haven’t transitioned (or don’t want to); disabled people who never received an official diagnosis. They’re allowed to identify however feels right for them.
People who have exactly the same feelings about something may process them differently and come to different conclusions about what that feeling means for them. Our experiences can only be processed through the lens of what has already happened to us.
Even when we receive external validation, it may still take years of effort to understand what that label, diagnosis, identity means to you. For things where external validation is
impossible, understanding ourselves is all we can do. Then why do I want to pour my feelings and thoughts onto a table and let someone rummage
around inside them?
Because I want to know what feels normal. What is normal.
I want to know if I’m enough.
Am I gay enough to call myself gay? Am I comfortable enough in this gender? Am I queer enough to call myself queer? What even is sexual attraction when my brain is always running at a million miles an hour, too distracted to think about sex?
Am I in enough pain enough of the time to say that I’m in chronic pain? What about disabled, can I call myself that? When some days it hurts too much to walk but other days I feel fine, what label can I use to describe that? Does it hurt enough for me to ask for help?
Do I think my thoughts, does my brain work, the same way as everyone else? Do I think
more like this other group? Autistic. ADHD. Anxiety.
Finding these answers is too hard by myself. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be. I am
stuck inside my own head with only myself for company. Please tell me how you feel so I know the right way for me to feel.
I feel like an imposter in your world because I can never know if it is mine as well.
I can only find people to talk to. I can tell them how I feel. They can tell me how they’re
feeling. We can communicate in a wonderfully imperfect way about a terribly imperfect
I may not feel comfortable but I can feel safe, home, peace, calm, seen until my insecurities fall away.
That is all I know.
Am I normal?
Am I enough?
Well, who am I to say?
Kim Barrett (they/them) lives in Oxford, UK and writes about mental health, sexuality and the environment. Kim’s fiction has been published by Foglifter, Confluence and Tigershark and their non-fiction writing has appeared in the Huffington Post. You can follow Kim on Twitter or Instagram @kimbarrett92