I am labeled by everyone, but first and foremost, I am a human being.
I label me. I label you. You label me. How we refer to one another in pronouns label us. Our names label us. I am slightly envious of cultures where people are given several names throughout their lifetime. I imagine it’s nice to be named in a way that directly defines you. I partly belong to a culture with similar values, where it’s not uncommon to change your name. I am mixed raced and from a mixed culture.
In the reverse, we have the opportunity to define ourselves, to create a name for ourselves. I love the lessons found in narratives. I am a listener. In the story of Moses that is told in Abrahamic religions, Moses talks with God for the first time when he encounters a bush that burns but is not consumed by the flames. It is then that Moses, in a very bold move, asks for this god’s name in Exodus 3:14–asking exactly who this deity is. I am non-religious.
So ask for my name, I am Aneliese. My name is unique, and I love that about myself. It tells you EXACTLY who I am. There are no other persons with my full name as of right now. It tells my family history and where I fall upon that timeline. My label, my name, not unlike others, tells a story of struggle, doubt, and misconception. I struggled to come-out, and I struggled to stay out. As a bisexual/pansexual/queer, I caught myself debating whether I could just ignore the part of me that was attracted to not only cisgender men, but also to other genders. I am labeled by others so that they can understand parts of me in comparison to themselves and how I would fit into their worlds. I do the same to them whether fortunately or unfortunately. I am non-heteronormative.
I grew up in Oklahoma, and I thought that everyone had doubts about God at some point, and that everyone experienced some level of attraction to all different genders. These feelings were to be ignored unless they were to a man. The plan was to grow up, go to college in-state, marry a man before 24 years old, have 2.5 kids, and live behind a white picket fence. They are not bad goals if that’s what you actually want, but a terrible prison if not. I am successful.
My struggle is to be true to myself. I have fallen in love before and I have never been the same. Though those relationships have since morphed into friendships, I emerged a person who could no longer deny that love existed other than just between a man and a woman. I am a lover.
I have been called bitch, sweetheart, slut, prude, noncommittal, stupid, dumb, smart, lazy, proactive, quiet, over-committed, autistic, loud, out-going, introvert, tease, sinner, strong, saint, weak, bisexual, straight, lesbian, tall, pansexual, scholar, Asian, Native American, white, awkward, polyamorous, monogamous, half-breed, American, bold, crotchety, old, young, questioning, bi-curious, greedy, gullible, indecisive, queer, and sarcastic–obviously a complete list and all true. I am humorous.
Being empowered means that I could be all, none, or some of these things. It doesn’t matter what I’m called. It’s the intention. I am intentional. It matters how we treat each other. Being empowered means owning up to my name and my authentic self. I am powerful. I stand for me. Label me however you need to so that you can understand me. Hopefully, you see me as I see myself. My name makes me an individual, but my humanity lets us share in a collective. I am Aneliese, but first and foremost, I am a human-being.
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication, The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story.