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This is a thing that helped me, and it helped some other people on Tumblr, so I’m going to turn it into a real blog post.

When you think about your sexuality and gender, think about what you want to signal.

There are basically two reasons to identify as LGBA. First, you might want to signal to prospective romantic partners: you might want to say “I’m bisexual” so cuties of all genders know that you’re into them, or you might want to say “I’m a lesbian” so that men know not to waste their time hitting on you (as tragically unsuccessful a strategy as that might sometimes be). Second, a lot of people want to know who does and doesn’t experience homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality, for a whole bunch of reasons. A lot of LGBA people are more comfortable talking about their experiences with people who share them. Many people will take your opinion more seriously if they know it’s informed by life experience. Groups ranging from health centers to suicide hotlines are primarily open to LGBTA+ people.

So: if you want to signal to guys “hey! Guys! I want to kiss you!”, and you want to signal to girls “hey, girls, not my thing!”, congratulations, you get to identify as a gay dude.

And it’s 100% okay if you want to change your label. Because this isn’t some Basic Reality Of Your Fundamental Being: it’s just a word. It’s just signaling. If you used to be a gay dude and now you’re like “actually, that whole sex thing is not my bag, baby”, you can be asexual– homoromantic, if you still want to signal to boys that you want to hold their hands and get gaymarried (which we can do in all fifty states!), or aromantic if you’ve decided that’s not your bag either.

Similarly, trans shit.

The best advice I got when I was transitioning was stop worrying about your fucking label. A lot of times it’s easier to answer questions like “do I want people to use female pronouns for me? do I want to change my name? do I want to wear makeup or dresses or girl-cut jeans? do I want to tuck or wear falsies? do I want to take hormones? do I want voice therapy? do I want sexual reassignment surgery or electrolysis or facial feminization surgery?” than it is to answer questions like “really, on a fundamental level, do I identify more with men or women?” There is no empirical way you can answer the latter question. On the other hand, if you want to find out whether skirts are fun, you can go out and buy a skirt. Problem solved.

(Skirts are fun, by the way.)

And eventually it’s going to turn out that one set of vocabulary is the easiest to use to explain what’s going on with you. You can say “I’m a crossdresser” if you want to wear falsies and lipstick sometimes but mostly want to be called “he” and wear pants. You can say “I’m a woman” if you want to take HRT and use “she” pronouns and be called “Mary.” You can say “I’m nonbinary” if you like “they/them” and you want a boob job but you’re okay with your current hormone balance. You can say “I’m genderfluid” if your preferences change a lot, or “I’m a demigirl” if you’re mostly female but like “zie/hir” sometimes, or even “I’m cis” if this whole process ended with you going “actually, chest hair and Michael Bay movies are the shit.”

If Deep Essences of Ineffable Whatever are your deal, it’s cool. None of this blog post should be taken to say that you can’t go about having a deep essence of gay if you want to. But if you’re worried about being Fake Trans or Fake Gay or Fake Ace or Fake Bi… it’s fine. It’s just signaling. As long as you’re signaling what you want to signal, you don’t have to worry about whether you count or not. You do.