I realized that identifying myself as something that is hurtful to others is not worth it.
Yesterday I was the victim of cyberbullying when I mentioned that I identify as sapiosexual. It hurt a lot.
And I feel like I need to explain why.
I’m hurt because people get branded cishet at birth and coerced into acting in ways they don’t want to.
Because when growing up that coercion can turn violent as you’re made fun of and bullied for being “not man enough”. Because you are physically repulsed by the thought of putting on false bravado but you do it anyway to “appear manly” and avoid that violent coercion.
Because outdoor social activities, like sports, forced you to put on that false bravado or be seen as non-participatory. And this creates negative emotional associations with sports. Because you find chatting online or playing video games to be akin to transcendence, into a world where you can have a purpose, or fit in with others who feel the same way about things as you.
You are lucky (privileged?) enough to choose a job as a programmer so you can spend more time in that world. The job gives you the ability to leave home so you don’t have to face coercion at home. Your job and your online activities are how you build a new group of friends who you don’t have to “act manly” around.
When all that happens, you might find yourself evaluating whether to engage with someone socially based on how threatening they seem to your mental state.
You start looking for outward indications of non-conformity to social norms as indications of some mental diversity that may accept you as you are. You start to add those idiosyncrasies to your outward appearance too in the hopes that someone else desperate to connect will approach you.
You find yourself attracted to people with minds that you find interesting. People who say things you’ve never heard of before, who have fandoms you’ve never gotten into before, who have ideas that are beautiful to you.
Your cishet friends and acquaintances often have a vocal consensus on how attractive another person is but when you look at them it’s like seeing in grey-scale. And you find it odd to vocalize things like that in the first place. But the person next to the one getting praised has a pun on their t-shirt and they’re not in grey-scale to you which makes you blush.
You start to wonder what’s wrong with you if you hate acting the way everyone else you’re being coerced to be like seems to enjoy? Why do you find completely different people attractive compared to your friends, sometimes even of your own “gender”? You start trying to find out if there’s anyone else like you.
When it comes to sexuality nothing really seems to fit, but the one that seems to be the closest is this thing called “sapiosexual”.
Being attracted to intelligence, it kinda works, there are many types of intelligence and you believe everyone has intelligence in one way or another. And you know it’s the mental part of others you find fascinating.
At first, nobody really understands what you’re talking about, but the fact that you found a label that kinda fits makes you assume it is a real thing. As you expand your online socializing into more progressive communities you start meeting other people who identify as this label too, and you seem to get along with them well.
You’re feeling a whole lot better about yourself and life because there’s finally some evidence that you’re not broken, you’re just put together differently.
That is until… like needing to get kicked out of multiple levels of inception, you get a traumatic blow to each layer of heartbreak, when people online start to mock you and ban you from a facebook group just for using that label.
So yeah, as you can tell, I’m feeling really sorry for myself right now. But I’m not going to let that stop me from learning a lesson from this. I reached out to people online to vent about being bullied for using the label “sapiosexual”. In the process, I got defriended for my efforts by some, but I also got some good feedback (thanks!).
But I realized that identifying myself as something that is hurtful to others is not worth it, not worth feeling like there is a place for me in the world. This label was hurting people who’s definition of intelligence was closer to IQ. It was unintentional as I thought of intelligence more as admiring someone’s mind.
Noetisexual — It’s a mental attraction rather than a purely “intellectual” one. It’s loving the shape of their mental landscape and wanting to explore it. It’s falling in love with the way they think, their unique mental make up. It’s loving their creativity, their ingenuity, their silliness, their humor, their emotional intelligence, the way they use words, the way they make mental space for you in their minds, and more.
It’s being attracted to the way their minds work rather than simply one ill-defined facet of it.
And it actually made a lot more sense to me as something to identify as. So in an attempt to stop causing other’s pain, I am going to stop using the label sapiosexual and identify as noetisexual instead.
But I wanted to share my journey of self-discovery with others in the hopes that it will give you empathy for the next person you meet that identifies as “sapiosexual”. Instead of mocking them and telling them to “STOP F#CKING BOOKS” try something like “the term sapiosexual is problematic, have you heard of noetisexual as an alternative?”.
Because even when you “know” you’re right about something, about a label, there’s still a person there behind that label trying to find their place in the world.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.