These young people who seek to free themselves from labels

All I can say is that I don’t consider myself right. I can’t give you more details. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I don’t knowFlorian, 19, is a preparatory class student at a Parisian high school. Panini in hand, she eats lunch near the Pantheon before heading back to class.

Since when did she stop calling herself “heterosexual”? She has no history in mind. “It is the accumulation of the little things we did in our childhood. We knew, for us, what we were, but the others didn’t understand because they didn’t give us that choice.” she says. Since she hasn’t had a long romantic relationship, she doesn’t know if she’s only attracted to women, if she might be attracted to some men, or even if she’s asexual (feeling little or no sexual desire). For now you prefer to keep the ambiguity: “It’s complicated, it takes time and not necessarily necessary” To identify themselves, she says.

Define yourself beyond heterosexual relationships

At his side is his friend Clarice, 18, with long blond hair on the shoulders. She also considered herself heterosexual for a long time, but now she calls herself bisexual: “At first I had no choice. Everyone called me directly, so I had no doubts [sur le fait] I was attracted to boys. But there was something else…“, as you say.”Today, I think I’m somewhat bisexual, but like Florian, he’s fluid, I don’t know…

When we listen to teens and young adults entering adulthood, there is questioning [du fait] to define oneself exclusively and above all by heterosexual relations”, Analyzes Yael Amselm Maingwe, a sociologist in charge of studies at the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education (INGP). “process note [sociétal] which makes it increasingly possible to define the self, or, conversely, to reject self-definition, in one sexual orientation”, She adds.

Rebecca, 19, in this case: “I identify myself as gay, because I’ve always been attracted to women. But I also like to allow myself to be attracted to people of the opposite sex and not be closed off to other experiences.”, the young woman, who is also a student in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, pours.

bisexual challenge

Oscar, 18, is in high school. Born in the body of a girl, whose first name is another, he considers himself today.”man “,” transgender*“.”Deep down, I’ve always known. But I was able to admit it to myself last year, and it came out of the closet this year.‘If it is important to him to sexualize the masculine,’ he says, ‘which some of his teachers already do,’My sexual orientation, we’ll see later, because I don’t know!‘, sweeps up with a sentence.

It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly who we love, when we’re still searching for our identity. “Putting names on everything doesn’t make much sense‘, adds Diane, woman “bisexualWho says she’s more attracted to him?Character“Only by gender, or physique. This Saturday, June 25, Oscar will for the first time participate in the Pride parade in Paris, formerly Gay Pride, which has been organized in the capital since 1981.”It was my father who gave it to me.‘ he says cheerfully.

A young woman holds a banner during the Pride March in Toulouse, October 9, 2021.
A young woman holds a banner during the Pride March in Toulouse, October 9, 2021.

© AFP
Jean-Marc Barrie / Hans Lucas

Viv, who just passed her baccalaureate in Lyon, today prefers not to choose between being a man or a woman or using the term “non-binary**”:I’ve always been very androgynous. I’ve accentuated my feminine side over time, without even starting to transition. I feel like I’m still under construction in terms of my gender identity.” Born in the body of a boy, she shortened her birth name and today prefers to use the pronoun “she” to define her, even if she didn’t ask for it in high school yet.

As for his sexual orientation, this, too, remains unclear. “I’ve always been attracted to boys, and by the way, I’ve only dated boys. But I find it hard to define myself, because if I call myself gay, I incorporate the fact of being a boy, and if I call myself hetero, I incorporate the fact of being a girl. It’s complicated. I don’t want to lock myself in a box now. “

Sarah, 18, has recently undergone a change within her friend group, with many people reviewing their sexual orientation or gender identity: “I think there was a development in society that allowed them to be more comfortable with that.‘, you trust. “For a good ten years, duality has been questioned‘, confirms Yaëlle Amsellem-Mainguy.It becomes acceptable, and it is legitimate to say in greater proportions.

In interviews we can lead,” The sociologist continues,We see the need for an entire portion of youngsters not to be in the chests, and to be able to play the categories. It is not defined for life. “

“The Internet Allows Identities to Run”

While many teenage boys and girls have questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity,”The legality of saying it in front of friends is not clear everywhere‘, Comments by Yaëlle Amsellem-Mainguy.Internet allowed [alors] To play with identities, especially for young people from working-class backgrounds. It also allows you to open up and discover whole areas of sexuality, especially when the entourage won’t allow it.‘, she continues.

She cites in particular social networks such as Discord, where you can exchange with other Internet users in different “rooms” for thematic discussions; Instagram, where many LGBTQIA+ influencers talk about their daily lives (including the young singer Bilal Hassani Or the Swiss “gay twins” of the reckoning fee, to be recited by anyone other than them); or the Twitch broadcasting platform. Finally, the Internet allows you to put yourself in one place or another, and see”What gives, if we are legit, the reactions of othersEven if it means exposing yourself a lot, still analyzes Yaëlle Amsellem-Mainguy, co-author of Youth, Sex and the Internet (Ed. Les Pérégrines).

gay identity

Liam, 20, studies sociology at Boulogne-Billancourt and has long sought the correct label to define himself. :For example, I said to myself that I am “recruiting” and therefore have no gender. But then I thought it wasn’t me. Then I said to myself that I was ‘gender fluid’, and that I was transitioning from one type to another, but it just didn’t work for me. So we end up giving up. “

Liam thinks thatThese classifications are important in the beginning, when you realize that you are not straight and that you are looking out for yourself. But from the moment it becomes too detailed, and when we no longer think about it [le genre et la sexualité] Like ghosts, it can be disruptive.” Finally, when asked about her gender identity and sexual orientation, the answer was “Odd, because it leaves possibility for many things.” Queer, “Q” from the acronym LGBTQIA+. A militant term derived from the English language and combines the gender identities and sexual orientations of minorities.

Do these questions of identity have consequences for young people’s entry into sexuality? “Until the 1990s, including non-heterosexual people who entered into sexual activity through heterosexual relations, or were postponed [cela] At a later age, consistent with their sexual orientation. Today, there is less delay in entering sexual activity for young people from sexual minorities‘ concludes Yael Amselm-Mingwe.and lo“, are the nuances,”Many of these young people still suffer from violence“, Before, during, or after they leave. Regarding the age to engage in sexual activity, it has been stable for years, around 17.

Transgender: A person whose gender identity does not match their biological gender.

** Non-binary: A person who is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.

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