When The Binary Isn’t Enough

Labels are essential for any given society, whether to describe one’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, social status, or any other variable. They are here to define one’s place in regards to the world at large.

The main problem with that though, is that labels are often presented in a binary format: you are either something or not something.

Being a mixed-race woman raised by a black mother in Paris brought about issues surrounding self-identity at a very young age for me. How was I supposed to know who I was when one side of my heritage viewed me as the “white girl,” and the other part as only black? I could never feel legitimately whole picking just one side. My sexual orientation was also a point of internal contention, a space where I found myself straddling middle ground, not fitting within the binary once again.

After years of constant interrogation, I never seemed to fit in most situations, no matter how hard I tried. I could never relate to my surroundings, other people’s struggles, their conversations. And no one around me seemed to be experiencing the same thing as I did.  I had no one to talk to; I felt alone, invalidated, unjustifiable and illegitimate. I was afraid of being left out, not having a safe place to talk about my identity crisis, no one to relate to (nor to look up to), because everyone seemed to have it all figured out.

What are you ? Well, lost.

So I went on my daily life with these unanswered questions, figuring out that no variable of the person I was at any given time fit the binary. But to move forward, you have to make choices, right?

I always loved discovering both the artistic and technical aspect of things—I appreciated art and the abstract reasoning of beauty, but I was also really keen on how something was made and what its purpose was. It only followed that I’d attempt to apply the same approach when trying to assess who exactly I was.

Under my mattress I would keep a notebook where I wrote down my thoughts when I had no one else to talk to. It was a very solitary time. And the more I wrote about this loneliness, the more I thought about it, and the more things revealed itself to me.

It finally occurred to me that human beings are complex, and should not be restricted to binary factors. This revelation required a shift in my point of view and choosing to see labels as reference points on a spectrum rather than definite points I had to adapt to in order to fit in. Either and both of sides of myself were fine.

This process to self-acceptance was a fearful, difficult one. None of my self-assessment was easy to figure out, and frankly, it still isn’t.  I still have problems relating to most people and situations. But what I found incredibly comforting was that I figured out that no one really knows what they are doing, or where they are going.  And that is OK.

Instead of forcing myself into being someone I’m not, I just accept it and move on now. I have met amazing people who understand me on this journey of life, and I understand them as well. But most importantly, I have found myself, and it is the best thing that could have happened.


Describing herself as the consummate master of none, Inès is a 20 year-old Parisian woman who uses writing as her therapy. Aspiring to bring joy, love and fulfillment to herself and those around her through self-discovery and self-love, Inès currently studies digital marketing and community management in her hometown.

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