A microlabel is a label for some form of gender identity or sexual orientation that falls under, or otherwise overlaps with, a broader term. Microlabels tend to be described as "hyperspecific", meaning that they describe a very specific experience of a gender/sexuality/etc.
A term being a microlabel does not mean that the term is not widely used, nor is the term invalid as an identity. Whether or not a person finds a microlabel personally useful for themselves does not determine whether or not said microlabel is valid as an identity.
"Micro-" is a prefix of Greek origin, from the word mīkrós, which means "small".
Some people may find microlabels useful, as they can be used to describe their own specific experience with gender/sexuality/etc. In these cases, they may feel that using a broader term simply does not feel right for them. In essence, "labels that are perfect for one person may be too specific [for another person], while [also being] not specific enough for someone else."
In addition, a person identifying with a microlabel does not mean they do not also identify with its broader umbrella term. Some may say publicly that they identify with a broader term, while discussing their microlabels in private to whoever they want to share that information with. This can be useful for finding other people who share a person's specific experiences.
Various identities can serve as umbrella terms for more specific microlabels. For example, apothisexual is a term that is defined as being "repulsed by the idea of engaging in sexual activity". This term is considered to be under the asexual umbrella or asexual spectrum, hence it is considered a microlabel of asexual.
Bisexual, which can be defined as "attraction to more than one gender," can also act as an umbrella term for various microlabels related to attraction to multiple genders, including pansexual, polysexual, and omnisexual.
There is a layered history regarding the use of labels within queer spaces – notably the "important tradition of rejecting categorisation within queer history" while at the same time acknowledging the important role labels played in establishing communities and raising awareness for non-cisgender, non-heterosexual people. Some authors have argued that the community needs "more queer identity labels, not fewer"; however, such labelling has been criticized as being based on 'Western' understandings of sexual identity and of being too focused on the "identities and rights of individuals rather than of communities" by actions such as alienating older generations of LGBT+ people.
Other criticisms include what some see as the inherent social reductionism in "compartmentalizing the variations [of identity] inside the boxes we’ve already created"; such actions, therefore, can lead to greater prejudice for LGBT+ individuals to choose a label and conform.
Microlabels have also faced many criticisms due to their specificity. It has been discussed that older generations of the LGBTQIA+ community find microlabels frustrating and confusing since they must learn new specific terms, compared to the broader terms they are already used to. Others claim that creating a microlabel for a broader umbrella term may cause tensions between people who identify as one or the other. An example of this is pansexual as a microlabel of bisexual, which some believe had "led to a surge in both biphobia and panphobia, with some claiming that bisexuality is exclusive and others claiming that pansexuality is anti-bisexual".
Others argue that microlabels are unnecessary because they believe that most of these labels tend to overlap too much, or otherwise "basically say the same thing". One analysis done specifically with sexuality microlabels demonstrated that most of them could be organized into a handful of broad categories of attraction. This includes a large number of sexuality microlabels that are claimed to be "more about feelings and thoughts around sex than about describing gendered attraction".
- The Manual of Style section on microlabels for this wiki.