It's a question I see around a lot.
Except most of the time when I see it, it's turned around, to come from the Dom's point of view: If I have no submissive in my life, am I really a Dominant? But the point of the question is still the same. If I have no one to act out my kink with, can I still claim my role?
Some people say no: a Dominant is not really a Dominant unless, and until, someone is submitting to them. Likewise, a submissive is not really a submissive unless, and until, they are submitting to a higher authority.
My opinion? I call bullshit.
That mentality doesn't work because for many of us, "Submissive" and "Dominant" are labels we use to describe more than just what we do in the bedroom. They are ways to describe our self-identity, who we are, what we know of ourselves. These words are used the same way others use "man," "woman," "heterosexual," "homosexual," etc. They are not words to describe a fetish or a proclivity, but beds into which we lay down our souls.
In a recent post thread (which has since deleted, or I'd link to it) someone commented that it's wrong to label others based on what behaviors they happen to be engaging in at the time. The example they gave was a married woman who is monogamous with her Husband; to assume this woman is straight, simply because she does not have sex with other women, would be wrong.
For personal reasons, that example resonated with me.
Lots of people have had to hide, and continue to have to hide, who they are because of mitigating circumstances. Things have changed in this century—but even so, even in the great ole' U.S. of A, coming out as gay or transgender can result in torture and death. Many of us with taboo predilections decide it's safer to live "normal," vanilla-looking lives; they bury their true natures deep within themselves. They live like that forever.
Hell, most of us here in the kink community are not "out" as kinky to our extended loved ones. We're out to each other...but maybe if we could be out in our "other" lives, and free to live openly kinky, we would discover things about ourselves we wouldn't otherwise know.
If a man marries a woman, has children with her, and never experiences a sexual relationship with another man—does that mean he must be straight? If a woman lives her entire life as a woman, and never puts on so much a man's hat—does that mean she must be cisgendered?
If a person lives their whole life as a Dom or a sub, and never gets to experience the other side...does that mean we are safe to assume who they are? Who they believe themselves to be? How they feel inside?
Actions are important. But I think beliefs matter, too.
I think if you took a Dominant guy, and stuck him on a deserted island with no one to submit to him, he'd still be a Dominant guy. Because that is who he is, that is how he sees himself in his own head, and the only person who can change that fact is him.
And really, nobody lives on a deserted island. We all live out in society, communities filled with spice and variety. We learn about ourselves through navigating through this diverse, spectacular world.
Not all of us are free to live the lives we want. But I think we should all have the right to decide who we are, what makes us tick, and what words we want to use to describe what lies deep within our hearts.