The Backlash Behind Believing I Was a Lesbian
I was 12 when I began to suspect that I was a lesbian. I was 14 when I started wearing flannel shirts and combat boots. At 16, I got a girlfriend. When I was 17, I figured out that I liked men. Now that I’m 23, it all regularly still comes back to haunt me.
As a young girl, there was no easy way to approach the fact that I was positive I only liked girls, so for a while I spent oodles of time watching porn to make sure I was right about my convictions. Time and time again I learned that penises were scary and women were hot, so I just rolled with it.
My journey started when I was 15 and I came out to my mother in the car on the way home from flute lessons. She started hysterically crying and told me that my life was going to be unbearably difficult if I chose to be a gay person.
The fact that she thought it was a choice couldn’t have been more wrong. It wasn’t as though I deliberately found high school boys to be repulsive and men to be utterly creepy.
She was right about life being difficult, though. After I came out and before I had the popular and insanely pretty girlfriend, I found myself in many situations where people yelled things like “dyke” at me in the hallways at school. My best friend even started a rumor that I was into her and all of my friends alienated me for being a weird, predatory lesbian.
Everything changed once I got my first girlfriend.
People thought I was really cool once I stopped hanging out alone in the library during lunch with Vonnegut novels and started using that library pass to make out with this girl in between the stacks instead. All of the sociable and popular people regularly came up to me during class to gush over how “cute” we were as a couple and suddenly I found myself being invited to hang out with other kids around my age again.
It was all very magical until we inevitably broke up, as most high school lovers seem to do. Our relationship went downhill after her dad caught us having sex and her parents started their Christian crusade to turn her straight. It’s not as though I didn’t start having a second crisis and begin noticing men, too. That was pretty startling.
The key for me was that boys were gross, but men were kind of appealing. They seemed to be okay between ages 30 and 40, but that was a little bit messed up because I was still a teenager and it left me vulnerable to some really devious and problematic older men.
Things got weird when I turned 18 and announced that I had a boyfriend. No one commented about the fact that he was old enough to be my dad, but they all had something to say about the fact that I was with a man and not a woman. It was startling. Even my parents gave me a pass to see this old, creepy predator-type because they were relieved that I wasn’t seeing girls anymore.
People still ask me about what “changed” me, and I don’t have an answer for this deeply personal question. My sexual confusion was deep and dramatic, something that even a very open person like me finds to be extremely difficult to discuss.
Lots of people were disappointed that I wasn’t their token gay friend anymore, and it was disappointing because I hadn’t been thinking of myself as just a lesbian. Left and right, friends and family asked me about my sexuality as though it were any of their business. Even the person I was dating used the fact that I’d identified as a lesbian for bragging rights about “turning” me straight. I began identifying as bisexual, but it didn’t make life any easier because I still found people sexualizing me for no reason other than my identity.
It took many years of feeling like a stranger to myself before I could admit that how I identified wasn’t casual talk subject to probing from people I knew and loved. It was horrifying and embarrassing that I’d come out to everyone I knew and then changed my mind. I still find myself in conversations with people who reminisce about my past and “remember when” I was a lesbian, and it brings upon that awful feeling where one feels the need to explain themselves.
When I met my current boyfriend, I knew that this person was “the one” and that dating was over for me. Finding a person who respected me ended the circus around my sexuality and put most of my worries to rest. It took several years of having my sexual identity shoved in my face for the sake of making a man feel better about himself along with lots of inner turmoil and tension about who I was or wasn’t. It took many years of forgiving myself for feeling responsible for my parents’ stress and anxiety over having a gay child.
Sexuality is deeply personal and being different shouldn’t exclude a person from being happy and comfortable. If anything, my experiences have made me a dedicated ally and have taught me about what LGBTQ+ individuals go through on a daily basis. I only hope that the way in which our society vilifies and sexualizes gay people becomes a thing of the past.