My sexuality and how it’s expressed has been on my mind a fair bit recently. Discussions with people close to me have brought up a lot of reflection and musing over how I find myself where I am at this point in my life. Along with this has been the hard part of trying to explain to those close to me how I can be something other than what they thought they knew me as. Fair enough. As my partner pointed out to me, I’ve had years to come out to myself, it takes some adjusting for others who didn’t live inside my head all those years.
I came out late in life. It took years for me to figure it out on a personal scale so that’s no surprise. I came into puberty in the mid 1980’s in middle class Canada. An environment that wasn’t exactly open-minded and diverse by any stretch of the imagination. The only gay exposure that I had was through media and culture and that was very linear and bordered by clearly defined “rules”. Gay men were flamboyant and effeminate. Lesbians were androgynous or butch ( a term that I now know but back then just thought them “manly”) and very vocal about hating men for the most part. There were very few examples of gay persons that didn’t fit those stereotypes that I saw. Bisexual wasn’t even a blip in my realm of possibilities. It existed but it was never an option that I was aware of. You were either straight or gay or lesbian.
I knew that there was something “wrong” with me early. My first consensual sexual experience was with another little girl and that interest never wavered for me as I grew. By the time I was in my mid-teens I was confused by my sexual arousal for the same-sex. I began to think of myself as a broken straight girl. I was indifferent to boys as far as sexual attraction was concerned. I was drawn to and sought out images in pornography of women. I chalked it up to the fact that a woman’s body is beautiful and I was just simply able to appreciate that. Nothing gay about that, right? Nope, not at all. After all, I wasn’t like the lesbians that I saw and was exposed to. I didn’t hate men, I just was ambivalent about them. I liked being “pretty” and looking feminine from time to time. I tended to be more tomboy and one of the guys but was never androgynous or butch. I wore makeup and loved dressing up to go out. Not very lesbian as far as I could tell. I wanted children and a family and you did that by marrying a man and having that life. There wasn’t any other option to achieve that on my radar.
So why was it that it was playboy and the like that I turned to for sexual stimulation? Why did I discreetly look at other girls and wonder how it would feel to touch them or have sex with them? I knew I wasn’t gay because I didn’t look or act like the lesbians I saw. So, broken straight girl it was. Keep my deviant thoughts to myself and find a man and get married and just accept that I was somehow wired wrong. Something inside of me was off kilter when it came to what turned me on. Simple.
So, I got married, had babies and life was busy and full and not quite right in a lot of ways. The wife of a friend of my husband’s was always where my eyes would wander when we were together as couples. Nude beaches and camping and I found myself drawn to catching glimpses of her rather than her husband or mine. It came clear to me that the odd feelings I had tried to ignore were not gone. Still though, I was even more confused by this point in my life. By now, I had even more reasons why I couldn’t be gay. I was married to a man. Lesbians didn’t marry men. They certainly didn’t have sex with a man and have children with that man. So, I must just be a straight woman who maybe has some sort of weird yearning for a fling with a woman.
A divorce brought to me the opportunity to explore options in my sexuality that I hadn’t had before. For the first time I started dating and being sexually active with women. I discovered that bisexual term that was elusive to me and figured that that had to be what I was. I had been married to a man so I couldn’t be an actual lesbian – even though at that point I couldn’t have cared less if I was ever with a man again. When a man did seriously pursue me though I went on a date, then another, and another and soon it was a relationship. Living in a suburban, conservative area I thought long and hard about how I wanted my life to be. I had three small kids and had just watched a fellow parent at school be swiftly ostracized after leaving his spouse for a male partner. Who was I kidding, I had had my fun and it was time to settle down and raise my kids in a strong and solid home. With a husband. Because that’s what you do when you’re a woman.
I had, in my brief foray into being socially involved with the gay community, been made brutally aware that I didn’t fit there either. I wasn’t gay enough. I had been married to a man. I identified as bisexual and the “real lesbians” didn’t want to date or have sex with me (with the exception of one). Other bisexual or “curious” women were who I had had experience with and they mostly had male primary partners as the “real” partners. So, back to a man I went.
Fast forward a few years and another divorce and some maturity that came with those years and we come to now. Better late than never. Happily now able to say that I know who I am and that that is a woman who is gay. The freedom and relief that comes with that is indescribable really. No, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not the broken straight girl I thought I was. I was just unable to see that “lesbian” doesn’t have to look a certain way. Femme, butch, neither, both, something in the middle… we all look how we look. It’s corny, but it’s what’s inside that makes you what you are, not what the packaging is.