For the first time in my life, I’m questioning my sexuality, and I don’t really know how to handle it. I just turned 30 and I’ve been in heterosexual relationships pretty much non-stop since I was 17.
I’m not embarrassed really, I just feel so massively confused. I ended a five-year relationship really abruptly about a year ago, right before we were supposed to move across the country together. I did the move by myself, but soon after I arrived, I found myself in a new relationship, even though I knew I wasn’t ready for it, and then, for some reason, he proposed to me after two weeks and I said yes. A year later, we’re still together and I feel completely suffocated. I wish I had taken the time for myself that I knew I needed and I feel devastated for hurting someone else that I now care deeply about.
I’ve never really considered a same-sex relationship, but I’ve always had a very strong preference for women in almost every other scenario. There are silly things like choosing a line at the grocery store or a teller at a bank, where I always choose female associates. My collection of friends is almost exclusively female. I’ve always thought women were in general more attractive than men, body, mind, and soul, even if I didn’t really think of women sexually.
Just because I think women are smarter and cooler and more interesting and stronger than men in almost every category on Earth, is that a good enough reason to change my life in this way? Is it even life-changing? If the future really is fluid, isn’t my daily life the best place to start? Am I a bad feminist because I’m struggling to come to this realization? Am I just hungry and tired so I’m questioning everything I thought I knew?
The next part of my quandary is my fear of being rejected or hurting someone else. Is there an internship I can do before I throw myself out into the world like this? Maybe a graduate certificate I can enroll in? At 30, hasn’t everyone already done all their experimenting and soul-searching in this arena? I feel like I wouldn’t want to “train” someone on how to deal with these questions, and I expect no one in their thirties would want to take on that amount of emotional baggage, either. My family is open and accepting and they love me no matter what, but it’s still a huge thing to ask of someone, to walk that road with me as I sort through all sorts of confusing things. I’m not interested in a relationship at the moment, that’s actually the last thing I’m searching for right now, but eventually, most of us crave someone to share our lives with and I can’t fathom how to navigate this. If I do follow this new path my heart is telling me to take, when and how do I bring this up in a budding relationship? Will a stable, emotionally intelligent, career-oriented, interesting woman run screaming for the hills when she finds out this is all new territory for me?
Dear Unqualified Lesbian,
1. I’m going to say the most soothing thing a woman can hear: Calm Down.
Just kidding, I know that probably made you enraged, especially if you’re hungry.
But listen — you are not 150 years old, isolated and on your deathbed, as you come to the realization that you might be gay (and even if you were, how wonderful to get to explore new things while you are still on this planet!). You are young and amongst other people, with dating apps at your fingertips. You can put your story out there (“Excited & nervous to date women for the first time.”) and people can self-select out if that is not their thing.
It’s okay for you to stumble, to make mistakes, and to be gentle with yourself as you take the idea of an expansive sexuality one day at a time. You are not being graded on how well you perform lesbianism. You don’t even have to explore the extreme depths of your romantic feelings for every gay person you meet. You can kiss around and see what sticks. And if nothing sticks and you realize you’re actually straight as an arrow, okay. Probably you will get this gut feeling way before the wedding date.
There is a Buddhist saying I think of often:
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
If you find a Tinder woman, you’re upfront about your situation, you date each other, and your gut tells you it’s the wrong thing, do her the great service of getting out quickly so she can move on to greener pastures that like her little more.
2. Engaged after two weeks? Congratulations, you sound like a U-Haul lesbian already. We welcome you!
My first recommendation from reading your letter is to stop “finding yourself” in new relationships.
You must be brave enough to break your own heart for the higher good. And in this case, that is giving yourself the time and space to discover what it’s like to be alone with yourself and explore this lesbian idea.
I know that it is super easy to get a heterosexual cis-gendered boyfriend. All you have to do is walk outside and take a breath. Don’t worry, there’s no scarcity of straight men. They’ll be there if you decide to come back.
Now is the time to take a step back, disentangle, and give yourself a breath. If this gentleman would like to be partnered, married, settled, and you know in your gut that you are not the person for him to do that with, please let him be free so that he can find someone who is. Someone will appreciate him, his wild-ass two-week wedding ring, and his cisgendered heterosexuality.
3. I have a pitch for gayness.
If you hold women in such high esteem, dating them might make you feel vulnerable and excited in a way that is entirely new. Go towards the light! I know when I dated cis-gendered men, I often felt heartless. I had a limit to how much I could care about their feelings. The first time I had a girlfriend, I felt like a nervous teenager again. I didn’t know the right things to do; I felt seen and exposed and nervous and tender in ways I didn’t understand I needed. Going gay gave me the opportunity to let my heart be wrapped up in clover.
This is my wish to you: The space and time to feel whole, and to usher in a new era of tenderness.
Whichever way you want to go, it will be okay.