The average LGBT adult cites 12 as the age at which they confronted the first inkling they might not be strictly heterosexual. It took an average of eight more years for them to disclose their sexuality to a close friend of family member.
For a variety of reasons, these women waited longer.
Their journeys speak for themselves.
Emilie, 28, came out as a lesbian this year.
“I officially came out as a lesbian earlier this year , though I didn’t claim to be straight before. I just ended up being with men more frequently. I knew I was attracted to the same sex as a child. I first tried to come out as a lesbian in high school, but was told that I ‘couldn’t be a lesbian’ because I had dated boys, and I didn’t fit the idea of what a lesbian is supposed to ‘look like.’ It was really confusing. I think I was also desperate to be “normal,” since I have struggled with mental illness since childhood.
I had some short-term relationships with men that were predominantly bad experiences, using sex as self-harm and self-harming after sex on my part. [There was] emotional manipulation on their part. My most recent ex, also a man, asked me out and we ended up staying together for around eight years. During this time, we had some great times [and] lots of fun; we were best friends! I would cry to him about my same sex attraction, and tell him how much I wished I could make it go away.
[Now that I’ve come out], dating is hard! I think my location has a lot to do with it. The lesbian [and women-loving-women] dating pool in Cincinnati, Ohio is so small. Although I feel a lot more enthusiastic about seeking out female partners than I ever did dating men. Online and in-person lesbian communities and individuals have been so, so welcoming. I don’t think it has been particularly difficult to navigate dating as someone who came out later, apart from my own insecurities. I have generally felt accepted, and it is a lot more enjoyable to be able to enthusiastically, authentically express romantic and sexual desire. It’s never too late! Be true to yourself, be who you really are. I promise, you won’t regret it.”
Be true to yourself, be who you really are. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Chelsea, 30, came out as bisexual Thanksgiving of 2017.
“I’ve considered myself bisexual since college but I haven’t necessarily been ‘out’ until last Thanksgiving of 2017 when I came out to my mom. She said that she had always figured as much and that she was happy that I was exploring. Honestly, I think I’ve had queer thoughts since late night viewings of ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ as a child. I knew what ‘gay’ was very young but I didn’t have a word for it yet. Later, during puberty, I somehow got the message that ‘gay’ was legitimate, but ‘bi’ was selfish and pretending. So I had a kind of internalized biphobia for much of my teen years.
Being single used to give me a lot of anxiety. Being black and somewhat ‘alternative’ in a dating pool rife with cis white maledom makes dating feel like an obstacle. I feel that I’m either constantly fetishized or deeply misunderstood. I’ve rarely been in [committed] relationships that last over six months. Since high school, my heterosexual relationships were almost always a product of proximity, convenience and even desperation. The last of which, before I came out, I found myself living in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone who would regularly threaten my life. Heterosexuality had become compulsory, perfunctory and performative. You can chalk a lot of evil in this world up to toxic masculinity. I’m thankful because I have a spectrum of experience that has lead me to understand that my attraction to women is not strictly lesbianism. Before coming out, a series of confusing experiences occurred while testing the boundaries of my sexuality. At some point in my life, couples approaching me for threesomes was a regular thing. I’ve had a successful sexual experience with a couple, but that dynamic wasn’t right for me.
I have less anxiety about being single [now]. I attribute a lot of that to coming out as it’s allowed me to be open and honest with myself about what I need. I no longer base my expectations around a binary belief system. Moving to a city with a larger queer scene [in Seattle] prompted me to come out. The first woman I dated here actually picked me out of a crowd at a show […]. While our relationship never got off the ground, our friendship is still strong and has lead to meeting lots of other amazing queer people. A bigger city means more options on ‘the apps’ and more opportunities to meet people in the real world. I’m currently only seeking out women, but I’m still open to dating men, but ideally, queer men. Coming out has opened up a whole spectrum of love in me — love for myself and my loved ones.”
Suzanne, 25, came out as a lesbian this year.
“I came out ‘officially’ in February of this year, but It’s not clean cut at all. I’ve had a lot of false starts and then when it got too real or didn’t seem safe, I swung hard in the other direction [back to heterosexuality]. I’ve always had sexual and romantic relationships with women. Even in kindergarten, I had this friend and we would kiss at sleepovers and play pretend that we were married. I did a lot of mental gymnastics to try and make heterosexuality work for me. I’ve also used hetero sex as a way to self-harm. I’m not entirely sure where I fall on the Kinsey scale or if it’s changed as I’ve gotten older. I do not want sex or romance with men, but I used to think that I did.
I did a lot of hard bondage, and I think a big part of that was me trying to turn heterosexual sex into something else. Like there was a point in high school where I reskinned all of my [women-loving-women] sexual fantasies with men. And then when sex with men in real life didn’t feel like that, I started pursuing pain instead of sexual pleasure, because the pain was going to be there anyways. I’ve cried constantly in every heterosexual relationship I’ve ever been in. I’ve spent a lot of time with people who either could not tell I wasn’t present during sex or enjoyed that I wasn’t present. And I think that’s caused a lot of hurt; mostly to me, but also to my partners. I’ve definitely had some wild experiences that I don’t regret, and I’ve definitely loved the people I’ve been with — just not in the way I know I can love a woman.
It’s a wholly different kind of connection. Lesbian dating is so slow compared to hetero dating. Like if I decided I was looking for sex, with guys, I could swipe someone new, match, chat and meet up tonight. You can’t really do that with girls for all sorts of reasons. It’s also a smaller pool of people even in Los Angeles. But there’s something kind of fun about that. As far as timing goes, here I am at 25, jumping into sex and relationship mistakes people make as a teen. I mean, I’ve had sex with women but I’ve never been in a lesbian relationship. But! Lots of people come out at 25 or even later. If you’re crying a whole bunch in your hetero relationships, maybe there’s a reason and that reason is you’re gay. Burn down your life and be a dyke (when you’re ready).”