What I learned from my [first] year as a lesbian

I read an article today, 11 months & 1 day since I came out online, titled “what I learned from my year as a lesbian” and oh how it left a sour taste in my mouth.

I was actually kind of offended, as someone who struggled with my sexuality over the past few years, by the thought ones sexuality can be something so flippantly chosen.

It included lines like “the events that became what I affectionately call my “lesbian year” was the result of one too many glasses of wine, as many unplanned adventures are.” and “Waking up the next morning, I was surprised to discover her beside me in my bed. So surprised, I couldn’t get her out of the house fast enough.”
Delightful. Disgusting.

I’ve been out for almost a year now. So. To cleanse my palate, here’s what I’ve learned in my [first] year as a lesbian:

Coming out is difficult
I was 29, nearly 30, when I realised I wasn’t just bisexual, as I’d always believed, but gay, actually really rather gay. I was 29 and married and I knew that to stay married, to keep lying to myself, was going to hurt more than the alternative. So I didn’t. It was rough.

The first ten, twenty, thirty times I said “We split up. Because I’m gay” my head would spin, I could hear blood rushing in my ears, and I’d stop breathing for what felt like minutes. It was probably just seconds. At least until the other person responded.
“What?? Oh. I’m sorry” or, “… congratulations?” or, sometimes, “Huh. You know, I’m not surprised.”

Even in minorities there are minorities.
My story doesn’t match the narrative other people have for coming out.
If I was really gay, I would’ve known when I was younger. If I was really gay, I wouldn’t have spent years in a hetero relationship. Maybe this was just a phase, maybe I was just tired. Maybe it was the birth control I was on. I wasn’t on any birth control. I didn’t need to be.

Then again, I didn’t have the struggle of being a gay teen. I didn’t have the struggle of being non-gender-conforming. I didn’t have the struggle of an unsupportive family. I’ve had it, relatively, extremely easy. I know this.

But I’ve learned to accept my story. I accept the messiness, the nuances, and I’ve learned to know myself.

Visibility is important
I pretty much felt like all this change was written on my face. But it wasn’t. It isn’t.
So I went through a phase of mentioning it whenever I could. I was obnoxious. I was just excited and happy; I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
I like to think I’m a bit less obnoxious now (she says, writing screeds).

I’ve only had one person ask if I was going to cut off all my hair … because that’s what lesbians do. Cute as I’m sure I’d look; my head is just too big for super short hair.

Sometimes do I wish I looked more outwardly (pun intended) gay. There’s so often the casual assumption I’m straight. It’s something which bothered me when I identified as bisexual, and it bothers me more now. I spent so long stuck between what I knew of myself and what others assumed. I don’t like being stuck in that box (pun very much UN-intended) anymore.

Then there’s the “but you don’t look gay!” how am I supposed to respond to that? Certainly not with thanks, though I suspect that’s what those who say it are expecting. I’ve settled for a slightly confused, chilly look and “… well, I am.”
(Related: if you have anything wittier I can file away for next time, let me know!)

I’ve found myself googling “*female celebrity* + gay” a lot more than ever before. When Ellen Page came out, I grinned. When Ruby Rose was on the cover of a magazine with her fiancée, Phoebe Dahl, I grinned. When Angel Haze hit back at articles which call Ireland Baldwin her ‘friend’, I grinned.

We fuck and friends don’t fuck. – Angel Haze

Most importantly, perhaps, I met this wonderful girl. She doesn’t live her life online. I respect that.
We’ve been seeing each other for quite a while now and moved in together in April.

A few months ago I kissed her, my girlfriend, in a crowded concert and someone stroked my arm and congratulated us. Dancing, in a now-closed hipster bar, we kissed and a drunk dude in a snapback nudged his friend and said “woah” as they moved to watch us.
At moments like that I would much rather just be invisible. Being affectionate isn’t a political statement.

It’s less of a big deal than you think. It’s more of a big deal than you think
My family has been pretty incredible. They absorbed the news and carried on, making fun of me just like they always have. My mother ties herself in knots sometimes in her efforts to be supportive. Which I appreciate more than I think she knows or I can articulate.

Some old friends have fallen away; some new friends have become closer.

There are moments when you remind your family you’re not going to have kids. Which I’ve always said but now I think perhaps now they believe me. In the split second silence between the statement and carrying on on I can feel it.

Overall, overwhelmingly, the response has been supportive.

And, you know, if reading about the stories of an interior designer in Louisiana, or a writer from Orange is the New Black made me feel less alone, then perhaps reading about my story will help someone.
Or maybe writing it is part of helping me.

Lauren Morelli wrote “I encourage you to embrace your own narrative, whatever that may be. It will be worth the effort. I promise.”

I’m 30, nearly 31 and I’m coming to the end of this year feeling lighter and happier. I I’ve embraced my narrative and the freedom is electrifying.

I’m not entirely happy with this whole turning thirty-one thing though.