Earth To Baby Dyke: You Can Still Be A Lesbian If You’ve Slept With Men

I now realize that “gold star” lesbian isn’t a title that I need in order to finally feel “real.”

There are so many different types of lesbians. You have the lipsticks, the bull dykes, the bois. But there’s one type of lesbian that I’ve wished I could be: a “gold star” lesbian. To go your whole life without having to deal with any disappointing boy-girl action sounds like a true blessing. But that was not the path I was destined to follow: my path barreled straight through the locker room of my high school lacrosse team and a generous handful of fraternity houses. I joined my friends, sorority sisters, and Twitter followers in laughing and lamenting over the disappointments that men had brought us.

What they didn’t know was that I wasn’t having any fun. Each new boy was just a story that I could share at Sunday brunch. He wasn’t a bad way to spend the night, but he was never quite what I wanted. My friends and I would guffaw at the events of my evening, and someone else would chime in with another batshit story about some idiot boy. We were all miserable, but I was especially miserable. I was desperately searching for something I would never find. Until I found women.

It never even crossed my mind as an option – dating girls. No one around me was doing it, and since I had friends who seemed just as unlucky in love, I thought I just had to be patient. Patient and dejected. If I was actually a lesbian, wouldn’t I have figured it out already? Shouldn’t I have been tipped off by the tool belt I wanted for Christmas? Or the fact that I quit dance to play softball? Or perhaps the crushes that I had on my pretty classmates throughout my whole life? Something should have set me off? All the signs inside myself pointed to Lesbian Lane, but my environment pushed me down Straight Street.

Then, toward the end of my senior year of college, one of my friends went on a date with a woman… and loved it (and ended up moving in with her a year and a half later). She told me she was going on a date, but never gave me any details. A week later, she Facetimed me drunk and said, “Hey, you know how I said I went on a date, and you said he sounded really great? Well, the he is a she and I’m dating a woman. Talk later,” and immediately hung up. I stared at my shocked face in the reflection of my phone screen. I didn’t realize you could do that. Just, like, start dating women. There was no process that you had to go through. You can just do it. And I wanted to just do it. She was the only person who ever really mentioned liking girls to me, and it was the first time I felt like these weird feelings that I had for other girls weren’t weird. It was the first time that someone who looked, acted, and lived like me admitted to being attracted to women, which made me feel like it was okay for me to be, too.

The first time a girl kissed me for real, not just a drunken smooch, it felt like clouds were clearing and my world was lifted. Now THIS was what I was looking for. All these tingly feelings from my lips to my heart to my stomach to my pants lit up my whole body. I felt a muted version of this with guys in the past, but it was never like this. Part of it was the excitement and “scandalousness” of kissing a girl. But it was much more than that.

I originally came out as bisexual. I felt like that was what made sense for me. I had spent my whole life dating men, but now even though I had no interest in it anymore, I felt like I still needed to honor it. I asked myself, if I was actually a lesbian, then were those feelings that I had previously real? What about now? I thought I was sure then, but I feel just as – if not more – sure now. How could I ever trust my own judgment again?

After trying on the bisexual label for a while, it still felt like it didn’t quite fit. Regardless of my past, I still had no interest in dating men ever again. There was nothing that was going to change my mind, especially after years of dating guys. Even if I met the hottest, sweetest, funniest guy, and he – for whatever reason – chose me from the bunch, I would have to respectfully decline knowing that I would never be able to connect with him in the same way that I have with women.

I believe it’s possible to be bisexual, but I just didn’t believe myself when I said that I was. So, I told my parents to kill all of their previous expectations about me marrying a man because I am a raging lesbian, thank you very much. Even then, when I thought I had a confident grasp on my sexuality, my mom, innocently confused, said, “I don’t see you as a lesbian. When I picture a lesbian, I think of a softball coach with a buzzcut.” Consider that comment immediately internalized. She was right, I thought. I’m just getting carried away with the whole thing. How could I be saying I was a lesbian when she and I were just debating whether or not Zac Efron is hot (the correct answer is, duh, yes he is no matter who you are)?

I felt like an imposter. I thought, who was I kidding? I’m not a lesbian. I wasn’t anything. I felt destined to be confused and sad forever. Some people get the happily ever after, and some don’t; I was one of the latter. I’ll be the cool single friend who entertains all of her not single friends with her tales of dating woes. But then I pictured my future wedding that I didn’t think was going to happen. It had two dresses (or a suit if she wanted to wear one). I thought of the times I felt most loved, and aside from family and friends, it was when I was in the company of other women. This cognitive dissonance of feeling like an imposter and feeling like my most true self was bad for my psyche, and even worse for my skin.

I have had past boyfriends reach out to me, which was one of my biggest dreads about coming out. They asked if I was always gay. They asked if I actually loved them as much as I said I did. They asked if it was something they did. These were all valid questions. In fact, they were questions I had asked myself. I felt bad for these guys. Okay, only for like a second, I still was the one who had to endure dating them. But all of their questions and concerns were paralleled with ones that I had. I wished I had an answer for them, but I didn’t even have an answer for myself.

Ultimately, sexuality is a spectrum, and it’s possible to feel differently about your sexuality at different points of your life, but I think I might have been an unfortunate product of the heteronormative world that I lived in. I really think I would have been out earlier had I been exposed to the possibility of girls liking girls. I don’t regret the years I spent being “boy crazy”; they were an entertaining way to pass the time.

Recently, I have been searching for the truth in my past, present, and future relationships. I now realize that “gold star” lesbian isn’t a title that I need in order to finally feel “real.” The label of “gold star” made it seem like it was the “gold standard” of lesbianism – but now I know it’s unnecessary. I’m not tarnished, and I don’t need to prove anything. Because I am a lesbian. Just a lesbian who has slept with (many) men.