How do you know if you’re a lesbian?

Ask a Mental Health Professional

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I have secretly been attracted to females for as long as I can remember having sexual desires. My only female-to-female experience was with my college roommate and her boyfriend, and it’s still the most erotic experience I’ve ever had. What’s upsetting me is that I have to fantasize about that night in order to have an orgasm. My question is this: How do you know if you’re a lesbian? What’s the definition?

I’ve never attempted to find the definition of lesbian and now that I have I’ll confirm that there is no universal definition, though there are some common denominators: A lesbian is a woman who is attracted to women and who prefers to have sex with women. Sexual orientation is more of a range, with some who are attracted exclusively to one sex, some who are attracted to both sexes and some who fall in between.

I respect your desire to question your orientation and to seek out a conclusion. Having said that, I find that people can get tangled up in questioning as opposed to living their lives and experiencing their lives which of course would provide you with a more organic answer. If you were raised to be heterosexual, questioning your orientation can wreck havoc on much of what you know to be true. The quest to identify one way or another is often fueled by a desire to feel more grounded.

Most of us aren’t raised to explore and discover our own sexual orientation. I hope that one day the concept of being raised to be heterosexual will seem as dated as having an arranged marriage because in both instances parents are imposing a very personal, selfish, and sometimes damaging expectation on their children.

I would encourage you to date and allow the answer to come to you rather than trying to force an answer. Let’s face it: You’ve already seen how trying to force things to come can create the opposite effect.

Take care,



Email questions to or call 212-604-0144
Dr. Darcy Smith received her Masters degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from New York University. She has been a practicing social worker for over 10 years and is in private practice in both New York City and New Jersey.

*This column is not a consultation with a mental health professional and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own therapist or counselor.

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