Queers are notorious for spending a lot of time analyzing identity and mulling over labels, and rightfully so. As Audrey Lorde said, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” There is power in naming oneself.
I was never a tomboy. I hated sports. I had an early fondness for makeup and accessories. I had boyfriends and liked dresses. It never occurred to me that I might be gay. I was familiar with the term “lipstick lesbian” but femme wasn’t on my radar yet. When I had my first teenage girl-crush, ‘lesbian’ didn’t seem to fit. Boys were still okay and I just didn’t fit the mold of what I thought a lesbian was.
At sixteen, I came out as bisexual. And when I came out, I came crashing out, all angry and militant with spiky hair and chains. I wore rainbows and made my own t-shirts…QUEER BY NATURE, OUT BY CHOICE. I had something to prove. In college, this progressed to shaving my head in the dorm bathroom and joining up with the campus LGB organization (sadly, there was no T back then). I stomped my way through my angry punk grrrl phase until I wore myself out. It was around that time that I met a fellow disenfranchised youth of the XY variety and settled into a dysfunctional hetero relationship for nearly 3 years. I felt out of place with my queer friends and drifted away, letting that part of myself slip quietly inside.
While one part disappeared, though, another reemerged. I rediscovered makeup and heels and dancing and dresses, things I had kind of pushed aside, feeling like they weren’t queer enough. When the dysfunction finally culminated in a break up, I held onto those things. After a dating hiatus, I met a fellow queer girly girl. I was overjoyed to find someone like me, a girl who liked girls but also liked dresses and mascara and tulle. It turned out, though, that as thrilling as it was, I sort of wanted to be her more than I wanted to be with her.
We broke up and I found myself commiserating with a friend and pen-pal of sorts, someone I had met before moving to another state. He was a quiet guy, very sensitive and sweet. We started to talk more frequently and then I convinced him to come visit. Pen-pal became long distance boyfriend who then became live-in boyfriend. Things were never easy, but there was a stability in him. Even when the relationship wasn’t great, there was a comfort level, especially when things got rough and my health took a turn for the worse. He was always there and I felt safe. We decided to get married.
As in my previous long term hetero relationship, my queer identity took a backseat. It wasn’t intentional on anyone’s part, it just happened. But after a while, that started to hurt. I missed my queer community and I had no idea how to get back to it. I felt lost. I started reading blogs and queer publications.
I don’t remember an exact moment of epiphany. There were likely many. I remember walking through Boystown with my husband and passing a butch dyke, catching her eye for a moment and feeling my heart flutter. My knees felt week when I saw the cover of Gossip’s album “Music for Men” with that devastatingly gorgeous photo of drummer Hannah Blilie.
These feelings gave rise to a quiet panic. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to hurt my husband and the thought of striking out on my own after 6 years terrified me. I made a last ditch salvage effort: I suggested opening up our marriage. My husband was such a good sport, so supportive and understanding. He thought it was a good idea. For a time it seemed like it might work. I went on a few dates, even one with a cisgender “heteroflexible” guy. But it didn’t help to fill the empty space in me; in fact, it only made it worse. I became even more acutely aware of what I was missing.
Meeting M sealed my fate. The chemistry between us was like nothing I had ever felt. I had never imagined that being with another women could be like that. And I had to face the fact that I had no desire to be with a cis man again, not even the one I was married to.
I loved my husband and I always will. We have some amazing memories and he will always be a huge part of my life. But in the end, I think our relationship was a misunderstanding of sorts, a misinterpretation. We were never meant to be anything more than friends. Figuring that out, though, was incredibly painful and messy. The break up was awful. Horrible and angry and tear-filled and guilt-laden. But it was the only fair thing to do, for both of us.
People didn’t understand. They still don’t. And I get that. A married lady in her thirties who dated girls in the past but is just now figuring out she’s a dyke? Trust me, I realize it’s a little hard to swallow. I don’t necessarily understand it either. But this identity is mine and mine alone. I don’t share my story to serve as an explanation as I owe that to no one but me. I share it because I know I’m not alone. There isn’t a time limit on self-realization. When you figure out your truth, there is no reason to run from it. Life is short enough. There’s no sense in wasting time pretending to be something you’re not. When you find your truth, you know it, you can feel it. Don’t wait any longer to go live it.