Letting go of the L

For as long as I can remember girls, and then women, were my jam. They still are, but this is more a story of how I came to accept that lesbian did not quite fit my sexuality. Coming out has many phases, often the first one is you recognising something within yourself and having to find the words and concepts to articulate it with other people. For me, there have been two key coming outs, and leaving the L behind was at the heart of my second.

Girls always fascinated me. As a pre-pubescent boy two of my bullies were girls in my class, twins, who are very much hazy. Having two sisters meant girls were not so much a mystery, but beings in my life to be played with, argued with, and have tantrums over. The first time I fell in love was more a naive crush and complete misunderstanding of what relationships actually were, and as an 11-year-old boy it was all very My Girl, except my bees ended up being water balloons at a window.

My girl friends and crushes were all perfectly heteronormative until I transitioned at 17. Suddenly, what once had been the centre of dynamic power turned into a closet my partners had to come out of. My sexuality did not appear to change, but the label I referred to myself did. Lesbian. Every kiss with women at university, and there were more than a few, felt bolt, brassy, and going with the flow. Not once was I called out on it, and in my naivety, I assumed that this was what lesbian life must be like.

Things changed after I left university as I dropped stone cold into the world of work and the culture beyond. I was almost this precious snowflake acting as Snow White in the forest, wide eyed and continually putting my foot in it. It was also the period where my girlfriends became partners, adults with responsibilities. My understanding of myself pressed against the world, and while things were rocky at times, my sense of attraction and desire did not really shift.

That was until I met the partner who shifted me out of the flitting between things into a more stable environment. His gender identity was more fluid, and I initially fell for his female incarnation, lesbian was my home after all, but as we built a life together, I had to address within myself what this meant for me as a woman. Was I now bisexual, pansexual, or something else entirely?

One thing was certain, that for all the cosiness that lesbian brought, I would have to let go if I were to be honest with myself. That relationship helped ground me and give me the start of being a responsible adult that I desperately needed. This in turn forced me to be honest about who and what bodies I was attracted to and desired. And it was no longer just the female form in all its wonderful permutations.

Admitting I was attracted to men was a very scary process, as I had bottled it up and wrapped it in a neat bow never to be opened. It was a creeping feeling of attraction, oh that actor looks buff, would not he be great to kiss. It was the side attractions that I knew guys showed me but I always rebuffed. Slowly that bottle uncorked itself, and gingerly I drank a sip. It tasted fine. His lips tasted fine. And suddenly lesbian no longer fit.

My second coming out was this letting go of a label that I hugged close and had acted as a comfort blanket through some very dark times. It was not even that public, as I did not announce it to anyone or make a profession of new identity. Indeed, in the 13 years since I came to terms with the shifting sands of my identity I have occupied numerous sexual selves, the current one being queer. I don’t know where my identity will end up, maybe I could come back full circle, but, for me, the lesson was that letting go of a label is not the end, rather the beginning of a new quest.

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