When Did You Know You Were a Lesbian? Shocking Stories of Self-Discovery in the Roundtable Part 2

Stephanie Doesn't Like BoysWelcome to Part Two of the “When I Knew I Was a Lesbian/Bisexual/Queer/Girl Who Likes Girls” Autostraddle Roundtable. Every week or two (or three) we pick a topic and solicit opinions/stories from our team and interns – and sometimes special guests. Previous topics have included Is There a Lesbian Generation Gap? (with special guests Grace the Spot, actress & singer Haviland Stillwell) and Will Adam Lambert be America’s First Gay Idol? (Sadly we now know the answer to the second question, but he’s still our idol obvs).

This week’s Roundtable idea was the brainchild of our TV Editor Carlytron and Photoblogger Robin, a.k.a. the cutest couple ever:

“What do you consider your “gay-iversary?” Everyone defines it differently. I’m sure some would say they’ve been gay since birth, others might say it was when they first kissed a girl, some would say it was when Brandi Chastain ripped her shirt off after kicking the winning goal in the Womens World Cup… To each her own. We were talking about it and think it would be really fun, maybe even get the interns involved? Also how many years people say they have been gay for, that’s cool to see. Who am I, Yoda?”

Before we get to our second round of stories — with special quotes from lesbian celebrities, writers and artists about when they knew — here’s how you can get in on the fun …

‘When I Knew I Was Gay’ Story Contest

What’s your “When I Knew” story? When was the moment — or one of the moments — when you realized you were queer/bi/lesbian/gay/special?

1. TWEET! If you’re on twitter, tweet @autostraddle with hash tag #wheniknew whenevs and as often as you’d like. On Saturday August 8th we’ll publish all your short clever “when I knew” tidbits, and if you’re lucky you might even see yours show up in our posts too! These are really funny/fun to read at work/unemployed!

AND/OR

2. STORY! E-mail wheniknew [at] autostraddle dot com with your story in 400 words or less. Deadline is Saturday August 8th at midnight EST, so think quick!

WHAT DO WE WIN?

On Monday we’ll announce three winners: our Favorite Tweet and we’ll randomly pick two other submissions. Remember how we said there were no more Really Papi t-shirts? Well, we just found two. So those will be included, as well as Clies Press’ Best Lesbian Erotica of 2009 and an Autowin tank-top & button for an Autowinner! Exact distribution is TBA.

In Part One, our Associate Editor Laneia pulled back the curtain of her interweb life to tell the truth about her family and Editor-in-Chief Riese remembered the summer of ’05 when the shit hit the fan. So on a lighter note … now onwards to Part Two!

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image via saylamarz on flickr

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carly-icon2Carly:
My gay-i-versary is so stupid and silly, I’m laughing-slash-crying just thinking about what I’m about to type. When I was younger I dressed and acted like a boy and got called a boy all the time but it never occurred to me that I might be a homo. That is, until the Spice Girls.

Before long I thought, hey, ok, maybe I’m bi. Yeah, that didn’t last very long.

Yes, that’s right, the Spice Girls made me really start questioning my sexuality. And not because I fancied any of them, either. No no, I started questioning my sexuality when I realized that Sporty had stolen my look and persona, and that everyone thought she was a dyke. So I asked my friend, I was like, “whoa, do people say that I’M GAY too?!!?” and she did that awkward silence thing, where she was clearly saying, “yes” without saying it. And I was like, GASP! So I did what any normal teenage girl would do (I think I was like 16 or 17) and I went home and gave myself a long look in the mirror (which I was already doing anyway, since I was training myself to raise one eyebrow, but this was different). And I asked myself, do you like girls? And I thought about it. I thought about how cute Raine Maida, lead singer of Our Lady Peace, was and then I came to the conclusion that, no, I was not a gay lady. I totally liked boys! Crisis averted. Actually there was no crisis, the whole thing was very Zen.Brandi Chastain shirt

So then, naturally the whole thing started to unravel because as it turns out, I’m like the gayest person ever. After deciding I was totally straight (and, being such a tomboy, defied ALL STEREOTYPES! I even gave myself a pat on the back!) I started researching homosexuality on the internet. I started reading AfterEllen and TechnoDyke (R.I.P.) and a bunch of other lezzy sites that I can’t remember anymore. Before long I thought, hey, ok, maybe I’m bi. Yeah, that didn’t last very long.

To be specific, it lasted until Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup and ripped her shirt off on national television. I didn’t even like soccer, but I was suddenly a super fan! I was also a lesbian. A giant, giant lesbian. And then I spent a year acting like a giant lesbian but being too terrified to come out, which is another hilarious-slash-lame story for another roundtable. So thank you, pop culture, for helping me to realize that if it dresses like a boy and acts like a boy, it’s probably a lesbian.

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“I came to understand that what I wanted was to kiss ladies through feeling the way that I did about Dana Catherine Scully from The X-Files.”
-Kate McKinnon, comedian [Autofocus! The Big Gay Sketch Show’s Kate McKinnon: The Autostraddle Interview & Photoshoot]

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Intern Hot Laura

The first thing you should know is that, up until age 16, my only flirtation with homosexuality existed in an accidental visit to Kings Island, the amusement park down the street, on Gay Day.

girl tattoo on backFast-forward to my last year of high school and I’m in Chicago, taking classes at the Art Institute. There are a lot of people at the school, but I’m all about Becca. Becca just got back from a trip to the Middle East and spends class telling us stories about sleeping in the desert with Bedouins. She’s got a chai tattoo behind her ear, has perfectly messed-up hair, and doesn’t wear makeup—“except when I go to bars,” she tells us, “I’ve got to look old enough to get in.” She’s too cool to handle.

One night, I’m up in the studio with my friends when Becca walks in and says, “Hey, I heard you do henna. Wanna do my back?” Something probably should have clicked here, I mean it’s not exactly straight to feel like your head might explode when a girl takes off her shirt, lies down, and says, “Alright I’m ready.” But what can I say? Something about hindsight and 20/20, probs.

So I henna her, she leaves, and my friend says, “God, She’s such a lesbian.” Since I’m clearly not in control of my own body, my mouth goes, “I hope so!” and my friend says, “What?” and my head’s all, “Wait, what? WHAT?!” This is the part where I start turning really, really red.

We play the confusion game for a few more minutes before going to bed, and by the time I wake up the next morning from a dream about being lost in a sea of hundreds of sweaty-matching-t-shirt-and-fanny-pack-wearing-roller-coaster-riding lesbians, i’m finally starting to realize that I might be more than a little bit homosexy.

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#wheniknew
“I knew when my very attractive boyfriend told me how he loved me and I kept wishing he was the hostess at Chop House.” – @hnicole_09

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daphne-iconIntern Daphne:
I don’t really have a “gay-iversary”. I’ve been gay for like forever, well at least 10 years that is but I really came out at about 16. Even before that I used to crush on both boys and girls, then girls and girly boys, then only girls. It was more of a process. I remember my first posters in my room were those of the Beatles, Blondie and Kurt Cobain. Later people like Ville Valo from Him, Jamie Cullum and Karen O appeared on my wall. I was a pretty gay kid, ask my mom.
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“People might get confused,” a woman once told me. She was a therapist and a socialist, but she worried about what people thought.
“People might imagine that sexual abuse makes lesbians.”
“Oh, I doubt it.” I was too angry to be careful.
“If it did, there would be so many more.”

-Dorothy Allison, author, “Two or Three Things I Know For Sure”

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stef-iconStef:
Easy – the night I first kissed a girl. It was a Saturday night at Don Hills in Manhattan: April 29, 2006. The whole thing kind of blindsided me when I was 22, after having never really considered the whole thing in depth before. After it happened, we laughed about it and didn’t think it would happen again, but then it did… and did… and did. Gradually, as the whole thing became an increasingly Big Fucking Deal, I was forced to confront a side of my personality I hadn’t actually known existed, and I struggled with it quite a bit – and in some ways still do. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself gay or even really bisexual – it seems so cliche to say I don’t like labels, but I’ve yet to find one that I feel totally comfortable with or that I feel describes me and how I feel about attraction or gender. Being unable to define myself has made my life more complicated in some ways. I don’t exactly celebrate my gay-iversary every year, but I’m very conscious of that night marking a huge change in the way I perceived my own sexuality and myself as a person… I guess even though I don’t talk to that girl anymore (so much drama), I owe her some kind of thank you.
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#wheniknew
“I knew when was 10 and at the end of recess I was looking at the girl in line in front of me thinking: god, she has a nice ass.”@ms_anne_thropy

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robin-iconpolaroid - girl in front of wallRobin:

My gayiversary was probably the first time I kissed another gay girl. It took me a long time to figure out what I was feeling. In college I had some lesbian friends and I loved hanging out with them hearing about all gay stuff and I even went to the gay bar with them, but not until right after school did I ever act on anything. I went to the movies with one lady in particular who “didn’t like labels” and we held hands after it. I chatted with her the next night about how I really wanted to kiss her and she really wanted to kiss me, so we did that soon after. I’m sure I was entirely awkward. We sort of dated for a few months and of course I got super attached and she broke my heart. The whole thing was very middle school.

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“I just sort of arrived at it through rational deduction.”

-Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host & political commentator

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Intern Elizabeth:
So, my gay-iversary is probs Pride Weekend (last weekend in June for Chicago) because Pride Weekend 2006 is the first year I ever attended the festivities. I was like, eff it, hey guys, um, I’m going to the gay pride parade this weekend, who’s with me? Also I got a tattoo of rainbow stars that same weekend. And I met the first/only girl I’ve ever been in love with (obvs that didn’t work out)… Until then I was ‘processing’ and had only told like 2 friends that I thought I might be a big old queer (I didn’t know they had secretly already spilled the beans)…
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#wheniknew
“Eliza Dushku swaggering into the gym in Bring it On.” – @missapplepants

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katrinaIntern KC Danger:
Remember that time t.a.T.u. performed at the VH1 Movie Awards, and at the end a sea of schoolgirls filled the auditorium and danced around in their underwear? Whoa, I do. And though I couldn’t quite place the feeling then, I’m going to have to admit that t.a.T.u. may well have been the catalyst to my gay-iversary (marked by my coming-out-iversary) two years later.

t.a.t.u. movie awards
Like most important things that happen when you’re 15, my coming out was simple, awkward, and took place during a sleepover. I wasn’t planning on it, but when my friend unexpectedly came out, and our gracious host jokingly asked, “So. Is anyone else here bisexual?” I felt I had no choice but to raise my hand. I realized I was gay another two years later, but by then everyone was so used to me scopin’ out chicks that I never really bothered to make a public service announcement, and left my gay-iversary as is. February 11, 2005. Feel free to get me a gift this year. Or a girlfriend.
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#wheniknew
“I knew when our sleepovers stopped involving actual sleep.” -@brendog

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tink-icon1Tinkerbell:

hello autostraddle. this is tinkerbell. once upon a time, i was born in a gift shop in miami from four homos. lesbians were all i could see so i knew anything was possible. then riese took me to a party and i wanted a vodka tonic and carly said put that shit away. i still had a strap on so i was still a purse. then later i wasn’t a purse but was i like everyone else? no i was a dog. then i met littlefoot and realized i liked dinasours and was a trisexual. i think this is because carly denied me a vodka tonic. however i have kisses from leisha hailey, and michelle paradise when i felt that if i were not in love with littlefoot, i might be in love with ladies but only the very pretty ones. mostly i am lying on the floor in my outfit. really i’m too young to know anything. if you know anything or even have a heart then you are lucky just to have a heart and to have it feel things, some of us have no hearts, only stuffing, memories of straps and miami. love everything would be my advice.

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Profile photo of Alex

Cofounder and Design Director of Autostraddle. Professional web/graphic designer. Whiskey enthusiast. Drumming hobbyist. A past speaker at the 2010 BlogHer Conference ("Good Blog Design: The Role of Layout in an Online Medium"), 2013 Salon LGBTQ Conference ("Innovative Best Practices for Brand-Blogger Campaigns") and featured in the Los Angeles Edition of Refinery29's 30 Under 30 in 2013. Co-owns and manages Tully's Training, a dog training company in Los Angeles. Twitter: @a_ex Instagram: alexxxvegaaa

Alex has written 113 articles for us.

49 Comments

  1. Thumb up 0

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    if it dresses like a boy and acts like a boy, it’s probably a lesbian

    Carlytron, truer words were never typed.
    ——-
    Also, Tinkerbell, I first thought you said you had a strap-on as opposed to having a strap on. What a difference a hyphen makes.

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      I too dressed in boys clothes as a child (until 5th grade when I started dressing a little girlier to fit in) It’s taken many years and many obvious overlooked clues to realize that I’m pretty gay.

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        i did this too. i had this really sweet pair of black nike’s that i would go around showing everyone because “they looked just like boys’ shoes. in fact, i think my parents got them from the boys’ section.”
        also i threw fits when my parents tried to make me wear dresses to church. also because they were trying to take me to church.

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          I was really good at a very specific kind of tantrum that involved wailing with my arms wiggling above my head which made it impossible to get the dress over my head.

          I had really serious boys’ shoes with like the pay-less version of transformers on them and velcro. I actually still remember the day I walked into kindergarten sporting those hot kicks and my teacher had to move me to a different table ’cause the class bully was at my table making comments about my penis. OH YOUTH!

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            theres a 3 yr old in my former preschool class that is doing that now apparently, she wont wear girls bathing suits either— flipped when mom bought her barbie shoes, she wants to be a boy and says so– its cute , shes very tiny n has a tiny lil voice, yet so many thoughts… haha

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        I remember when baggy pants became THE thing for boys to wear. Obvs I had a pair before all the boys in my grade did. I showed them off like nobody’s business. Also, I may or may not have shopped in the boys section up until middle school when my style changed from boy clothes to unisex sports clothes.

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        I made my parents let me get my haircut properly short back and sides like my brother when i was 3, and then when I started primary school there was a major kerfuffle about whether or not I was allowed to wear trousers because the girls uniform was a skirt which i refused point blank to wear. by the time i left all the girls wore trousers yay! have many a dress now, but looking back at how i was when i was little i have no idea how it took me so long to figure things out!

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    Laura, your story made me LOL.

    “if you know anything or even have a heart then you are lucky just to have a heart and to have it feel things, some of us have no hearts, only stuffing, memories of straps and miami. love everything would be my advice.”

    genius?

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    I dressed & acted like such a tomboy when I was a kid–and wished I were a boy. I remember, my mom always tried to get me to wear frilly dresses to church. Meanwhile, I did my best to wear blouses, nice pants, and suit jackets. I didn’t have a tie, so I wore one of my mother’s scarves as a cravat.

    …I was such a little dyke! Of course, today, I’m so past that stage :-P (I write as I sit here in my blazer, nice jeans, and button-up shirt…).

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      i think i am the only gay ever invented who wasn’t a tomboy when i was little. now you’d have to knock me out to take my boys’ panties away from me.

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        haha no I was neeeever a tomboy.
        I refused to wear my girl scout uniform of a vest and baggy shorts when I went to the meetings and I tried out for softball in second grade in a purple dress. But I mean I definitely get gay points for the softball part.

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        1. i just snickered at the word panties.
        2. i am a big giant stereotype. it was all tag and sting (or whatever other people called it) and races across pavement. playing house was primarily for getting in with the ladies. ah. fond memories of my tomboyhood.

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      In hindsight, at age 2 I refused to wear dresses and used to throw major fits.
      +
      And apparently I used to tell my mother I was going to wear suits to work (though I do, in fact, wear suits to work now)…but I used to think it was because I didn’t believe in gender stereotypes…when I was 5?

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        I always thought I wanted to dress like a boy because I didn’t have any sisters or girl cousins and I thought boys were cool. Now I know it was just foreshadowing. Although, I don’t have a very boyish style now. Just not real girly either.

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      There may or may not be a Christmas card picture floating around somewhere of 7 year old me in a nice button down and tie. Just sayin’.

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        dear brooke,

        I retired the dress as formal wear when I bought my first suit for deca (business club)

        also when I wore a dress I always looked like I was a boy in drag.

        I got away with sportswear because I was a soccer player. Athlete = easy disguise.

        KC- I miss my “boyhood” lets go climb trees

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      hello alphafemme this is tinkerbell

      i was a purse but riese did not want a purse and it got in the way of my outfits so she took off my strap

      what is a strap-on no one will tell me this is like when i asked about haviland’s celebrity crush and no-one would tell me

      love tinkerbell

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    I bumped into my 2nd grade teacher when I was a senior in high school and she asked me (in front of a few friends, mind you) if I still wanted to be a man. She (and everyone else) believed I was one of those children trapped in the wrong gender-body!
    .
    Apparently I wrote a poem about what I wanna be when I grew up and I referred to myself as “he” and that I would grow up to be an “old happy man.” I insisted I meant to say “man” too. Total gender identity crisis at the age of 8! Needless to say – I was a total tomboy… and was mistaken for being a boy on dozens of occasions.
    .
    p.s. You guys are so gay.

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      Haha I know the feeling. I would often say to my mom, “I want to pee like daddy!” (I have no recollection of this.*blushes*) My oh my how times have changed. Now I’m just a huge queer. (:
      —–
      Awesome part two!

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    Tinkerbelle, thank you so much for sharing your story of Littlefoot love. The voices of trisexual Tinkerbelles are so often silenced in our modern society.

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    Oh dear. I found out about autostraddle through another site, maybe lemondrop, and have enjoyed reading it. Very much. Perhaps too much for a straight girl. haha.

    its been a running joke in my circle of friends for a while now that they call me a lesbian. As I sit here reading these coming out stories, though, perhaps they’re right. I’m identifying way too much with this to be straight!

    So maybe autostraddle will be my own “catalyst to my gay-iversary”….

    Well, i’m confused, but I still love autostraddle.

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    reading all this is bringing back memories of my “boyhood”
    i knida flipped back and forth though. only like during 5th grade was i REALLY a tomboy.
    i remember telling one of my friends who wanted to play barbies with me that i didn’t wanna do the girl stuff. i explained to her that i was a gemini. sometimes i wanted to be JIM which meant i wanted to just play basketball and run around with the boys and sometimes i would be keona and play with dolls. she got it and would ask me if i were Jim or Keona. and i remember only wanting boy basketball shoes and ZIP OFF PANTS! god i loved my boy’s zip off pants…

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    I was so proud of my Vans (from the boys section) and of my rebellion against wearing dresses. I was such a huge lesbian girl wonder how it came as a shock to my parents. Also the binding of chest in 6th grade was pretty much a give away.

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    okay im only 14 but man i feel likea complete bi. iv dated alot of bi’s and i dated a girl i thought was soo hot cuz at the time i thought it was guy. but now i still have huge feelings for her but i guess she is straight :/ but she wears a sports bra to hide her boobs and baggy shirts and guy skinny jeans with guy shoes and has her hair cutt like a guy. i absolutly love her. but i love guys to alot. iv kissed alot of girls, (clamming it was just for pics for guys) but i really liked it. and i guess my aunt is lesbian and i have no idea if it runs in family jeans? i was just wondering if it does and if i seem bi to you people?

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    secret,
    1. your friend you like is definitely not straight.

    2. you probably like girls. And that’s okay, you can like guys too. Like, whatever! Who cares!

    3. Jeans = genes

    4. It seems like you’re worrying a lot about this stuff and I know it can be totally weird and stressful, I get that… especially when you’re 14.
    But girl, it doesn’t matter if WE think you sound gay or bi or whatever. No one else’s opinion matters but your own. Your sexuality is yours and you’ll know what feels right if you tune into yourself.

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      lol she swear shes not, and yeah were actually learning about the whole gene thing in science right now,i really like science. but im not as worried what other people think about me as if my friends will be scared to be as close to me as what we have been? like kissing for pics and just cuddling for fun watching t.v bored and stuff. like i really wonder if my friend is bi two.she was talking to some bi tht told her she was since she kissed a girl and i think tht got her wondering.haha

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    hey i don’t know if im bi but i was wondering is my friend?? guys seem to like her and she has this really high pitched laugh but she plays softball and always wears like jeans and tshirts and skate shoes every day?

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    Some of these responses are cute but in all honesty signs of tomboyhood are not the same as signs of being gay. I mean just because you like to throw balls and run around in a dirt doesnt mean you like women.

    Then again, I myself am on this forum because I am pretty certain I’m bicurious. But i know plenty of masculine straight girls and very feminine gay girls so I dont think the softball and suit stories are really a mark of straight/gay.

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    I just never had chemistry with men ( see our blonde, pig-tailed Stephanie above ) but I sure have it with gyrls, or singular now with my SO. But the defining moment which sealed the deal was my first time with my face to the carpet when I was 21, immediate addiction.

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