Dating Women: The Most Enticing Romantic Possibility Life Ever Threw Her Way

This week’s New York Magazine Sex Diary features a 35-year-old writer going out with a woman for the first time and it’s pretty adorable. It’s absurd and ridiculous at times, too, but mostly does a good job of capturing the experience of somebody who suddenly finds themselves considering a possibility they’d never before considered. Namely, the possibility of WOMEN.

I don’t mean to sound immature but at this point, I’m still in shock that I have a date with a girl?! I have zero hang-ups about gay/straight/bi sexual orientations. This isn’t about shame or anything like that at all … it’s almost the opposite. It’s like this is the most enticing romantic possibility life has ever thrown my way.

This kind of story — grown-up straight woman meets grown-up not-straight women, then suddenly considers the possibility of dating women for the first time — is a popular one in film, television and literature, but rarely do these revelations occur without a great deal of hand-wringing, retrospection and self-doubt. What does it mean? Am I gay now? Is this why I was so obsessed with Britney Spears? What will my parents think? What will my friends say? Why am I ashamed to hold her hand in public? 

But our culture is shifting, slowly but surely, at least in some circles in some parts of the country. We’re hearing more and more real-life narratives from adults in which falling for a woman in your twenties or thirties, while unexpected, isn’t shocking or confusing, either. Nor do these stories fit into the “falling in love with this one woman helped me realize I’d always been queer / bisexual / gay, NOW WHAT DO I DO” column, which is probably the column most “coming out to yourself” stories fit into, including the fictionalized ones.

If there is a column for these new narratives, it might be this: “falling in love with a woman made me realize I was capable of falling in love with a woman.” The sentence doesn’t have to end there, of course, most would also tack on an “and therefore I guess I must be queer or bisexual or gay or sexually fluid, but whatever, it’s not a big deal.” What makes these stories different than so many other queer narratives is the complete lack of internalized homophobia — for people like me, it’s stunning that any woman could be so nonchalant about suddenly finding herself playing for a different team. The idea of going on a date with a woman for the first time was hardly incidental for me, it was loaded with meaning. I spent most of my life completely certain that I was straight and completely horrified by the idea of being a lesbian, despite growing up in a very liberal area with a queer parent. In fact, my former aversion towards out-and-proud lesbians remains the only evidence I have that I’ve been queer all this time, because I don’t have the formative “crushing on my best friend” or “fantasizing about women” stories I hear from many other lesbian and bisexual women.

The Sex Diarist’s narrative is one of many we’ve heard lately remarkable not for treating the gender of one’s partner as incidental (historically exemplified through ideas like “we’re all just humans! I fall in love with a person, not a gender!”, which is true or a lot of people in the middle of the Kinsey Scale but not for everybody) but for acknowledging that yes, for most people, dating a woman is different than dating a man, but it’s not “less than,” it’s not bad, and it’s not a big deal, either. We’re entering an era when it’s possible for a woman to grow up in or live in a homo-friendly environment that enables her to consider dating a woman when the opportunity presents itself without worrying about coming out to intolerant family members, being rejected by her friends or suffering at work. Even big-name Hollywood actresses have publicly acquired girlfriends without losing work (e.g, Kristen Stewart), which would’ve been unthinkable ten years ago.

Historically, even the most open-minded liberal couldn’t consider suddenly dating a woman without some degree of strife unless they’d already cut themselves off from traditional society and expectations, like hippie communes. Musician Julia Nunes touched on this in her recent Autostraddle interview when she talked about how she was lucky enough to grow up in such an accepting environment that eventually falling for a girl for the first time wasn’t a big deal or an identity crisis.

Chloe Caldwell’s 2014 novella Womena beautiful story about the author’s first same-sex love affair, manages to address frankly how different it is to be with a woman without making sexual orientation itself the subject or the obstacle of her story. Early in the book, when she’s found herself drawn to this woman, Finn, but hasn’t yet given it a name, Caldwell writes, “I knew I found Finn’s aesthetic attractive, but I hadn’t yet explored feelings of being attracted to her, in part because I hadn’t yet explored my ability to fall for a woman. I figured if I was going to be with a woman, I would have been with one by now. I would know if I was bisexual or gay. Being a writer, I assumed I was at least mildly self-aware.” And then, of course, she falls, quickly and desperately, in love with a woman she cannot have because this woman is already in a relationship with somebody else. It’s unhealthy and destructive. But she falls, and falls, and falls, and this new categorization of affair is approached not with hand-wringing, but with nervous, tentative, flushed excitement and curiosity.

A similarly enchanting narrative begins mid-way in the new Netflix documentary Tig, when out lesbian comedian Tig Notaro becomes fast friends with Stephanie Allyne, a straight actress she worked with on the film In A World. Although Allyne and Notaro are clearly falling for each other — texting nonstop, becoming inexorably obsessed with each other’s every word and move, involving each other in their work whenever possible — Allyne resists to categorize it as “falling in love” because, of course, she’s straight! “I don’t know how to go forward in my life without this person,” Allyne recalls feeling after her and Tig had decided to take a break from their friendship because Tig’s feelings for Allyne were too strong. “I knew if I don’t say ‘yes’ to this in my life then I am not following my feelings and my heart.” I won’t spoil the film for you, but you’re probably already aware that the two are presently engaged to be married, so there’s that.

Ye olde fictional narratives never turned out quite as well as these present-day true stories do. Jessica Stein tried really hard to love her girlfriend as much as her girlfriend loved her, but ultimately she was just too straight to make it work. Samantha Jones quickly grew tired of her relationship with Maria in Sex and the City, and exited with several digs at lesbian relationships in general. In Six Feet Under, Claire’s brief experimentation with bohemian lesbian artist Edie was similarly short-lived, as Edie reminds Claire that “the world’s not your own private fucking chemistry set.”

I don’t know how we’ll categorize this type of human going forward or where this type of experience will fit in to other LGBTQ narratives — if anywhere. We’ll never know if it worked out for the Sex Diarist and her anonymous female date “Rose” — if her quickness to judge Rose for not making cookies from scratch is any indication, it probably didn’t — but rest assured they did eventually have sex and “it felt fucking incredible. Every single second of it. Fucking. Incredible.” But you probably already saw that one coming, eh?

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2697 articles for us.

44 Comments

  1. Wow, this is truly fascinating to me as a perpetually confused 34 year old. I have yet to deeply explore my confusion with someone who can actually help (aka: my therapist), but I do know I have a ton of internalized homophobia, and also a lesbian mom–though that didn’t happen until I was 23.

    I think it is awesome though that we are seeing more and more women finding themselves in love with another woman and not making it a huge deal.

  2. This is so real, and great to read. I also fell for a gal for the first time when I was 31. That feeling that I had wasn’t that I was hungry or nervous it was butterflies. My body was telling me before I knew!

  3. Ugh this is really interesting but also slightly depressing, since I am 21 and somehow still developed a solid amount of internalised homophobia. It still surprises me what a long game it is trying to get past this?? Evidently there is a small and selfish part of me that almost resents people casually discovering their queerness and not experiencing ridiculous angst like myself #compassion

    • I agree. I’m happy for such people, but given how messed up I was about my identity for 10 years because of internalized homophobia…it’s just incomprehensible that people can be so casual about it. But good for them I guess. I’m not jealous or bitter. Haha.

      • Nika, do you think that could be because of the different things we had to go through at different ages? I mean, I’m just a few months short of 30 and from south central KY. Its what we see and hear in our day to day that causes internalized homophobia. Things are a lot different now than they were when I was 14 and coming out. Just my view on it. I wish that all stories could be like this though. I just think it’ll be a long time till we see this kind of thing more frequently

    • Yes! I feel very much the same way and sort of guilty about it, so I’m so glad it’s not just me. Like, I’m happy people can have experiences like this, but it makes me feel weird for having had so much angst? And, as much as I think being not-straight shouldn’t have to be a big deal… it really was sort of a big deal for me, and I guess I’m scared of there not being space for that.

      (Oh, and I too picked up more internalized homophobia than seems called for and am constantly surprised at how resilient it! It definitely has gotten better, though, so maybe I’m wearing it down. 🙂 )

  4. Honestly this woman sounded kind of judgy and it seemed like she kind of viewed the woman transactionally. Like “oh I made her dinner and bought her nice wine, sleeping together can happen! But she can’t stay over. And she brought cookies FROM A BOX.”

    The first time I slept with a girl, I wasn’t thinking about the food she’d brought. I was thinking OMG SO THIS IS WHAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE. I was thinking oh my gosh, her face, her laugh, her hands. Her thick curly hair. The way she hid her face when she was complimented. Her long, strong fingers. How everything was almost the same as with guys, but just different enough to be entirely right instead of kind of, vaguely, wrong. I was thinking OH, okay. I get it.

    I know not every first experience is going to be an epiphany or a revelation, but since it didn’t really seem to be any kind of big deal for her, it just kind of felt like she was using the woman a bit.

    • That’s an interesting point — that it might not be a big deal to her because she’s not taking the girl seriously, as opposed to what i thought, which was that apparently these days people can just start dating women without worrying about what it means, which is something I cannot relate to on any universe and I imagine most of us can’t. within the context of these other narratives i mentioned, it’s possible that there is going to be a shift in how some women think about dating girls for the first time. and then what will those relationships look like? will they work? or is their sexuality not as fluid as they might think it is?

      I mean, I have been somebody else’s chemistry set more times than i can count, and once felt like the go-to girl for anybody curious about what it’s like to be with a woman. it was stupid. I would not want to be Rose, that’s for sure.

      • Yeah I honestly think the reason it wasn’t high-stakes for the writer was because, well, the stakes weren’t high. There wasn’t a giant iceberg of a question floating around in her mind, something she had to steer around in every relationship with a guy. A question with huge little bits like “maybe I just don’t like sex that much,” and “maybe I’m just incapable of really connecting romantically with a person.”

        Those are huge things to worry about and they don’t even stem entirely from internalized homophobia, more from pervasive heteronormativity, which isn’t likely to go away completely any time soon.

        I’m sure there are people who can and will start dating women without worrying about what it means, or without giant relief, but they’re either going to be the kind of women who tend not to worry much/be up in their heads, or women for whom dating women is the cherry on top, not the giant piece that was missing.

        • (About halfway through this comment it just became meandering thoughts. Sorry bout that.)

          I completely sympathise with what you’re saying but, at the same time, feel like this is a little unfair on a person in a situation like the writer. Many queer/bi/pan/fluid people who suddenly start dating people of the same sex might find it revelatory but, equally, many don’t and it doesn’t make it less substantial. This can be either because the person(s) they first see/sleep with aren’t quite right with them, or because of many other reasons (they’d come to terms with the idea of their own/general fluid/open sexuality before, they didn’t see it as a ‘big deal’, they’re not overly invested in romance/sex in general, blah blah).

          I think it’s kinda indicative that the writer says ‘My last relationship — a boyfriend of two years, whom I just couldn’t fall madly in love with, no matter how hard I/we tried — ended about a year ago and no major action since then. But, for me, having a boyfriend does not equal happiness. That is not how I see the world.’ It might be less that she’s ‘using’ the woman (whatever that would mean in this context where the person who is/was purportedly straight might be as/more confused than the other) and more that she’s just not overly romantic in her relationships all the time.

          I totally get that some people will find their first time(s) with the same sex transformative, but I really balk at the idea of it only being for some that being with people of the same sex was a ‘giant piece that was missing,’ whilst for others its framed as less significant; ‘the cherry on top.’ As though there are more serious (and, by proxy, more legitimate) and less serious ways to experience an LGBTQ+ sexuality.

          (Also she clearly rly likes food so there’s that in relation to the cookies, y’know?)

          Also she actually does sound excited:
          ‘I’m blushing like a schoolgirl. I’m really excited.’
          ‘Yup, can’t sleep.’

          And she talks about ‘freaking out.’ And also she doesn’t even seem to view it as transactional? (The idea of sex hadn’t even crossed her mind to begin with.)

          I just feel that, yeah, this is a bit of an unfair response to a very brief window into someone’s experience.

          (Although yeurgh at all the ‘women understand women’ and jealousy of her youth stuff. But I guess those are her feelings. I just think she sounds like quite a generally cold fish in some ways, who is understandably very very obsessed with her work. And ‘the nice life’ of fancy food and wine, fancy friends, etc.)

    • ew I feel icky abt this comment after posting it, like I’m trivializing this woman’s experience or the experience of straight girls interested in women or straight women in general…mostly it was a self deprecating nod to my pattern of falling for straight girls just on the cusp of this woman’s way of thinking (like, holding hands, cuddling, but still would never call anything between us a “date”) OKAY I’m sorry if this was offensive!!!! eeeeek

  5. Gad to read this, I read the Sex Diaries piece the other day and found it quite interesting. I spent a while hovering on the fence about whether she was amping up the fluidity and nonchalance to make it ‘cooler’ but in the end decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    It’s totally not going to work out with Rose long term… and like you say, it’s not because she’s a woman, it’s because the author is one of thirty-something women whose own insecurities about progressing down a conventional life path become manifest in being judgy about others – ‘packet mix!’ ‘she doesn’t take her job seriously enough’.
    Also, whether through personality or age (in my experience of dating older women age is a factor) she can’t go with the flow and has to be in control of everything, entertaining at her house, setting boundaries etc. If you can’t throw caution to the wind in the throws of new love, when can you?

  6. I started typing up a big rant here and then realized that someone had already posted something very similar on tumblr, so here you go:

    http://arbors.tumblr.com/post/127166306446/sftn-arbors-i-understand-that-people-come-to

    Not to invalidate the author or anyone who might be genuinely questioning their sexuality, but there is something about straight identified people focusing on the sexual component of relationships between women, rather than on the actual relationship, that just feels super weird and “transactional” as @queergirl already put it. (I also get that the column is always about sex, and there’s totally nothing wrong with having/ acting on sexual desire for someone you’ve just started seeing.)

    To be honest, I might just be having a bad reaction to this because a straight friend of mine recently told me she’s always been curious about what it would be like to sleep with a woman because she sees herself as very adventurous and “open to feminine energy.” Not date a women or share an intimate partnership, but you know, just have a little sexual affair for the adventure of it. Flash back to every time I’ve dated a man who was overly interested in hearing ALLL the details of my sexual experiences with women, and how much more interesting that made me seem, and I can see how a straight or bi-curious woman could get the message that being with a woman is not as emotionally meaningful but definitely super sexy. Which is also definitely the narrative about non-hetero relationships in most media. And I feel like this can make it hard for people who are genuinely questioning, because maybe it feels like their non-hetero relationships are such a quirky novelty that it’s hard to know if it’s “real” or not. I guess what I want to say is there is nothing wrong with this article, and it feels genuine because the author totally has a crush on another woman, but I just… wish there were more resources out there and more ways of seeing relationships between women so that the questions raised in this article about what it even means to like a woman wouldn’t feel so unanswered except in a sexual sense.

  7. This woman is so conceited and pretentious. Her crush didn’t even develop until she’d experimented with kissing Rose a few times; she dated her out of curiosity and a sense of adventure. Then we get the idea that she is going to continue the relationship for a while – even though communicating with Rose annoys her – because the physical aspects make her feel “Fucking Incredible.” She knows Rose is looking for something serious. It just isn’t right.

    I’m 38. I identified as straight – NEVER having crushed on a girl/woman – until a few months ago when I met a woman that I can’t stop thinking about. The difference is I actually care about my crush; she’s like the Sex Diarist in that she is very focused on her career & I’m proud of her and excited to see her succeed; she’s got mixed feeling about me for a lot of valid reasons including her career goals and the fact that I seem unavailable (being married), so I’m waiting to see what happens. My husband is really supportive. He’s a monogamous hetero, but says love is about more than sex, so. In the meantime, yeah, the Diarist is right: the imagination is surprisingly, wonderfully powerful.

  8. This this this holy shit. Actually struggling to comment because of how familiar aspects of the Sex Diarist’s article and Riese’s comments feel. Crushing on women, dating women–not a revelation, some big aha moment, but rather something you just kind of stumble into out of curiosity. But then you’re sleeping with women, going for drinks with women, falling in love with women, and it’s like, wait, how big a deal is this, actually? Does this mean I was queer all along, or just that I am now? Can I still be bi/a lesbian/queer/?! if my story doesn’t fit with the usual coming out narratives? And of course there’s all kinds of guilt around claiming a queer identity without going through the pain and suffering of internalized homophobia. Anyway, still processing, but it’s lovely being able to reflect in the company of other autostraddlers, so thanks for that 🙂

    • Your comment really hit home with me. I’d never been romantically interested in women until in my mid-twenties I started dating a fascinating and charming woman like Rose and fell in love (and later got my heart badly broken of course). After the unfraught realization that I can love women too, I’ve gone back and forth and consider myself bi, but I too question whether I’ve earned the right to claim a queer identity without experiencing any inner struggle.

  9. But… if a woman is able to fall in love with a woman, then she is bi, lesbian, and/or queer! Or maybe she’s “I don’t even know, man.” Or maybe she’s “just likes people.” But she’s something. There are definitely problems with labels, and they’re absolutely not perfect, but orientation matters. Someone who’s asking herself these questions about her general patterns of attraction is someone who’s wondering how this is going to fit into her life at large – does this mean that she might end up in a romantic relationship with a woman? If she feels like a really long-term relationship might be in her future, does this mean the person she marries or partners with might be a woman? Does this mean she might end up building a life together with a woman? Seeing women in a romantic way as well as a sexual way usually leads to those questions, and maybe those questions won’t be super angsty or serious (“am I bi? Well, maybe? I really wanna date so-and-so, and that’s what counts”) but they will exist, and they’ll feel important and meaningful and real, and part of her life, not weirdly separated from it.

    And let’s be honest here, having a sexy lesbian affair and then going on with your life is cool, daring, sexy – if you want to be an interesting sort of person in that way, who leads and has led an interesting life that the stuffy and prudish will disapprove of, a sexy lesbian affair kept compartmentalized as an adventure isn’t going to hurt you. Having a steady girlfriend who’s a part of your life? Getting gay married? Having a future? That shit ain’t cool, that’s just… weird, and gay.

    And like, who knows whose fault that is? You could blame straight girls who see us as their adventures, you could blame society for framing this as the acceptable thing to do with your attraction to women (because MENMENMEN but also BE SEXY), who even knows? Who even cares? This is not an article about a woman unexpectedly falling in love with another woman, it’s an article about a woman sexually objectifying a woman while relentlessly judging everything about her that isn’t sexual. And not everything has to be love, but this author is pretty clearly a tourist and none of this is anything to be celebrated.

    • “You could blame straight girls who see us as their adventures, you could blame society for framing this as the acceptable thing to do with your attraction to women (because MENMENMEN but also BE SEXY), who even knows?”
      THIS. Thank you.

    • I don’t think it’s worthy of celebration, I just think it’s worthy of investigation and interest, in the context of all the other stories I also mentioned.

      I also think labels matter a great deal and I’m sort of old-fashioned in that way, that it’s hard for me not to roll my eyes when somebody says “labels are for jam!” (and they’re useful! that’s how i know what kind of jam it is!). But I wasn’t writing about my personal opinion, I was just writing about what these stories are and what they might mean about the future.

      The part about it that interested me was how it works out in a larger societal context when it’s seemingly so simple for someone to consider dating a woman for the first time without thinking about repercussions or what it means. for most of us, it’s never been so simple.

      • That is interesting, and I mean, I’m also coming at it from the perspective of someone who had a very difficult coming out (in my case, because of super homophobic parents), and it does seem like things are changing in that there are a lot more non-traumatic comings out lately, and even non-event comings out. But there have always been tourists, and now that it’s safer than ever to have a sexy lesbian affair, more of the people who’d like to be tourists are willing to go for it. There have always been LGBTQ people who didn’t know until later in life, and now that there’s less of a stigma against same-sex relationships, it’s often easier for people to take it in stride.

        And also… the fluidity narrative is a narrative like any other narrative, and I think it’s dangerous to look at it like the stories we’re seeing make up the whole truth? Like, we can recognize that the “you’re born straight or gay and that’s that” narrative is flawed as shit, and also see why it became as popular as it did: because it positioned homosexuality as a non-threat in several different ways. Like, what kind of story is the idea that women in same-sex relationships are fluid trying to tell? Who benefits from the spread of the idea that women stumble into same-sex relationships without struggle or pain, and that a woman can have a same-sex relationship without coming away as “into women” in general on any substantial level? Is this another way of making something a non-threat?

        And like, all these fluidity stories that get used to back up that narrative don’t always even actually back up that narrative when closely examined, either? Maria Bello’s story about her partner often comes up, but that hadn’t been the first time she dated a woman, and was more about the fluidity of relationships in general. Stephanie Allynne did agonize about dating Tig, and she doesn’t identify as straight anymore (she seems to think sexuality in general is fluid and considers herself either gay or bisexual, but definitely talks about identifying as straight in the past tense) – not to mention, she says that her relationships with men weren’t serious and she didn’t really know what it was like to be in love until she met Tig. I mean, I’m just guessing, but it sounds like we’re talking about someone towards the middle-right of the Kinsey scale?

        Like, fluidity is real for many people, just as rigidity is real for many people, but I think this is something to be approached with a grain of salt, too?

        • Ooh, I think that’s a great point: “the fluidity narrative is a narrative like any other narrative.” And obviously that doesn’t mean it doesn’t reflect some people’s experience, just like the born-this-way narrative does, but I think you’re right about that grain of salt. It’s maybe a bit easier to forget that because fluidity is presented as a counter-narrative a lot of the time, like it’s the truth emerging from the shadow of homophobia? I know I at least tend to think less critically about it than I usually make a habit of.

          And I also think you’re right that no-big-deal fluidity can definitely work to make queerness (and female queerness specifically) more of a non-threat – which is sort of odd, because it can also be really destabilizing, but I guess it depends on context and such. I’m all for exploring grey areas (I feel like my entire life is a grey area), but I think the emphasis on fluidity can sometimes be a way for people/our culture at large to seem accepting without really doing the work or quite taking us seriously. And then it’s a funny thing to try to react to because on the surface it seems like a good thing, it just sort of feels… off.

  10. ok, lots of thoughts about this article and most of them conflicting but overwhelmingly the sentence that is depective of my life would be “I watch 2.5 documentaries and order in $50 of sushi. It’s my most perfect Friday night.” I know I’m old and boring but that sounds divine….and it’s friday.

  11. I really liked what you wrote, Riese. I think it’s very interesting to see examples of people “exploring sexuality” or w/e and have it be a non issue (when, in my experience, it was a major life turning point where I had to analyze every single feel). I really disliked what the sex diary woman wrote tho. I agree with what some of the other commenters have said… she just seems shallow with perhaps a hint of internalized homophobia (ie second quote below?), and it all rubbed me the wrong way.

    She’s bi and she’s looking for a real relationship. I’m relieved she’s not into any of that poly shit. There’s only so much I can handle right now!

    But I’m not sure I want to be the two girls tonguing each other at a bar.

    I’m probably going to have sex with this woman, and yet my ability to compartmentalize is still the most masculine thing about me.

    I am feeling way too “grown-up” to go to an apartment and meet a bunch of hipster roommates, all on Adderall or whatever.

    LIKE OK, WE GET IT, you are judgey af.

  12. You know, even if it wasn’t a perfect narrative, even if the diarist seems a bit…eh, its kind of nice that it really was kind of copacetic and I’d say acceptably shallow.

    If hetros can be kinda shallow and nonchalant, I yearn for a day when I too can be because its just not that big a deal.

  13. While I understand some of the objections to the tone of the article, I can relate to the author’s experience. As someone who discovered her attraction to women at age 30, I can say that the author’s apparent lack of angst (not to be confused with nonchalance) may have a great deal to do with age. Discovering my queerness in my vulnerable teens or even early 20’s would have been an entirely different ball game. By 30 I had moved away from my hometown, started a career and was surrounding myself with new friends of my own choosing, and that provided me certain privileges for self-discovery that my younger self just did not have. So when I fell in love with a woman for the first time, while still young but with greater perspective, I was able to see it as a gift rather than a burden.

    But I do recognize that this was a privilege. I wish the experience of coming out to oneself could be less of a burden for queers of all ages, but we have a long way to go before it is. And things were easier for me precisely because others have fought for it to be that way.

    Which is not to say it wasn’t a big deal. I worried (and still worry) about how to explain my bisexuality to friends and family, all of whom have never known me as anything but straight. But their approval is less important to my self-development as it once was.

    For me, the most disorienting part of discovering my sexuality at this age is the element of surprise. As in, “how could I have not known this about myself??? Why now? Where do I go from here?,” which admittedly are rather benign questions compared to some of the internal struggles many others face, but they are valid ones nonetheless.

    I think the author downplays the significance of the discovery because of the nature of the column (sex stories). To me it doesn’t matter that a casual encounter, and not love, is the catalyst for the author’s self-discovery. We all have had brief encounters that have marked us in some way. My fleeting relationship with a woman changed my life forever, so it hurts to think that something so profound to me could be taken less seriously because my journey to self-acceptance was a little less rocky.

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