How To Leave Your Husband (Because You’re a Lesbian)

Hello Autostraddle, I used to be married to a man.

We’ve gone over this before, but it’s been a while, so here’s the refresher:

I got pregnant and married, in that order duh, while I was in high school! I stayed married, got pregnant again, and kept staying married for something like eight years — I lost count. Then we moved to Virginia, into a house I hated, in a neighborhood I hated, away from my favorite place (California) and my favorite person on the planet (the straight best friend I subconsciously wanted to marry). My husband was in the military and he’d be gone for months at a time. I was perpetually in a bad mood/depressed. Then there was free Showtime and a Season Three marathon. I watched Shane fuck Cherie Jaffe by the pool over and over and spent the next month googling ALL THE THINGS + FEELINGS. Everything — every last fucking thing ever — finally made sense. I made sense.

I came out, we separated.

But it wasn’t quite as neat and easy as that. Not even close.

I’m often asked, not necessarily outright, how I kept up that husband thing for as long as I did. It’s not an easy question to answer, both because it involves summoning a state of mind I can no longer relate to and because I’m scared of being judged. I judge myself so harshly, and I judge the girl I used to be, even though everything seemed normal to me then.

Where I grew up, it wasn’t uncommon to be young and pregnant and married. Birth control was available but not really discussed or supported, and no one talked about homosexuality or feminism. This was the 80s and early 90s, so there wasn’t any internet or gay people on television. All I had was what I saw, which to me looked like a prevailing acceptance of just sorta settling.

Yes, I was miserable in my relationship(s), but I thought that everyone was miserable in their relationships. I’d been listening to women complain about their husbands or boyfriends — in real life and on television and in movies and magazines — for as long as I could remember. From what I’d gathered, it seemed like women chose a spouse based on who annoyed or disgusted them the least. Maybe they also considered whether or not this guy would be nice to their future kids, and his capacity to eventually afford a boat. It never occurred to me that being “in love” could feel like anything more than kindly agreeing not to be mean to each other. And attraction? Actually wanting sex? I mean, what must that be like?? Women aren’t socialized, like men are, to think they deserve sexual satisfaction. Maybe it’s different now, but at the time, I interpreted sex as a thing that made boys happy, but for which women shouldn’t set their sights too high.

That part — the sex part — is hands-down the most difficult thing for me to talk about, process or explain. Not just because of how personal sex is, for everybody, but also because of the terrible sad vacant feeling that comes with discussing a thing that I never related to and now can barely fathom ever doing. At that time, sex was how I could get someone to like me.

It’s sad to know that I thought so little of myself, that something that should’ve been… something, was so very nothing for me, and that I stayed anyway. When I realized I was gay — and I wish there was a different phrase for this because it sounds like I figured out something as simple as my zipper being down, “realized” — things started making a little bit more sense. I finally understood why my husband felt more like a brother than a romantic partner, and I started to wonder if the communal heterosexual misery I’d considered myself a part of wasn’t the same for me as it was for everyone else, after all. If I admitted I’d been miserable with him for a long time, would people wonder why I hadn’t already left?  And how could any future person trust that I knew my elbow from my asshole if I’d gone 25 years without even knowing I was gay? I’d have to tell everybody, and they’d ask me all these questions and they’d be really confused and I wouldn’t be able to help them because I also had a bunch of questions for myself, like about my levels of self-awareness and self-worth.

So anyway, imagine my surprise when all of a sudden, the world looked like a real place — a place where self-awareness was possible and I could see out windows and speak the language and understand why people had ambitions. I could finally be honest with myself. I mean, just imagine that.

When I came out, I came out as a lesbian, which also confuses a lot of people who assume that because I was married to a man, then I must be bisexual. I’m not, and that’s not what this post or my story is about. I guess the easiest way to explain it is that I was basically a lesbian in the closet trying my very best to be a straight person (like so many gay women have done, and still do, and was the norm for most of human history).

From what I can tell, coming out after being married to a man has the tendency to send almost everyone who knows you into screaming hysterics. People just can’t wrap their heads around how you could’ve lived one life and now want to live an altogether different one. At least, that’s how they see it — it’s actually still just you and your life. And unlike the typical coming out story, which can also result in confusion and hysterics, you get the added thrill of parading your personal journey through the court system!

“so i think i’ll have this baby, wait a couple of years, and then be a lesbian”

So for those of you in similar situations, or who know somebody in a similar situation, here are my tidbits of wisdom for how to get yourself out of Man Land. (Coming out, both to yourself and to the masses, is different for everyone, so you may not see yourself in this piece. That doesn’t mean you’re weird or I’m stupid, it just means we’re humans! Share your own experiences in the comments!)

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Write this down.

You’re Not The Only One
If you are [anything — anything AT ALL], there are other people who are also [that thing]. This means that you’re not uniquely or permanently fucked. Things might be terrible at the beginning, but you’ll make it to the other side of this because other people have. That will be your mantra.

You’re Not Fundamentally Unappealing/Damaged Goods
Probably everyone who’s ended a long-term relationship of any kind comes away feeling a little disheveled. Exhausted. Like you need three weeks/years of full body exfoliations and maybe even new teeth. This feeling will pass. You’ll meet other people who’ve molted and you’ll believe in possibilities again (or maybe for the first time). Also noteworthy: other humans on this planet will and do find you attractive and interesting!

You’re Welcome Here
Does it seem like the queer girls’ world is a members-only treehouse in Narnia? It’s not! You might think that your history with a -gasp- man will forever alienate you from the club, but actually you’re already a member, via your desire to cuddlefuck another woman-type person. Welcome! There is no club president — though that doesn’t stop some from trying — so it’s total anarchy up in here. Who will kill the spiders now?? Only time will tell!

This Is Not Legal Advice

I’m not a lawyer, so be sure to get your own, but let’s talk about this shit anyway.

Don’t begin a relationship with anyone else while you’re still married. This is called having an affair and it’s a bad idea. If you sleep with a woman, it’s still an affair. Try to keep it in your heart/pants until the divorce is all tied up. Do not have an affair! If it can be used against you in the divorce, don’t freakin’ do it. Which brings me to…

Consider waiting until after the divorce to come out. You probably have a lot of pent-up militant lesbian feminazi rage that’s compelling you to shout your newfound identity from the rooftops — and that is a fun thing to do — but take a minute/month to think about the repercussions.

Divorces are not friendly events and you should go into yours assuming that every single thing possible will be used against you during this process. Even if you know your husband isn’t a bigoted jerk, who knows what kind of lawyer he’ll hire, or what his friends/family will plant in his skull. We always advocate for safety over visibility, and that’s what I’m talking about here.

Know your state. Every state has different requirements for filing a no-fault divorce, so do your research. Virginia, for example, requires that you be separated for a year before you can divorce. Isn’t that neat and not a pain in the ass at all?!

Be the first to file. There are probably solid legal reasons why this is a good (or even bad?) idea, but if nothing else it’s at least proactive, and that’s your new middle name. Also, if you file first, the paperwork won’t say “[HIS NAME] vs. [YOUR NAME]” (it’ll be the other way around) and that will make you feel better. I’m not kidding.

Speaking of Kids!

Do you have one or more? Congratulations!

Working out custody and visitation can be/is hellish. If you’re like most hetero couples, conceiving your child didn’t require anyone’s permission and no one ever asked you to prove why you should get to keep them. That’s pretty much over now, and it’s weird. Gathering information to show why he’s not “in the best interest of the child” and you are just isn’t how you want to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Most states can’t legally consider your flaming gayness when awarding custody, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Judges and lawyers are also just people, with their own prejudices and beliefs, so sometimes things don’t turn out like they should. (Shock me!) A handful of states can take your children away based on sexual orientation, which is why you really need to research your state’s laws. The ACLU has some useful info for gay parents.

Don’t leave it up to your lawyer to know everything! My lawyer, in fact, turned out to be mostly useless. Instead of looking into whether or not a judge in Virginia could legally rule against me based on sexuality (they can’t), she assumed that he would and advised me accordingly. Because I believed her and didn’t do my research, I found myself in a mediation room across from my ex-husband and his lawyer, giving up everything but custody.

This is a good time to reiterate that not coming out, should you have that option and decide to go that route, is not a cowardly thing to do. Defending yourself in court is expensive and soul-sucking, and there are no guarantees. I honestly think if I could do it over again, I would wait to come out until after the custody/visitation situation had been handled. I still have court-related bills I can’t pay and enough animosity to resurrect Dark Willow, but my mother always said I made things harder than they had to be, so.

You’ll probably experience sudden and crippling guilt, maybe even doubt. You may ask yourself, “Am I doing the right thing? Is this selfish? Have I fucked over everyone by being so blind to my true self? Would it be better to stay for their sake? Can I be an effective single parent? Will we end up on Intervention in 12 years?” Someone might even ask those questions for you, which is a truly special kind of agony. Give these moments the space the need to run around in your brain and exhaust themselves. After a while they won’t come back.

For the record: You’re doing the right thing. It is selfish, but in a good way, like going to yoga. You haven’t fucked over anyone (this was the hardest one for me to believe). It would NEVER ever be better if you stayed for their sake. Being a single parent is hard but you can do it. You probably won’t be on Intervention because that show won’t be on in 12 years.

In short: take a deep breath! Everything’s ok and you’re not crazy. If you’ve been married to a guy and have some advice or stories you’d like to share, please do! Next time we’ll talk about even more feelings and new relationshippy stuff. Hoorah!


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Laneia is the Director of Operations at Autostraddle and you're the reason she's here. Get in touch at laneia@autostraddle.com

Laneia has written 915 articles for us.

409 Comments

    • Thank you for this story, I know now I am not fucked up.
      I am just coming out of a 25 year marriage. He left me. For another woman after cheating on me with others.

      I had girlfriends before getting married. I changed religions to become a Jehovah’s Witness (homosexuality forbidden) I met my future husband I told him I had relations with girls before him. He was ok with it.
      Over the years I tried to conform to my religion and being a wife and mother, but still l was turned off sex with my husband. I would fantasized about girls. Wanted so bad to be with a woman. I met a woman wow she turned me on. I couldn’t cheat on my husband.
      Years later he tells me he’s had enough and wanted someone else. I was angry at first, but in retrospect I thanked him for having the courage to separate when I didn’t. I told him then that I would be going back to my source. I am a lesbian, love women, and want to be loved by one.

      This separation forced me to take charge of my life and who I am told. I told my son, and everyone around me I am gay. I am free, I have never felt so liberated.

      Funny how life works things out sometimes.

      I have some work to do on myself. I am confident I will have enough self-confidence to get back into the game, and find someone who will love all of me for me.

  1. A piece like this takes a whole lot of strength to write, so thanks for sharing! I was lucky enough not to have been married to or have children with a guy, however, I did spend 8 years of my young life trying to make it make sense with him. Short story: we met when I was 14 and he was 19 and my dad was angry that I thought I was gay. So this boy had a car, and alcohol, and liked cool bands, and he had a way of keeping me under his thumb without making it look like that’s what was going on. The longer I stayed the more dim my future looked. I thought I was doing the greater good, as I grew up and got more self sufficient, he barely maintained to the point where he felt more like my child then my boyfriend. Then the guilt got worse…because who could live with leaving a child out in the world alone? I had always been open about my feelings for women, but felt an irrational obligation to help out this man-child who had worked his way into my teenage heart. Hopeless. Needless to say I eventually met a woman who made me realize I would only get one chance to live my life the way thats right for me. No matter how hard I tried to make myself fit into the straight life, I still felt completely out of place. The breakup was ugly. Be prepared to block out the insults and tr doubts and the people who think they know you better. The decision to come out is never an easy one, and it definitely gets harder when people think you somehow “changed” who you are. In actuality, you’re finally being who you are, so KEEP DOING YOU!!

    I can’t imagine how much harder it is with kids involved! I know I felt the worst guilt in my life for finally doing something so selfish, and I shouldn’t have. I should’ve felt guilty for not doing it years sooner! Everyone who loves you will be happy that you’re happy…and Im sure when it comes to kids, they will love you no matter what. Children can handle a lot more than we think. In the long run, your life will have much more value and purpose and that will reflect on everything you do and everyone who knows you. Trust me on this one.

    People told me I was making a huge mistake…but I knew I wasn’t. I have never once looked back; never once wondered if I did the right thing. Every single day of my life has been brighter and more meaningful than all of the years I spent trying to make it work. I’m not nervous all the time, not angry, not faking it…I’m just Dee. I’m blessed. Its the greatest choice I ever made. So if you truly believe you’re better off with a woman, you’re probably right, and no one else knows what that feels like but you. Know that it won’t be an easy road to travel, but the rewards are exhaustive. I wish the best for anyone going through this process!

    • Peter, I’m so sorry, I wrote to you mistakenly as Paul (my Catholic upbringing?)somewhere in another person’s comment ..I was trying to respond to you via someone else’s comment re what you wrote. Ugh :/

    • I think it would be COMPLETELY unfair for the mods to remove Paul’s comment.
      He’s expressing himself like the rest of us and is genuinely hurting …don’t add insult to injury.

      PETER, I’m sorry some of us are closeted …I’m sure you understand why, with this HOSTILE world. Shit happens and not everybody can make the perfect scenario happen. Again, I’m sorry for your pain ..please try to understand your ex was/is in pain too. You’re both human. Hopefully you’ll find the one who’s truly meant for you.

      • He’s a heterosexual man coming here and making everything all about HIM. It’s a homophobic, ignorant comment. This is not about him or his heterosexual privilege “suffering”.

        • So what if he’s a heterosexual man. He’s giving you his opinion and just bc you don’t like it, you don’t just snuff it out. We could be human beings and show some freakin’ compassion to the pain he’s feeling as a member of the human race, heterosexual or otherwise. Not sure what you mean by “heterosexual privilege suffering “. Here’s a chance to help a person understand something he doesn’t yet ..look at it from his side and give him our perspective, if he wants it. He’s obviously trying to grasp why this stuff happens.
          It’s only my opinion ..but it’s like Trump supporters, I don’t agree that it’s good to just unfriend somebody. That’s an opportunity to debate and keep lines of communication open so we can perhaps educate one another.

      • He has the ENTIRE rest of the world in which to express himself. Please get real. This is cis male privilege at its worst. This is not the appropriate place for him.

    • Pete, you do realize queer women are not malicious predators? No one uses men as “experiments” or to “fool people”. Your self-esteem is shattered because your ex had the courage to admit to herself who she was?

      Why has YOUR self-esteem been shattered? You did not cause her to be queer. She was born that way. Why do you assume she lied to you? Why do you paint her in a deceptive trope? Why are you and your son victims of honesty?

      You’re malicious and hateful. You’re perpetuating hate and stereotypes. Yes, you got hurt. Tough. Imagine a world where you don’t have the ability to accept or understand your own identity? You can’t. Everything is handed to you on a silver, male, cisgender, heterosexual platter. You had everything handed to you from birth.

      But your wife? You paint her as a monster for finally having the COURAGE to leave someone like you. She WAS VERY BRAVE. It doesn’t mean she didn’t love you in some way either, but fine… make it all about you and just come here and libel and attack queer women on a space for US.

      • This is good ..maybe we’re actually helping him understand something by the sheer fact we are like his wife in a lot of ways. He can’t be expected to understand everything from hearing the non lesbian perspective, here’s a chance to do some good and kind. Just because he’s attacking us, doesn’t mean we have to attack back …this isnt a militant group ..a little kindness can go a long way.

  2. We love you, we support you, and we are in awe of your inner strength and beauty. Seriously, you could change the world writing the way you do. Actually, you probably already have.

  3. This. This so much. It’s so hard to explain to your family why/how you were in this relationship and then realize this isn’t you. It’s hard enough to understand who you are; having to get your loved ones to understand is even harder. Having to cope with that on top of legal issues and children…

    Thank you, Laneia, for talking about this issue that is, I’m sure, very, very personal to you. I have no doubt that it will help SO MANY people: not only readers who are going through similar issues, but also the people who are close to those women.

    • Also, I’m sorry this personal account of what I’m sure was a very difficult time in your life turned out to be episode # 503284053222298 of The Bisexual Debate.

      I think we are almost ready for a moratorium.

  4. This is my story too. The thing is, sadly, some queer ladies will treat you like damaged goods, and/or a baby mama, and not really like you are one of the club. You might get really weird dating or relationship offers cuz, hey really you should be grateful for the attention you get period, with all that hetero baggage you’re carrying.
    I came charging out of the closet after I fell hard for a woman. Luckily, I had the emotional separation of realizing my marital relationship was over prior to falling in love, it made things a bit less confusing.
    My first set of new friends were much more concerned about getting me laid than any other aspects of my identity and were somewhat pushy. It took time to meet a group of friends that were affirming of all aspects of my queer identity and just really good friends!
    I’m a single parent and have found it hard to find people in community that are cool with kids. Believe me, I really like my grown up time, but having an out friend who is cool with my little peeps means they get to have queer family too. REALLY cool friends babysit, which helps with the dating…

  5. I have never been married to a man, or had a relationship with one, but this article really hit home for me. I didn’t start thinking of myself as not straight until I was 23, last summer. And since then it has been this struggle between trying to assert myself in my own life and having my mother question everything I do. “Why do you have to change?” “I don’t understand what you’re looking for (by liking women)” “Is this why you liked dinosaurs?”

    It all makes me feel about a thousand times more insecure about EVERYTHING. I feel like I have to answer all of her questions and her doubts as well as addressing my own, and sometimes it just feels like too much. She makes me feel like a liar, but I don’t know what I’m lying about.

    Anyway, it does help to know other people have gone through this sort of thing before, have gone through much more, and arrived on the other side sane and well. I really needed this, the advice and the laughter. Thanks, Laneia. <3

    • It probably is why you like dinosaurs. ;)

      Try not to be too hard on yourself, parents just take a little while to process it all.

    • I love “Is this why you like dinosaurs?”

      My favorite quote from the “Whoops! Probably Shouldn’t Have Done That!” experience continues to be from my (incredibly loving, but incredibly pragmatic and practical) father, who said, “No no, I feel like at most you’re a possible/probable bisexual.” WHAT FUN.

      • yeah, when i came out to my mom she told me that really i was bisexual because i’m so feminine. then she got hit in the face with a big ol load of gender studies 101.

        • My mom did the same thing! She didn’t even get as far as the word bisexual though, i was just “in a phase” and she was “unqualified to deal with it” and therefore i ended up in therapy with a therapist who i had to convince that i was gay. super fun. and 6 years later i’m STILL dating women and i’m still, according to the world and straight men everywhere, looking “straight” (which includes my lesbo flannel/button up shirt swag but still the long hair and makeup). go figure.

  6. whooah!!!it’s a tough decision but as long as your happy.as long as your just being true to yourself,nothings wrong. They said you will never understand the true world without understanding yourself first. Thank you for being an inspiration to me Laneia!!!

  7. This perfect feeling I have right this minute is something that is worth so much more than just a “thank you”. But, thank you.

  8. Thanks so much Laneia for this lovely personal piece. I am in the middle of this process right now.

    Fortunately I have a lot of really great things going for me. My former partner knew I was queer from the start, probably more than I ever realized myself though I comfortably understood myself as bi at the time, and he was ok with that, and in a non-creepy fully welcoming sort of way. We married for mostly legal reasons and kind of because we thought we loved each other and wanted to spend the rest of everything together all the time. Which perhaps we didn’t realize was possible to achieve as friends. There was never really anything magical about any of it, rather, marriage felt like one big democratic election into a performance about “love”.

    When I finally let him know that I couldn’t do the relationship anymore, he knew already, and why. Despite all of the good things about our situation, it is still really, incredibly painful and some days are like today, when I come home early from work in tears after no clear provocation and look on here to remind myself I’m not alone. So this is perfect. Thank you, thank you. All of our stories are important to tell.

  9. I do not mind living
    like this. I cannot bear
    living like this.
    Oh, everything’s true
    at different times
    in the capacious day.

    Thank you for writing this. I felt like almost all of it has been my own (far less eloquent) thoughts at some point. I’m just not sure how my story turns out yet.

  10. Thanks for writing this.
    I’m 28 (no kids) and slowly slogging my way through my separation with the man I’ve been with for 10 years (married for 2 years). I remember watching Imagine Me and You when it came out and SOBBING- I felt such a connection to Rachel but wouldn’t let it all click until a year ago. I’ve finally admitted my love of lady caves (and everything that comes with them) but am having issues with what to tell the ex’s conservative family regarding the divorce. We haven’t had a terrible split- we’re still friends, and my heart aches thinking that I won’t be there for him. I know it’s for the best but god.damn. it still hurts. He wants to know what to tell them- I doubt he’ll want to say, “Yeah, 10 years and now I find out she’s gay.”
    Is there anyone out there that’s found a good way to deal?

    • When my friends marriage ended for much the same reason, I gave her a copy of “Dear John, I Love Jane”. She says reading it helps her to see how common it actually is.

      • I LOVED that book when I was realizing I was a lesbian/breaking up with a boyfriend/kissing girls for the first time (the order of things is somewhat up for interpretation…)

        Seriously though, it is a wonderful book for queer women who are dealing with breaking out of a world of heteronormativity and the stories in it are about women from all walks of life/from all relationship situations. It really helped find the language for what I was going through so that I could explain myself better to my mom and friends who were having a hard time understanding. I definitely recommend it.

  11. Laneia, I just wanted to say thank you, for writing about this now and sharing your story way back in the “When I Knew I Was Gay” article. When I was going through my own separation and divorce a few years ago, knowing specifically that you had gone through it made me feel so much less alone and somehow more legitimate. For me, it was getting engaged that awoke all of this terrifying self-realization, and so I was only married for 2.5 months before we called the game. I was lucky in so many ways…my ex-husband is still a close friend, and California makes the process as easy as you could hope, but money/family/self issues stemming from the experience still creep in the dark corners of my life. I still break down when I think too hard about my ex-in-laws, who where incredible, loving people that I miss deeply, because I continue carrying too much guilt to contact them.

    I have an aggressively amazing girlfriend, and I have never been happier standing exactly where I am in my life, both as a lesbian and professionally as an editor. But those scars still show themselves when I least expect them to, and I still feel this frantic fear…”What if he/she finds out? Will I be less real in his/her eyes?”

    Which I guess is just a long way of saying I’m so glad this is here…it’s going to be such an incredible resource and comfort. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  12. I didn’t start coming out until I was 23, which makes me feel like a weirdo. To make matters more complicated, I only came out after being engaged to a wonderful boy for 8 months. The only reason that we didn’t get married at 21 and start having kids is that he got leukemia and passed away. (yes, it’s tragic, yes I’ve been to lots of therapy, and yes I’m okay. Thanks for asking)
    I can’t imagine who I would have been as his wife. I was questioning my sexuality then, but my culture was telling me that hetero-normality was my only option. I loved him the best I knew how and was convinced that we were going to be happy ever after. Now, I know that I never would have been. My memories of our relationship are happy ones, but not romantic in the least. He was one of my best friends.

    I’ll add another “thank you” to the chorus. I am so deeply grateful that you wrote this, Laneia.

  13. i’ve never been married and i came out pretty early but in other ways i am sort of late to the party in major life areas. and this makes me feel better and like not having my shit together at 27 is not hopeless.

    • When I was 19 I fell hard for a girl, she broke my heart. At the time we hooked up it seemed perfect and that I was never going to date men ever again, but i think she hurt me so badly, instead i contiued dating men, men that were feminist and liberal and more like my best friends than anything else. But each time i grew bored with the relationship. On some level even if I am just BI and not Lesbian, on some level I feel that i hate being the “girl” in the relationship. I hate gender roles. I’ve always been between a fem/tomboy. In childhood I used to want to be a boy at times. My childhood was rough and i grew up hating my father and most men. Except now most of my friends are guys and I’m trying to make more female friends. I am 26 now and married,(we eloped) he knows I’m Bi, but as time goes by something inside of me is growing, doubt, incredible doubt and guilt. I feel I’m late to the party as well. I’ve been to therapy, i’ve spoken to friends, and it seems i can’t find piece of mind, or answers. I’ve been reading articles, books, magazines, watching gay themed movies, something is clicking. But not clicking loudly enough. Time goes by and i am paralyzed with fear. I told my mom a couple of months ago on the phone, and she said whatever i want to do to be happy is fine. It’s been years since I’ve been with a woman, I keep thinking I need to go to a bar to try it out, or date women, but I am still very attached and love my husband. Yea it’s twisted.

      • Oh, you poor poor thing. That’s a rough spot to be in. My situation was so similar. I wish I could tell you what to do, but only you can make that decision. You know your options, and when you’re ready, you will act. The only advice I can offer is this: perhaps, since your husband knows you’re bisexual, you could ask him if you could have a girl “on the side.” I don’t mean this as your solution, not at all. My thought is that if he agrees, this could help you make the decision to leave, if that’s what’s right for you. I understand that cheating doesn’t feel like an option. It certainly wasn’t for me– I cared too much for my husband. And I never once lied to him in the entire time we were together (not counting lying by omission).

        Anyway, I hope you can broach this subject with your husband. Try to be calm when you do so. And be prepared that he may expect to be a part of any sexual activity with the woman. That’s a decision you should make ahead of time, whether or not that’s okay with you.

        Bless you and good luck.

  14. Thank you for sharing this, Laneia!

    I have question though, for anybody out there– I didn’t start thinking I was gay until I started thinking about sex with boys, which I wasn’t at all interested in. But other than that aspect, I’d had tons of crushes on guys and dated and been *very* physically attracted to them, but never at all sexually. Were these feelings anybody else experienced when they were younger? This constantly makes me question myself and my identification.

    • you do you. who the eff needs identification. you wanna have sexytimes with girls?go ahead and do so! I look at pretty boys too. sometimes I even say they are pretty. sometimes I just think it might run in the family and that I’d like to meet his sister.

      • this is like being 16 all over again. I’m so confused. but this time it’s not about my sexuallity it’s about my commenting-skills. I thought I repeated the first reply but then it was gone and after that it was back and now its gone forever and ever and now it doesn’t make sense what I just wrote and …who am I talking to

        • know what, it fucking does make sense. it always makes sence. you do you always bears repeating.
          I’m done now.

    • You’re not alone! I went through a similar period of confusion about a year ago (I’m 22). I kept questioning my sexuality but would always conclude that I must be straight if I’d had so many crushes on boys for most of my life. I figured if I was gay it would probably be pretty obvious to myself. In the end, I think I was mostly in denial. Once I started allowing myself to be attracted to women, I found that attraction to be wayyy stronger and more genuine (and more awesome) than the way I’d ever felt about any guys – even though I’d had lots of real feelings for them.

      So don’t feel bad about being unsure. It was crazy for me to think that I’d been hiding a part of myself from myself for most of my life. But if you think about the way we are socialized and bombarded with images of heterosexuality since we’re babies,it’s not that surprising that people internalize the norms and behaviours they see around them.

      Anyways, sorry for rambling. I remember how shitty it was to be confused, so just give it some time and things will start to make sense – whether you’re bi,gay or whatevs.

    • i’d like to echo “you do you”, of course. i think you have to ask yourself why it is that you feel the need to reconcile those feelings with your present self, like what are you afraid of? that you’ll pick the wrong label? and then what? — (i think i talked about this in the essay i wrote about my sexual orientation). we’re socialized to like boys and talk about boys, so there’s always something going on there too. but also on a more literal level, for me personally –and not to sound like a pedophile or something — but i liked boys a lot more when i was younger. then when i grew up and became an adult, and was obviously then interested in dating other adults, i noticed that all the boys i had been attracted to when i was younger had turned into MEN and i had never been attracted to any guy over the age of 30. (but i love women of all ages!) In this spirit, we made a 15 Boys Who We Loved When They Looked Like Girls thing once. Conversely i tend to date women who look like boys, so.

      • sigh, I still get swooney over Leonardo DiCaprio. I also kinda wonder how many Justin Bieber fans will grow up to be lesbians.

          • Choking. On. My. Coffee. I was forced to take a group of 11 year old girls to a Hanson concert by the birthday girls Mom. It was painful. I was MMMBop’d into a migraine. There isn’t enough therapy in the world for me to process all the feelings I have about this.

          • Yikes.. Taking a group of 11 year old girls anywhere sounds like a migraine to me!! I canonly imagine the decibel level reached by their squealing and giggles. You’re probably right, that sort of thing could take lots of hours on a leather couch to process! Though I have to admit, when I was young and they looked like girls, I was a very confused babydyke.

          • Aaaah! i once had to take a group of 12 year old girls to see Twilight! it was so painful. i drowned my sorrows in sour patch kids and tried to ignore all the shrieking.

          • I see a self-help group in the making: Lesbians forced to take part in pre-teen pop culture in our post-feminist society. How to undo the damage.

      • Yeah, I had an odd moment on the metro as recent as four years ago when I found myself continuing to look at this 15-16 year old boy kid and thought, “What is wrong with you?” It was only what you just said, of course – he had the face of an angel. A lesbian angel.

        Note: I am not interested in minors, lol.

        • And then there’s that awkward moment when you’re checking out a cute twenty-something girl and you suddenly realize she’s actually a 15 year old boy – yikes. (I’m also not interested in minors, for the record!)

    • I had a bunch of trouble struggling with that when deciding to come out as lesbian instead of bi – I still find some men VERY attractive, and that didn’t initially mesh with how I perceived “gay”. I’ve had crushes on guys, I’ve had some long-term relationships with guys and slept around a shit ton, but on the other hand, I could never find myself actually wanting to have sex with them for anything other than their enjoyment. Guys didn’t give me pleasure, whereas girls just felt 100% right.

      So yea, I can be super attracted to your typical All-American Men physically, because that’s just what I’m used to. But unless they’re Will Smith, I have zero interest sexually, and I’m gonna stick to chicks.

      • It’s a bit self-contradictory. Some of your words imply that you’re not sexually attracted to men, and other suggest that you are.

        Anyway, identifying as lesbian when you’re not exclusively sexually attracted to women is generally a bad idea, since there are lots of studies showing that such women tend to end up with men and drop their label anyway all the time.

        • This is super late, but whatever. Gee, thanks for that.

          My analysis of my sexuality: I love absolutely everything about women and the only versions of my future I’ve ever considered have been happy little two-mom families. Occasionally boys are nice to look at, but I really don’t want to be within ten feet of them and I honestly think I’d puke if I were to do anything physical whatsoever (even just a kiss) with a dude again. My history with guys is based entirely in low self-esteem and major psych disorders, and I came out as soon as I was in recovery and had my life somewhat under control. I consider myself a Kinsey 5.5 and have zero intentions of ever being with a dude in any capacity, so yea, I’m gonna call myself a lesbian. That’s my own choice to make.

          If you ever read this, can you provide citations for those “lots of studies”? I’m terribly curious, because I’ve never heard of a single one.

      • I didn’t mean to offend you, just pointed out solid pattern that was found in studies.

        And the studies I mean are Lisa Diamond’s longitudinal studies on “sexual fluidity”. They showed that majority of (young) lesbian identified women don’t value too much sexual aspect of their identity – they’re attracted sexually to men too, but believe they could never fall in love with a man. And majority of such lesbian identified women ended up in long term relationships with men after few years, and dropped lesbian label.

        Meanwhile, the only “extremely solid”, as Diamond called it herself, group were women who have been always exclusively sexually attracted to women. That’s why Diamond theorizes that sexual orientation is sexual attraction alone, while romantic preferences are not hardwired, but formed by life experiences and conditioning, thus it’s nothing solid.

        Now, I don’t know how it applies to you in any way, because your words are extremely confusing (how one could be ‘super attracted physically’ to men, but not sexually? I thought it’s the same thing), but honestly, it’s only up to you to think about it.

    • I just wanted to say thanks for this article, but also thanks to everyone for this side discussion. I’m 31 and have been married to a man for the last 10 years (no children). I can’t tell you how hard it has been for me to come to an understanding about my sexuality because when I was a teen I was always developing crushes on boys. In my adult years, increasingly realizing that I was attracted to women this left me reeling with confusion. But having read others’ experiences with this very thing has helped me a lot!

      And I don’t think I’ve been attracted to any man over the age of 30 either. I always thought that the older I got the more I must be changing, but it could actually be that the older I got the older the men got too.

  15. “Not just because of how personal sex is, for everybody, but also because of the terrible sad vacant feeling that comes with discussing a thing that I never related to and now can barely fathom ever doing.”

    THIS. That sad, vacant feeling is so hard to get over.

    I finally ‘realized’ my sexuality after having moved across the country with my long-term, very serious boyfriend. He was a great guy and I liked feeling loved, but sexually, it just never clicked. I internalized so much guilt over it — it was my fault. Something was wrong with me. I just thought that was me: unlucky, broken, eternally unsatisfied by sex.

    When I finally started accepting that I was gay (my ‘trigger’ was the Bette/Tina elevator scene), I would have super intense dreams about women. It was crushing to wake up next to a man and feel so little. And then actually having sex with him…it got to the point where it was this forced, obligatory, out-of-body experience. I felt so guilty and yet so used.

    This is more personal than I intended it, but I just wanted to say thank you. It’s hard to find people who understand that feeling, but it stays with you and it’s incredibly hard to process. Thank you for making me feel less alone with it.

    • “I felt so guilty and yet so used.” – wow, thanks for your words too, on top of this great piece. You just described perfectly how I felt in my long-term partnership with a man, before we broke up and I subsequently came out at age 25. That feeling of inadequacy and of being used was crushing to grapple with. I didn’t understand why sex made me felt so empty. I thought I just had to work harder; to fix myself. This of course was also emotionally crushing for my partner, and that guilt is still very difficult to deal with.

    • Thank you all so much. I feel “Normal” now going through this change in my life.
      You are talking about how my life is right now.
      The out-of-body experience and trying to squish your eyes closed and pretend it’s ok.
      I feel so guilty lying in bed and trying to pretend I’m asleep so he won’t touch me.
      I hate that I’m living a lie, but am now taking steps to change it. I’m not in the USA so law’s a bit different, and I have be internally debating the will I, won’t I scenario of coming out and just clearing the air.
      Separation is in the process of happening now, so it’s a bumpy road ahead, and we have two kids involved.
      Thank you for your life stories ladies. You have shown me there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s rainbow coloured!

  16. Whoooooaaaaah. This made me shiver! Most of my life I believed I had to be straight to be considered “normal” and have a chance at happiness, and it took a while 4 me to accept myself…but this story…wow, just WOW. Beautiful.

  17. Thank you, Laneia, for sharing more of your strong, beautiful self. And thank you, Karinna, for sharing your story – I appreciated hearing about a guy who was loving and understanding.

  18. And I thought I had it hard having to go on a date with a guy tomorrow…

    Turns out, the closet isn’t the nicest of spaces! Who’da thunk it?!

  19. Thank you for writing this. While my divorce was as easy as could be, the rest of what you wrote could have been my words. For me it was like I woke up one day and was like wow I’m gay. It was like the sun was finally shining on my life after 30 years, a marriage to a man and child with said man. People think I’m either Bi or going through a phase. Neither of which is the case. I’m not going through a phase and I myself am not Bi. It does sometimes seem like the “queer girls’ world is a members only treehouse in Narina”. But I’m queer and I here! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone in “realizing” I’m gay.

  20. Thankyou so much for writing this. I am right now preparing myself for breaking up with my long term boyfriend and coming out… I feel so emotionally exhausted, but this has made me feel a little less alone x

  21. Thanks Laneia for sharing this! i am in this middle of this situation right now, not sure where i’m gonna end up, but thankfully no kids. a great book i would def recommend for everyone is ‘dear john, i love jane.’ that was the start of my realizations for me…

  22. Dammit this is just beautiful, I can’t even.

    It raises so much questions about heterosexism and how not to judge people who say they are gay but are in heterosexual marriages!

  23. “At that time, sex was how I could get someone to like me.”
    ^^THIS.

    Laneia, you are an absolutely incredible woman. Thank you.

    Also, you’re super pretty.

    • ^^ THIS ALSO.

      I wish more parents (or the sex ed curriculum) would teach girls what sexual desire ought to feel like, instead assuming that the kids can figure it out for themselves. BECAUSE IT IS CONFUSING

      Beautiful article. Thank you.

  24. Protip – If you were with a guy, you’re a bisexual, not a lesbian. I’m really tired of bisexuals calling them lesbians.

    • So it’s not conceivable for someone to come to their true sexual identity a little later than you did? And by “with a guy” I’ll assume you mean consensual sex..Or do you also view a lesbian victim of rape to be bisexual as well..You really are an idiot.

      • I’m so over it Digger I can’t even, like REALLY THIS IS WHAT YOU TOOK OUT OF THIS AH-MAZING STORY!?!

        Plus that sentiment stinks of western ethnocentrism, but that’s another story.

      • I think I’m perfectly allowed to remain skeptical of “lesbians” who have long sexual histories with men, along with “lesbians” (bisexuals) who date men and give us real lesbians so much trouble.

        I’m also capable of making my points without resorting to insults (“You really are an idiot”) or misogynistic slurs (as happened on another thread here), even on a site that deletes comments with “uncomfortable” facts and/or respectfully expressed dissenting opinions.

        • You’re right. I apologize for the “idiot” comment. But you consistently condemn others for not coming to their sexual self awareness in whatever timely fashion or manner you deem appropriate. I knew I was gay at 13. I was lucky. I understood what it was and what it meant because I was surrounded by supportive family and friends. I never had to struggle with the “implications” or worry about rejection. Others have not been as lucky. Instead of condemning all for the actions of a few, you could try being supportive. Try being kind. Just try something other than anger, hostility and contempt.

          • Apology accepted. Thank you for that. Furthermore, we have something in common, I see.

            Anyway, I haven’t condemned anybody. I just made a general statement. People can decide if that applies to them or not, regardless of what I think. I don’t have any sort of magic power over people. If people regret their choices with regards to behavior, well, I can only hope they learn from it. But, I will never accept the whole “sleeping with a dude is part of a every young lesbian’s life” scheme, that some try to push, nor I will accept the idea that sexuality is mutable. I don’t think people realize how much ammunition they give to our enemies with such ignorant statements.

            I think I’ve been very kind, given that, when I express my opinions or state facts, others call me names, hurl misogynistic slurs at me, and so on. I’m rather used it, give that society deems any woman like me who stands up for her opinions a “bitch” (among other things), even other woman on an LGBT site.

          • It’s clear we disagree on many fronts. That happens. And I suspect you may be holding on to things it might be time to let go of. Regardless, it’s your path you must follow. Go in peace.

          • I appreciate the amateur psychoanalysis, but it’s neither needed nor warranted. In saying that we have something in common, I was referring to realization of sexual orientation at a young age; I’m unsure what else you meant. That I must follow my own path is a tautology (what else would I follow?) and, to me, sounds too similar to the trite cliche “It is what it is” (which I will admit, I detest hearing). Thank you for responding politely.

          • Could you tell me where you found your facts? I’d be interested to read them. I disagree with your statement but I’d like to see the sources you’re citing.

    • Oh wow! THANK YOU! I was so confused, I totally thought I had a right to examine and define my own sexuality in the context of my life, experiences and relationships! THANK GOODNESS YOU HAVE SET ME STRAIGHT! Or should I say, “set me bisexual”!

      • YOU A ARE BRAVE AND BEAUTIFUL PERSON FOR LIVING YOUR TRUTH DAMMIT, COME HERE AND LET ME HUG YOU IN AS SCISSOR-Y FRIENDSHIP…platonically of course.

    • AND I’M A DINOSAUR.

      No, wait…I just dressed up as one that one time….

      By your logic, anyone who’s ever eaten animal products can never be vegan, immigrants may as well just give up and go home and god forbid you’d ever like to change career.

      There is but one word, and it is FACEPALM.

      • Being a vegan is a choice, as is one’s job. Being a lesbian is not. Suggesting otherwise and making that comparison is extremely homophobic.

      • One more thing: Suggesting that one can change one’s sexuality spontaneously is also homophobic and feeds into the “ex-gay” lie. It’s hard to believe one finds such arguments on an LGBT website.

        • I have two questions for you, and I’m asking them honestly, so an honest answer would be appreciated.

          1. What is your definition of a “real” lesbian? How many self-professed lesbians do you think qualify?

          2. Why do you keep reading this site when you seem to hate its “hostile, homophobic climate” so much?

          • I’m skeptical that you’re capable of a civil, reasoned conversation, given the sorts of things you’ve said to me, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

            1. A lesbian, in general, is a woman who is solely sexually attracted to other woman and only pursues relationships with other women; this is biological in basis, is not a choice, and is not mutable. Obviously, there’s no sort of Geiger counter one can wave over a woman to determine her sexuality, so some, like me, are going to remain skeptical of the former qualification when it comes to a woman with a long history of relationships with men.

            2. I enjoy debating. And I think it’s worthwhile to counter some of the largely unspoken problems in the LGBT community, even when some of the truths expressed are uncomfortable. Obfuscating the truth helps nobody, nor is injecting ambiguity into situations that aren’t ambiguous.

          • If you point out the things you need to apologize for, then I will certainly reexamine my statements, and preface that with an apology right now for any unintended offense. I think we’ve only tangled once before, on the Kreashawn article, but if I’m wrong post the link and I’ll reassess.

            I’ve just gone through my comment history, and am honestly having a hard time finding anything that falls outside the bounds of “civil”. Snarky, yes, I’ll cop to that 100%. But I’ve yet to find a comment where I’ve called you a name or something like that. I’ve called your comments ignorant and hateful, but these aren’t qualities that I’ve ascribed to you as an all-“Miss Anon”-encompassing definition. I fully admit that I think your comments in these threads are often ignorant, and find them to be generally lacking in compassion, respect, and logic. Do I think you are a person who completely lacks these traits? No, I just haven’t seen you show them here.

            (I have to add, and I hope you believe that I mean this sincerely, mad respect for using the word “obfuscating”.)

          • It was largely the snark; I tend to be skeptical and wary to responding to those sorts of retorts. I rarely find it worthwhile. I don’t think there’s anything you need apologize for to my recollection. I’ve been called rather ugly names, but I don’t believe it was by you.

            Obviously, we don’t know anything of each other beyond the words on the screen. I’m assuming that’s you in your picture, and you don’t resemble anyone I know in my real life.

            And thanks – I accept your last sentence sincerely, though I never thought that spitting out SAT/GRE words would win anyone’s respect. Now, if only one could make a living from doing so, eh?

          • Additionally, if (as I suspect) it’s my tone that you take offense to, I fail to see how the tone of your reply to Digger regarding “amateur psychoanalysis” et al is any better. I wrap my opinions in snark. You seem to wrap yours in condescension. What’s the difference?

          • I have to say I find any concept of “realness” potentially very problematic and hurtful. People in the LGBTQ community can sometimes be very quick to condemn others within that community for not meeting some very specific and difficult to achieve standard and I do not see how this is notably different from other such hurtful standards already in place in this world, that are often handed down by privileged rulers in order to keep us fearful and wounded. It’s as if we can’t exist without the idea that only one kind of something is worth love and protection. I find that bothersome. I don’t want to do that thing that sometimes crops up in activist circles where people feel like they have to lead their points with a big defensive list of all of their disadvantages in order for their point to seem legit, but I want to say that–here it comes–as a trans person, and as a queer and mutable trans person at that, “realness” and most especially the perceived lack thereof has often been used to police, mock, and even justify the murder of trans people. I can empathize to a certain degree with your sense that your specific community is being lost or somehow diluted, that your issues are being shoved to the side, but don’t let that feeling make you reject what could be a welcoming larger community for you. I don’t like it when we live in little boxes. We need to find common ground within the LGBTQ community or we will be destroyed by those more powerful, which sadly is still almost everybody.

      • People can identify however they like, though it would be nice if they kept in mind how that can cause trouble for others (i.e., bisexuals calling themselves lesbians). I have the right to express my opinion and state facts (though I fully expect to be censored here, given the hostile, homophobic climate), and I am capable of doing so without resorting to insults or swearing, unlike some others, apparently.

        • People can have whatever opinions they like, though it would be nice if they kept in mind how those opinions are inappropriate in certain contexts – for example, when stated in a short-sighted, self-centered, laughably predictable attempt to highjack an otherwise meaningful conversation stemming from an incredibly brave, honest, PERSONAL testimonial and recenter the discussion on one’s own tired baggage.

          • I never said this website is homophobic. I pointed out that the climate is, which I feel is true, given that people here express anti-lesbians attitudes such as sexuality being a choice or mutable or fluid or whatever. That sexuality is changeable is the same lie expressed by our enemies (mine and yours, I’m assuming).

            The rest of the platitudes you express could be heard anywhere. And I’m simply replying to people who reply to me. To quote Gretchen Wieners, I simply can’t help it if I’m popular.

          • I guess…I mean, I just want you to imagine for a second how scary it is? To think that everyone is going think and say exactly what you’re saying right now? Because “you” should have known. “Aren’t you a fememist? You have lesbian friends! You went to a liberal arts college! You lived in the Women’s Center! Shouldn’t you have been more in tune with yourself?” When a million things…family, hometown, friends, upbringing, straight crushes…have brought you to this point, where you’re married, and terrified, and crying for no reason, all the time. This is your bed, you made it, because you couldn’t be brave when it counted, because you loved that person and didn’t want to break him for the sake of your own selfishness. And when you finally decide, enough, please, enough…someone is going to tell you you’re not “real?”

            That’s why people are getting so mad, dude…sometimes, for a million reasons, you just don’t know…or you just don’t want to know, or something felt one way for one reason, and doesn’t anymore. You figure it out later, when it’s easier in some ways, and harder in others. And it just hurts, when someone dismisses all of those nights staring up at the ceiling, or that night you told him, and you both cried so, so hard. It hurts to have someone put you in a box, when you’ve already tortured yourself so thoroughly about not being able to fit into it.

          • No one is saying that all sexuality is fluid, or that yours must be. We’re saying that sexuality CAN be fluid for SOME people.
            And I’m not going to change the way I define my sexuality in order to make you feel better about yours, or to keep from giving our enemies ammunition. I’ve already given them ammunition by having sex with women! I’m not going to stop that just cause they’d like me better if I were celibate. And I’m not going to start claiming that my sexuality was fixed at birth and is completely immutable, because FOR ME, that’s not true. I shouldn’t have to define my sexuality based on what makes me most palatable to straight people.

          • I don’t think ANYONE implied sexuality is changeable; it just takes time to understand.

            The climate on this website isn’t hostile towards lesbians… it is unwelcoming of disrespecful, narrow-minded comments.

            I do think you have the right to your opinion, and I thank you for sharing it. I just wish you weren’t TELLING people what they are. I simply don’t think that’s your place.

          • I’m starting to think IFC is posting some of these absurd comments herself. “Real lesbians” because you know, some of us are on the same level as the Easter Bunny! Smh.

          • No, not welcome is any person who feels the need to come here and tell someone else they are defining themselves incorrectly on multiple threads, despite the fact readers have heard it over and over. I understand this is her opinion, and have taken the time to read her reasoning behind it on another thread and can respect that.
            But to read this post and responses of others who were brave enough to share their similiar experiences and have only that to say (again) comes off as trolling and insensitive.

        • Yes you may have whatever opinions you like but I think it crosses the line when you’re trying to set down one true definition for something that is really a group effort.

        • Miss Anon, the only thing I would say to you is that if no one ever questioned their sexuality, do you have any idea how small the LGBT community would be? How many young people would possibly do irreversible harm to themselves or others b/c of intolerance like yours? How many people have found the true loves of their lives, b/c they had the courage to question their sexuality, and go through an incredibly hard journey that you couldn’t possibly understand. Shame on you for your intolerance and unkindness.

        • I like things cut and dried, and I rely on evidence. Human beings are not cut and dried, and they are ambiguous and complicated. Choice is a huge part of attraction, and suggesting that choice is not part of attraction is kind of limiting. For you, your choice may be women alone and only women.
          You need to be able to live alongside other women who choose differently to you without limiting them to your choices. We learn how to choose and we choose how to learn.

      • i am not bisexual. i am not sexually attracted to men. have i had sex with men in the past? yes. does that mean that you get to tell me that it’s a “fact” that i’m not actually a lesbian? no.
        i take issue with your wording of your opinions. if you had said “i don’t feel like someone can be a real lesbian if they’ve ever been with a man” that would have been something completely different than what you actually said, which comes off as you thinking you know people you’ve never met better than they do. you have no idea what i’ve been through or why i had sex with the men that i did, just like you have no idea what it was like for me to come to terms with my true sexuality.
        how is you telling lesbians that they’re just confused bisexuals any different than straight people telling queers that they’re just confused straight people?

        i found your comment extremely insulting and hurtful, and i swore in response. so fucking sue me.

        • This is my issue, too.

          It’s possible to truly love someone without being sexually attracted to them. It’s also possible to enjoy the physical act of sex without having an emotional-sexual connection.

          I can see many scenarios where ‘real lesbians’ have had sexual experiences or even long-term relationships with men. If one can have a successful ‘loving’ relationship without having sexual attraction or deeper emotional-sexual connections, it’s not surprising that many women — myself included — dated men before coming out as gay.

          Bottom line: Yes, there are some women who say ‘lesbian’ when they are more accurately bisexual. But there are others, like me, who are lesbian/gay/queer and didn’t find that part of themselves until AFTER they’d been with men. It’s unfair (and yes, hurtful) to say that “if you were with a guy, you’re a bisexual” and assume that applies to everyone.

          • This reply goes to both you (Megan) and Pips.

            I am really sorry that both of you felt prompted to talk about this in response to a really close-minded/hurtful comment. HOWEVER, that being said: Oh My God, thank you so much.

            Your comments are so validating to my experience, I totally squee’d. So, thank you for fighting on the internet with a stranger, and by proxy validating the experience of another stranger. You both rock, A LOT.

            Also, Laneia: you’re an inspiration. This piece is absolutely amazing.

    • I see nothing bisexual about a woman wanting to be with other women. If I had to guess, I’d say you saw the words “husband” and “kids” and stopped reading to leave this ridiculous comment. I’m really tired of “lesbians” harassing other spectrums of the queer community for no reason.

      If I could take away your gay card, I so would. And then I would probs kiss Laneia for being so wonderful.

      • I’m not harassing anyone; I’m expressing my opinion and stating facts. Harassment would imply that I have power or privilege over anyone here, which I obviously don’t.

        “If I could take away your gay card, I so would.”

        I don’t have a card. And sexuality isn’t mutable; if that’s what you’re suggesting, you ought to rethink your internalized homophobia.

        • Having a sexual history with both men and women does not necesarily mean you’re bisexual. Some people don’t realize their true sexuality before getting into sexual relationships, and some people do change. I know you disagree, and I’m not trying to debate these things, just pointing out that if a group of people who are probably somewhat educated on the issue, like here, can’t agree, then we’re probably sharing theories, not facts. I’m not sure if I made sense there, but my point is…

          you’re not stating facts, so stop saying that.

        • I think you need to check your “facts”…or at least let the rest of us know where they’re coming from.

        • Your facts are attached to some intolerant, dogmatic and rigid judgements. You are as open minded as someone who hates for a living. That is how your “facts” come across. Your “facts” come across as suffocating and intolerant. Maybe you should join the Inquistion.

        • Miss Anon, I kind of see what you are saying, but only if I look through a very thin little straw with a tiny hole that can only focus on one thing at a time.

    • “Bisexuals are fake lesbians who only want to attract dudes and make “real” lesbians look bad.”
      “That’s so very wrong for so many reasons that we’ve explained over and over again. Sexuality is a spectrum, not a set of boxes.”
      “You will never convince my that my ignorance is ignorance.”
      “You know what? You’re probably right, but we can only keep trying.”

      THERE. BI-BASHING DEBATE DONE FOR THIS THREAD. MOVE IT ON.

    • Dear Miss Anon,

      I’m really happy for you here. You clearly know exactly how to define the sexuality of all people across the board. That’s pretty handy. I wish I knew how to do that. Maybe I wouldn’t spend so much time in a universe of confusion. I could get so much done in a day. It’d be awesome.

      Unfortunately, I’m not so lucky. I read some of these comments and think, wow, you girls knew you were gay at 23? I spent years struggling between “bisexual” and “gay,” often in tears, incredibly depressed, unsure of what to do or how to face my own orientation. I came out at the end of 2010. I was nearly twenty-eight years old. Despite growing up in a moderately liberal household in Southern California, I had no idea that being gay was an option or a reality. It didn’t even occur to me that I could be. When I broke up with my boyfriend at the age of 23 because the thought of him made me want to gag, I thought I was gay, maybe, and told him so. He said to me: “No, you’re not.” Fast forward four years. People telling me that I was straight because I enjoyed spending (platonic) time with men. People telling me that because all of my friends were guys, I must be attracted to them. And since I’d never had a “crush” on a guy before, I really didn’t know how to refute the idea.

      It must be nice for you to know how other people see the world. I’m really happy for you. Honestly and truly. Because I’m sure I’m not the only one here that had a hard time confirming their own sexuality. Despite my coming out, I continue to have bouts of frustration. Inner turmoil. What if I’m not blah blah blah? What if I don’t fit into this category or this box?

      But (excuse my language) fuck, I don’t have all the answers. You do. And congratulations. But for the rest of us, who may have been told to accept certain “truths” from people who seemed to know us better than we knew ourselves (incredible, right?), the “truth” is still a curiously wavy thing, like an oasis in the desert. I might never get to that point. Maybe I just need to accept that I won’t. I guess that’s the point of living, knowing that the “truth” doesn’t miraculously exist.

      I hope this answer makes some sort of sense. I think I lost a little mojo at the end there.

      • I applaud your honesty..I commend you on continuing this journey of self discovery..How I came to who I am vs. how she came to who she is vs. how you continue to come to who you are is irrelevant. To each in their own time. Sadly, people like this will never understand, because they can’t accept that they might actually be wrong..About anything. But, for others, your words will likely ring true and familiar. And for that..Brava!

    • So. I grew up with a mother who belonged to a fundamentalist and very homophobic religion (thankfully now no longer a member), was raped by the first female “friend” I came out to and developed anorexia which meant I had no periods, ergo not enough hormones with which to be attracted to people of either gender, and then due to all of this insanity ended up in two relationships with close, non-threatening male friends, before realising AFTER processing all of this (and having my hormones get back to normal in recovery) that I was still just as gay as I thought I was at the age of 13.

      I’m a lesbian but I only came out this year, at the age of 27. I’m definitely not bisexual. You can’t presume to know what people have gone through on the way to coming out, and there are all sorts of things which stop people accepting their sexuality in their teens, twenties and beyond. If, like the author, you just assume that all relationships are supposed to be a matter of settling for someone you hate, how are you meant to realise that you might deserve and be able to have more, and that more might take the form of the same sex? It took me two years of physical and emotional stability to really work out what I felt about whom, and it took me 25 years to be able to achieve physical and emotional stability.

      Thank god my girlfriend isn’t so narrow minded and presumptuous.

      • That should have been “If, like the author, you just assume that all relationships are supposed to be a matter of settling for someone you don’t hate…” because I got a bit worked up and missed out the important word. Whoops.

      • Damn! I am in awe of you and how far you have come to where you are. Thank you for sharing this. Knowing there are people like you within this community makes me worry less for our future as a whole.

        • Thank you! That’s really sweet. It just winds me up when people get so black and white about things, you know? At least it wound me up enough to stop me being a chronic lurker!

      • I’m also an eating disorder survivor (fully recovered for two years, yay!). I’m also bipolar. For me, relationships with men were a way of acting out on the bipolar and taking attention away from my raging eating disorder, just to get to a point where I thought I liked myself because I knew men liked me, and love from anyone at all was all that mattered.

        Recovery was the only way I learned who I really was and just how gay I really am. It wasn’t until I started loving my own body that I stopped caring about other people loving me for it. It took me a year after I came out (as bisexual, in the middle of my last of 7 times in treatment) to even kiss a gay girl – I needed to be physically and emotionally stable within myself to even begin to fathom the idea of dating girls. It took me a year of being fully recovered, sans any eating disordered behaviors, to realize my true sexuality. I was 22.

        So to anyone who wants to tell me I’m not a real lesbian because I’ve slept with men, FUCK YOU. You have absolutely NO IDEA IN THE WORLD what I’ve been through.

        I am eternally thankful that my wonderful girlfriend can see past my past and accept me for who I am now.

        • Whoo for two years of full recovery! Me too, so 2009/10 were obviously good years for people to get their shit together :) I’m really glad you found someone who accepts you too, my girlfriend is awesome and my history of craziness is about hundredth on the list of my defining characteristics in her eyes. Mental health problems make working out who you are and what you want so hard to achieve in the typical timescale – I swear I only did adolescence properly at the age of 26!

          • She really is the greatest. I actually spoke at one of the treatment centers I went to (3 times, +got kicked out of) last summer and she helped me write my speech, even though we had only even met like two months before. =D

            I completely feel ya. I have literally rebuilt myself as a person since June 2008. I’m still learning basic social skills, honestly.

  25. I once had a girlfriend whom I loved very much. We were together a number of years and I consider it one of the most important relationships of my life. She was married to a man before I met her. I tell you this because Laneia’s post made me realize that this may be an issue for some of you who have been married before(or reasonable facsimile)–that you may be afraid the fact of your previous straightness will scare off lesbians left and right.

    It will. Some women will be scared off. Lots of them won’t though. I wasn’t and am still not. We all make our way here, to this place of communion and this way of being together, by a strange and fantastic journey. It requires of us all to embrace our most profound truths, and then to exhibit real courage to act on them. I don’t begrudge any woman the details of her life before, in my eyes, she has already paid the price of admission.

    Have faith, we are not all scared off by you…leap and the net will appear!

    • As a bisexual girl who frequently has issues finding people to date because lesbians don’t want to date bisexuals/straight boys want to date bisexuals for the wrong (re: gross, fetishistic) reasons, I’ve basically just accepted that it’s okay because I don’t want to date people who aren’t accepting of who I am, of which my sexuality is a very important part.

      I think personal history is an important part of that, too. I wouldn’t want to date somebody who thought I was “damaged goods” because my birth parents are divorced and I have a lousy relationship with my bio dad, for instance. So I guess that is one way to try to look at it, if you are dealing with Judgey McJudgepants types who see a lesbian who has been with men as somehow less of a lesbian. It takes a while to get to that stage, though, but it is worth trying!

      • I do have to say, that reading over the threads that stemmed from this article (and seeing so many wonderful, supporting words) has helped me realize that if someone doesn’t want to date me because of my relationship history, then I’m all the better for it. I don’t want to be with someone who would constantly question my sexuality or lust/love for them. I have a sweet ass, love bacon and love eating out- it’s truly their loss.

  26. Articles like this one are why I make sure to check this website everyday…I could care less what some random actress who played a lesbian role once said on twitter yesterday.

    Thanks for sharing.

  27. I wonder how many women came to seriously question their sexuality after watching The L Word. A lot of folks would say that the show misrepresents the lesbian community and gives us all a bad name but from personal experience and hearing this story, maybe the show served a good purpose despite all its flaws. Bring out all the lesbians, The L Word does.

    • The L Word is what made me realize I was bi. It’s weird how 6 years of suppressing my feelings for girls and working so hard to convince myself that I was 100%, Kinsey-0 straight was undone by just an hour of a TV show.

  28. I haven’t been in this situation and can’t fathom the difficulty of it, but this was a lovely piece. Thank you for sharing such an intimate story. Your writing is incredible.

  29. I was in a long term relationship with a man for 7 years, we were engaged and talking about kids. Then I met my current girlfriend… and it just all clicked. The reason I felt nothing but slightly annoyed when he proposed. Why so much of my life felt like it should be happening to other people. Why I had a deep sense of being broken in some way. I really wish I’d had this article then, because that part about doubting yourself and feeling like damaged goods was such an intense feeling for me, it messed me up in some of the worst kind of ways. I’d like to say I’m over it now but I still have my moments.

    • “Why so much of my life felt like it should be happening to other people. Why I had a deep sense of being broken in some way.”

      exactly. when other couples — our friends — would seem happy or like they thought life was fun, i would be so frustrated and confused! i couldn’t figure out what the fuck i was doing wrong. we had the same kinds of houses, same age kids, same incomes, same hobbies, but i was so so sad.

  30. The night my husband pulled over the car and said, “Are you even a little bit straight?”

    Thanks for sharing your story. In many ways, it’s my story, too.

  31. where were you a year and a half ago?? lol you are an amazing person and yes, this is my story also, only i was married for 12 years, always had an feeling i was a lesbian and even tried to explore the feelings a few times, only to push them aside because i beleived i’d made my bed, i then had to lie in it, but since separating and comming out i have this new found freedom, im like a kid in a candy store and i can finally breathe, not everyone was happy about it but i had to do it, it hasnt been easy, but at least i’m now being true to myself, thank you for sharing your story <3

    • “i believed i’d made my bed, i then had to lie in it”

      yes yes yes. i knew that i was somehow attracted to women (i didn’t think too deeply about how far that attraction went obvs, bc that would’ve been too terrifying/sad), but i’d already had a baby and married a boy and we’d moved to florida and our names were on the lease and it seemed completely and entirely unfathomable that i would ever have a chance to act on that vague attraction, so i just let it go.

      and by ‘let it go’ i mean ‘watched a lot of movies with topless women‘ and ‘made mix cds for my best friend.’

      • I really admire your courage, Laneia, youre amazing. I know that stuck feeling so well where you play out those fantastic scenarios in your mind and think you’ll never get a chance to “get the girl” and have that pretty little life together so instead you watch movies where it happens to other people. Once the opportunity presents itself it’s like someone lifted 1,000 weighs off your chest and life just starts to happen the way you thought it should. I’m so happy for you, and anyone else who knows what it feels like to get through this and give yourself what you deserve.

  32. Thank you so much for sharing, I wish I would have had this guide, and this whole site through my first (and second) marriage to a man.. My story is similar, followed by my husbands unexpected death about three months after I came out and we separated. (queue guilt ridden torment). But we made it through, the kids are Amazing, my partner a wonderful mom, and I finally am honest with myself. Good luck to anyone in a similar situation, stay strong.

  33. “If you are [anything — anything AT ALL], there are other people who are also [that thing]. This means that you’re not uniquely or permanently fucked. Things might be terrible at the beginning, but you’ll make it to the other side of this because other people have.”

    Wow. Just extraordinary. That is all of fear. And yet it is all of hope, too.

    This was beautiful, thank you.

  34. I need to write one of these essays: the ones that say “hi, this is me, and this is my weird coming out story that isn’t actually weird because pele can relate to it.” thanks for writing yours. :)

  35. Such a great article! Too bad the flow of positivity had to be interrupted by someone with an opinion on a subject they could NOT possibly understand. How awesome for you that you knew early on and were strong enough to go against society and whatever other obstacles might have been in the way. Some are not so lucky. How about women who have sex with men and HATE it, feel complete guilt, feel used and abused….are they bisexual? Please don’t say you were just stating an opinion when you phrased it like a FACT. Many women have many struggles to overcome, even sex with men, before they can finally come out and live the life they were born to live.

  36. this is a wonderful story and thank you laneia for sharing it.

    also, i love the image that this article has in the featured box on the homepage.

  37. LANEIA YOU’RE NOT A LESBIAN YOURSELF SWEETHEART. NOW GO AND LOOK AFTER YOUR KIDS PLEASE.

    • I’m really late in the game for this, but my comment here is directed at both Miss Anon and Reality Check. Both of whom tout the “You’re not a real lesbian” though I will say Miss Anon is at least civil if not heartless in comparison to the zeal to near cult proportions Reality Check touts.

      Now, from a scientific standpoint and what we understand about the science behind sexual orientation, Miss Anon is correct in assessing that the definition of lesbian is only sexual attraction to women. Meaning that if you are sexually attracted to men and women you are in fact bisexual (You’re sexually attracted to both, but lean more towards one or the other) or polysexual (You’re equally attracted to both and don’t lean at all). I think Miss Anon if I can play devil’s advocate here was stating that the person she originally responded to was saying that she could be attracted to guys and that it was confusing if she was stating she was or not, as physical attraction is deemed as sexual attraction in most minds, which would mean that no, by definition you’re not lesbian if you can be sexually attracted to (read want to have sex) with a guy. On that account she’s right. On the idea that you’re not a “real” lesbian if you’ve had sex with guys in the futile quest to be what is considered “normal” and/or been confused on whatever sexuality you might be, that’s utterly ridiculous and all out cruel considering the bullshit of anyone thinking they have any right to judge someone based on sexuality. It doesn’t affect you physically/mentally and therefore shouldn’t matter.
      Personally and I very much hope I won’t be judged for my statements/opinion considering this entire site is geared mostly for lesbians and bi’s leaning more towards women, I am I suppose mostly straight with bi-tendencies. I’m still discovering things for myself, after being raised in a religious atmosphere that told me I was wrong and sinful if I had any interest sexually or otherwise in women and was once made fun of for saying a girl looked good in a bathing suit when I was young. My friend at the time called me a Lesbian. I didn’t know what it meant but I knew it was said in a derogatory way. I remember at one point having a freak out session saying I might be gay with my mom, feeling so confused and angry as well as already having other mental issues that I didn’t even know I had till a year ago. Luckily my family and my mom and my boyfriend are very excepting of whatever I turn out to be. Self discovery is not something to put into a box. I can understand Miss Anon being upset about getting a backlash of the “see you were never gay, you liar” thing with girls who think they might be lesbian but turn out to be bi or poly, but honestly, it’s just hurting things when you’re pretending like being lesbian is some sort of special club that only qualified members can get into. Fact is you are whatever sexuality you are, even if you find yourself to be no sexuality personally, yet are only interested in women but don’t see yourself as male or female. That’s not for anyone to decide and you come across as even worse to the backlash the LGBT community gets by virtue of being something the world in it’s state hasn’t seemed ready to accept. So now to outsiders, not only are you gay, but you’re also militant, cruel and excluding to other people who are trying to find out who they are.

      It’s incredibly depressing enough for their having to be communities of people that feel alienated from a large part of society, let alone finding a community of like minds only to find that it’s riddled with nearly the same “eww you’re gay, eww you’re bi and not a full gay” BS that exists in spades. No one should have to carve out their own little niche in society everyone should be welcome and not alienated in any fashion. I can’t wait for the day when LGBT communities aren’t a thing in the sense that no one cares what sexuality you are and there doesn’t need to be a rights movement as there is for blacks and many others. It’s retarded that any of that happens, but it has and so we must face forward and realize that we’re all just human and we come in many flavors, shapes, sizes and stories and should accept each other and want to help each other through anything that ails them.

      Just my two cents

      Also fantastic article. Though I can’t relate personally, it really helped me see what goes on for people in that situation, what it must be like. A lot of times and I’ve sadly thought this myself is that suddenly going “Oh I’m gay, you love me but I don’t love you, byyyye” was cruel to the person. I now realize that that way of thinking was very closed minded of me, but we’re products of our environments. I’m glad now to know that it’s not so black and white and I’m glad I found this site, even if I don’t have a heart warming/breaking story to tell about coming out in the same fashion. Love for all of you who do and know that even some of us who don’t specifically know what it’s like, we can still understand. You aren’t alone with those who empathize neither are you alone with those who sympathize like I do. May you all find happiness in the journey of self-discovery, regardless of where it takes you. <3

      • I wish I could edit my comment because holy-hell grammar and spelling error are abound when I write at four in the morning. Apologies a-plenty for that. If something didn’t make sense I will be glad to clarify my deplorable way of phrasing things on 2 minutes of sleep, LOL.

  38. It’s nice to see real lesbians finally standing up for themselves against the “bisexual lesbians” who seem to get off on making a mockery out of our sexual orientation and trying to convince everyone lesbianism is a choice. Lesbians, stop being overly PC doormats and stand up for yourselves, stop letting these women who will go back to men eventually and pop out another brat shit all over our community.

    • I wasn’t going to comment, because I feel like everything I would say had already been said. As for me, I’ve always seen sexual orientation and sexual history as distinct things — so one’s identity is a statement of current and future desires, actions, and attractions, whereas one’s sexual history is simply a list of the things you have done. Clearly, though, none of us are going to change our minds on this topic based on this discussion, and that’s fine.

      I don’t care what people choose to identify themselves as, so long as they are comfortable with what they choose. If straight people/homophobic people/people who are overly invested in the sex lives of others choose to see bisexuality or sexual fluidity as “proof” that homosexuality isn’t real or can be “cured” — well, I didn’t value or respect their arguments to begin with, so why should I care now? I think we can still argue for and demand equality, safety, and tolerance without requiring a black-and-white reality of sexuality.

      That’s not why I’m commenting,though. I’m commenting because of your comment about women who will go “pop out another brat.” How dare you so disrespect women who choose to be mothers. Did you not yourself have a mother? Do you so disrespect her and her choices?

    • Back. Off.

      I echo sunhaina: how dare you? How dare you respond this way to such a brave and beautiful piece?

      There are a ton of people here who adore Laneia. Watch what you say about her.

    • Lesbians stand up for ourselves? Did you not notice all of us doing exactly that? Moralizing about the sex lives of other women, disdain for mothers… your comment reeks of misogyny.

    • Hear hear, Reality Check. I agree with every word you wrote. These bored bisexuals or mentally ill straight women need to fuck off and stick to watching their L Word dvds. You’re not homosexual and never were.

  39. P.S. Thank you for sharing something so personal….sorry for the buttholes that “speak” without thinking or knowing.

  40. Laneia thank you so much for writing this, it was wonderful and I’m sure tough to explain in such a thoughtful way. I only dated guys in the beginning of high school, which is obviously nothing near the commitment and hardship you faced in your marriage, but even that little bit of experience made me relate to this. Your kids are so lucky to be raised by such an awesome person :)

  41. Thanks, so much, for this. I appreciated that you addressed many of the issues this situation brings up and having gone through it recently, I have to say it really hit home. So, seriously, big huge crazy insane thank you lots for this.

  42. I was also married to a man, then realized I was a lesbian. I had a lot of people thinking I was bisexual. But I kept saying that if I was even the least bit bisexual, I would still be married. I loved my ex-husband very much and I so wanted it to work between us, but hiding who I was became detrimental to our relationship, my health and well-being, and things had to change.
    Thank you for sharing your story with those out there who haven’t made our journey yet. I wish I had this to read four or five years ago when I was getting the divorce and coming out. It is nice to hear that there are many others like me who came out a little later than most.

  43. This is wonderful.

    I cried through the whole thing. I will quickly tell you why. I was very close to my Grandma, who has passed away, and I am somewhat in a permanent state of wanting to know more and more of her stories, all of the stories I can’t ask her for now and didn’t think to ask her for when she was still here. She too was young, pregnant and then married to my Mom’s Father and was a LESBIAN the whole entire time, even though she wasn’t out to herself or to others until her mid-twenties. It was the 1950s, so you know. But then things happened (there was a softball team somewhere in her coming out story, truly) and she came out and divorced and raised three daughters as a single lesbian parent and there are so many of her stories I haven’t heard that I want to badly so hear.

    I felt connected to my Grandma and her experience when I was reading this. And it was beautiful; thank you for sharing. Like, seriously. What a great resource for those in similar situations and what a brave story to share.

    • “there was a softball team somewhere in her coming out story, truly”

      Softball teams were like the old-school version of “watching The L Word” here.

  44. So I guess what you’re saying “REALITY CHECK” is that anyone who has EVER been in the closet is really not a lesbian and eventually will go back to “their man”???? When a women is “in the closet” usually this means trying desperately to live a straight life….it’s not hard to form a close bond with someone you like of even love….woman or man….if you playin’ it straight and try to date a man sometimes a friendship and bond forms, of course, at some point this man is going to want a physical relationship. do you think it’s fun for women to go through hell, break their family’s heart just to try a little girl on girl action for the sport of it?? i really and seriously ask you to think about it from another point of view. especially older women who lived their early years in a time when homosexuality was not “out” and about as it is now. you can pop out of the womb loving vagina but that doesn’t mean you will understand it or know what to do about it……and thank you for your forgiveness. i can sleep now. :)

  45. damn laneaia.

    some ladies have said it tonight and so ill do it again.

    thanks for being strong in your experience and then strong enough to re-tell it for the rest of the world.

    clearly the people your story is lost on are largely outnumbered.

    you do you (AKA – carry on being badass like you do)

  46. This resonates deep; thank you for writing it. I, too, ‘realized’ I was gay during a long-term relationship with a man…and I was in my 30’s. When I ended things with him and started to accept who I was, I also realized we didn’t have the intimacy a couple should have–the intimacy I wanted. We were just good friends. And for me, THAT is what hurt the most in breaking up with him, losing the friend I had.

    I also wanted to say thanks for talking about how girls are often raised to believe that it’s a woman’s lot in life to just sort of “put up” with a man. When I told my parents that my relationship was over and that I was gay, my dad told me that I was being silly, that I had a good man I should go back to, and “unfortunately, women just seem to get the short end of the stick in most relationships. I’m sure you’ve noticed it happens to Mom a lot.”

    I don’t need to go into all of the reasons that statement made me cry all the way home that day. Just, thank you for this. It helps me breathe a little easier.

    • *big squeezy hugs

      and just look at you now deputy boob! One big gaymo!

      at least you had the smarts to break it off before you got married, unlike me.

      I am very proud of you, and I know how difficult it was, especially with your family. Lots of courage for someone so wee.
      :)

    • This is amazing. This is the sort of story that needs to be told again and again. There are so many who struggle with who they are. The idea that there is a right way to do it and a timeline that needs to be met makes me crazy. We are(all of us)still learning. Always and forever learning and growing and becoming more every day. I don’t know you, but I wish that I did. And I thank you for sharing this.

    • This is me right now, except I’ve been married for 19 years. The guilt I’m experiencing now for causing such pain to someone who I still enjoy hanging out with – but can’t fathom being intimate with anymore – is so hard. He thinks I may be just ‘going through a phase’ or a ‘mid-life’ crisis, and at times I end up questioning myself and wondering if I’m doing the right thing. I’ve done a tonne of soul-searching over the past few months, and have come to realize that, like some others, I had only had sex with men because it gave me some sense of power but yet it didn’t really excite me. I don’t look at a guy’s body and get turned on, yet the thought of a woman’s smooth skin and curves does. When you come to the realization that you can’t spend the rest of your life avoiding and tolerating sex with your husband because you’d rather be with a woman, it’s tough – liberating, but still so, so difficult to deal with how much my husband is hurting now and the fear of how others will judge me. I guess that’s why I’m awake in the middle of the night with my head spinning. Thank god I found this thread. It’s helped me so much. Thanks, ladies!

  47. I love this. I went through a similar time in my life (minus the kids and the divorce but including the closeted sexuality and long-term relationship) and have always had trouble putting words to it. This sums it up so well. Thank you <3

  48. *hugs Tee

    Similar stories all around. Its a wonder to see how many there are, and I can include mine. 10 year relationship and of that married almost two.
    I did it because it was easier, as shitty as that sounds. Crappy childhood, abuse and other very bad things all combined with a conservative family. There was NO way I could admit I was gay. A very familiar theme.
    Now, there is now way I could ever live a lie again. Once I was free, and could stand back, I realized I didn’t have to live my life “safe” anymore.

    By the way, you never know how much you DON’T know someone till you divorce them.

    Whats amazing is you can be married at a drive through window, but you have to wait 6 months to a year, state depending, to divorce.

    This happens a lot, to men and women, and sadly there are couples still living it.
    Hopefully some day they can find themselves.

  49. This is really wonderful, Laneia. Thank you for sharing it.

    “If you are [anything — anything AT ALL], there are other people who are also [that thing]. This means that you’re not uniquely or permanently fucked. Things might be terrible at the beginning, but you’ll make it to the other side of this because other people have.”

    Even though your experience was not my experience, this part hit home with me.

  50. “At the time, sex was how I could get someone to like me”

    Although there are large parts of your story that don’t directly relate to me, but this sentence is worth a thousand Maddows.

    Instead of getting married I decided to sleep with lots of boys, each one leaving me more empty than the last. People don’t seem to get it but to me it was like some sort of poorly planned search for the ‘right’ guy… Obviously that didn’t work out so well…

    Thank you so much for your story and your strength Laneia.

    • I get it. I went through this too. Holding onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, if you keep trying, and searching, you will find the one man who makes you feel the way that you know in your heart a woman can.

    • Oh my god this. I absolutely did that. For an embarrassingly long time, and even after coming out as queer. It’s taken what seems like millions of hours to process and try to understand why I would do any of it. I still don’t really know, especially since, as you said, “each one [left] me more empty than the last.” I’ve come to the conclusion that, in addition to being super wrapped up in my already serious self-esteem issues and fear of being out, a lot of it was a way to try to reappropriate or redo my first(incredibly traumatic) experience with a guy (which was itself an attempt to erase having lost my virginity to my straight best friend and not being able to cope with the enormity of what all that meant). (also this is the first time I’ve ever shared that, fyi)

      I’ve never been in a relationship with a guy – much less got married to or had kids with one – but all the parts of this article that talk about psychological devastation and the dawning realization that you just can’t continue the way you have been….those could be my life. Thank you so much Laneia and everyone else who has shared their intensely personal experiences.

      • So much processing! After my own traumatic experiences and what were many awful judgement calls I for some reason kept sleeping with more guys. That worked out awfully! I ended up needing 1 year of hard-core therapy (side note– therapy is great if you have the opportunity to have it) and spending a whole lot of time ‘fixing’ myself.

        Also, if the fact that my life was turned arse up and that I slept with guys in an attempt to BE normal makes you/anyone think that I am LESS of a lesbian then screw you- I probably don’t need you in my life.

        Also, also- these days I’m gayer then Ricky Martin…

  51. your writing slays me, and I love how you always manage to incorporate humor into even the most devastating, serious subjects. you are a beautiful person.

  52. This is brilliant! Laneia I’m so sorry that yet another flame war has broken out all over the comments – this is an amazing article – thank you so much for sharing something so personal!

  53. Thank you! I felt very alone and confused during my eight relationship with my ex-husband. I was in the same place of “all women complain about their husbands, so none of them must be happy” and tried so hard to make it work. For some reason I never even thought that a relationship with a woman was a viable option, but then I also grew up in a tiny town where everyone was expected to marry their high school sweetheart and start popping out babies as soon as possible. Almost a year since my divorce/coming out and I literally have never felt this level of happiness, maybe didn’t know I could be this happy.

    This was a very helpful article!! I still often wonder where all the other lesbians are and how to get in their club, but I suppose that is just a networking thing.

    • To borrow from The Sixth Sense: I see lesbians..They’re everywhere..Sometimes, they don’t even know they’re lesbians!

  54. I didn’t come out to myself until my mid-20s. And not to anyone else until I was 27, which seemed ancient to me at the time because I have a big group of queer friends who did it in college. I always knew I liked girls, but came from a super Catholic area/family and spent decades convincing myself that it was just a phase. I kept waiting to grow out of it.
    Unfortunately, all this happened after a 5 year long relationship with a sometimes-abusive drunk. We did the shotgun wedding thing when I found out I needed a serious surgery for a life threatening condition and realized I was already $10,000 in debt thanks to medical bills and shoddy insurance – not the most romantic wedding story ever.
    It sounds cliche, but after the surgery, I realized that life was too short to stay married to a man I didn’t love (and probably hated), just to make everyone else happy. I divorced him after 6 months, which was way more of a relief and way less devastating than I imagined. Thank god we had no children or joint property.
    Then I started dating my amazing girlfriend – we’re still together two years later. My parents actually figured it out on their own. They took one look at us and knew I was in love with her. Coming out was a breeze after the “Your father tells me you’re a lesbian now” surprise phone call from my mother.

    I still struggle with labels. Riese wrote an article about her sexuality that really spoke to me. I go back and forth between referring to myself as bi or gay. Bi fits because there were men I legitimately loved. It seems like dishonoring or trying to erase past relationships to say “gay.” But I’m not attracted to men, haven’t been for a long time, and when I was, it was mostly a combination of liking their personalities and convincing myself that this was a thing I was supposed to do. So I’m not sure. Queer fits best for now for all of the reasons Riese mentioned: because I like girls, because I’m a weirdo, and because I’m in love with queer culture.

    • I loved that too. Ah, the liberating realization that one’s ideal life may not be aligned with 90s daytime television plots.

  55. After reading this, I felt happy and sad in all the right ways. Then I read the comments, and I felt sad in all the wrong ways. But such is life, eh? Therefore, I shall re-read the article and feel good again.

  56. a lot of your article resonated with me, but the most well-timed part of it was the very valid question, “who will kill the spiders now??” my girlfriend and i had a terrifying encounter with a spider in the bathroom yesterday. she claimed arachnophobia and sent me in to kill it, but i missed it by a mile when i tried to hit it with my shoe, and then somehow it ended up on me, which led to me hysterically sobbing in the bathtub while she tried to calm me down/stop my frantic flailing/get the dog out of the bathroom. she ended up being the one to flush it down the toilet 10 minutes later.

    i want to add to the thank yous for sharing this. i didn’t realize i was a gaymo till my early 20s, and sometimes people have tried to make me feel like i was not allowed in that members only treehouse. thank you for reminding me that that’s not the case.

  57. I just have a few things to say:

    1. This piece was amazing and I appreciate you for it.
    2. Try not to feed the trolls, they just want attention. Or it, not so much they, but whatever.
    3. Digger’s comment about pregnant Laneia in the kitchen was SPOT ON. I didn’t want to be the creepy one who mentioned that picture was super hot, but hey, now that someone else did…

  58. I can totally relate to this, i grew up completely sheltered, like polo’s and private (christian) school. At the ripe age of 18 my family sent me wondering down the aisle into a year of tears. Yes, i only lasted a year, until this tatted up bass player started hitting on me at work, she gave me butterflies and i was in a heaven! one night alone with her under the moonlight and i knew HE had to GO…long story short, thanks for writing this piece, i have a feeling there are a lot of us out there.

    on a second note it was the movie Eurotrip, (yes i know ridiculous) that i watched over and over for the scene where the two girls make out, it was the only movie we owned that had girl on girl action, then i discovered the power of google, it was a long road but now i feel like my true self…i am like so totally gay

  59. O.my.god this is my story and I always knew there were people out there with similar experiences (because Oprah said so) but just always felt alone in my situation. Married to a man and in love with a woman. There are so many internal struggles that you managed to put into words so beautifully
    and honestly. Thank you

  60. hi i just wanted to say THANK YOU for this incredibly validating comment thread! i really super love all of you. it was so great to hear from those of you who’d been through similar situations — every time you tell your story, someone else feels less alone and weird, so thank you for that. and to the readers currently going through something similar, i hope you know that i honestly think about you and people like you every single day. i’m really just so proud of all of us, you know? being honest isn’t always a box of cracker jacks.

    p.s. also, i can’t believe no one commented on what a blazing HOMO i looked like in the collage. i mean i know you can’t judge a girl by her haircut alone, but come on guys, srsly.

    • This article brought me back to that time when you were going to court regarding custody issues. A lot of us gave you supportive posts– and I remember you saying later you were reading each one as the time approached to go in court and how it helped you as you walked in… now fast forward and here you are, writing an article helping others feel not alone and offering advice and support for them to have as they go their way. I think it’s all pretty damn cool and thanks for writing.

    • I totes thought that! You look really gay in those pictures. Also, I had a really similar haircut when I was in the closet & married, so that made me smile. What I appreciate the most about this article — and I appreciate all of it more than I can express to strangers on the internet — is when you talk about how hard it is to process the whole sex part. It’s so hard to process those sad vacant years so sometimes I don’t talk about it to people who didn’t know me then, which has led to my girlfriend unintentionally outing me as previously closeted & married, which I find both hysterically funny and heartbreaking.

  61. Just want to say I actually know of a situation where the wife came out as a lesbian and it all went down just about as positively as it possibly could. I don’t know the wife at all, I’m friends with the guy involved, but though obviously devastated at the time he’s also a really mature and decent person and let her go, and he’s totally philosophical about it now (and has a hot new girlfriend which probably doesn’t hurt any).

  62. I went down exactly this road…slowly, one step at a time, and I’ve made it to the other side whole, emotionally healthy and kids intact and fine. I really did everything from a place of love and have a good relationship with my ex to boot. I am forever grateful that I faced my fears and did it (carefully). It was definitely not easy, but so worth it to wake up and know that I’m living my life authentically as an out lesbian.

  63. thanks for sharing. we must be about the same age bc i too had a similar story, except that i went BACk into the closet trying to be straight, got married, etc….samesies. the 80s/early90s were an interesting time to try and come out.

  64. This! I finally registered an account because i wanted to thumbs up so many amazing comments after lurking daily. The article and comments brought back so much of my own story and struggles especially with coming out to myself and the world. I do want to add my own experience in that after I had determined my square peg was not going to fit in the expected round hole of being straight, it was the thought that lesbians wouldn’t see me as real or accept me because of my past that delayed things even further. It terrified me because i wanted so bad to explore this new world but what if they also rejected me. I did find just the right girl to explore with and she accepted me completely even with all her own gold stars. Our community is subject to so much outside abuse and assumptions that creating these absurd standards like you can’t be x if you’ve had y experiences is creating the closet all over again. Being open and vulnerable are wonderful things that bring life out fully. I really do love this site and trolls be damned i love articles like this that show us that even with all the flavors and differences we have we are the community we make.

  65. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This article is so wonderfully written and courageous, and everyone’s comments make me feel slightly less alone.

    • I am married and in the process of a seperation because I am a lesbian. I feel a lot of guilt about what I a m doing to my family. It has been a long process of telling my husband who is my best friend and only friend.

  66. First of all, thank you for sharing your story, Laneia. I’m 28 and just now coming out to my friends. It helps so so much to read you writing eloquently about what you went through–and hear so many people being supportive of those of us who have histories that might have prevented us from understanding/processing/realizing any of our emotions–let alone our sexualities–on any kind of deep level.

    So. To hopefully add to the number of stories being collected here that will help people feel like they’re not alone…

    Do I wish that, at my age, I already had a whole host of meaningful, sexy, nurturing, passionate relationships with ladies? Yes. Was that possible, considering that I grew up in a family and place that was not violently conservative but also not really progressive (i.e. indifferent, which is its own brand of horrible)? No. Was that possible, considering that I grew up being sexually abused? No. Was that possible considering that in high school, after I started remembering what happened to me as a kid, I started to experience severe & very common symptoms of PTSD, one of which (this is a *real* fact) caused the part of my brain that processes emotions and language (therefore the ability to understand who I was attracted to–because I literally was not able to process what it meant or felt like to be attracted to someone)? No. Was that likely, considering that it happened to be a man who was the first person in my life I felt able to trust, who loved me deeply and showed me that sex didn’t equal abuse & was something I could choose and control? No.

    It has been so fucking hard to learn how to accept my sexuality, especially later in life. Right now, I’m doing great. I’ve recovered from my past, have great friends, I make actual money being an actual writer! But it’s only after a ton of hard work that I’m here–and able to say that I like girls. Whether I’m bisexual or a “real” lesbian I *know* that’s pretty badass. And it’s helped me immensely to know that most of you feel the same way–because the only part of coming out that still scares me is that I won’t be accepted because of how long it took me to get here.

  67. I think the discussion of this piece is both infuriating, face-palming, and far more interesting then the actual piece for which this discussion was placed.That is not to say that the actual article is not without merit, it takes a brave person to open up so thank you for sharing.

    I’m not here to say that sexual identity is static/fluid/rolling in the deep. I don’t really care what people label themselves, however sometimes those labels give me a headache. But ladies, can we at least agree that maybe…..just maybe our experience of the world might not completely fit or be generalizable to others experience of the world?

    Can we also please agree that maybe…just maybe a persons sexual identity/orientation/history maybe a bit more complicated and involved then a simple label? That there is a strong possibility that behavior sometimes is motivated by many complicating factors? Such as a person is struggling with their own sexual identity and thus becomes promiscuous to numb the confusion. Or perhaps a person is struggling with some mental health related concerns and so does some things they aren’t proud of but isn’t completely related to their sexual identity/orientation/history whatever.

    Maybe….people are not 2 dimensional and are a bit more complicated. Ok, i’m getting off my soap box.

  68. The negative responses (like, two, out of 250, so there’s that) to this article baffle me. Laneia is whoever she says she is, even if that changes, even if it confuses other people, even if whatever. We all have that right.

    Trying to define who’s a “real” lesbian is insane. Why would you try to put restrictions on something so intangible and personal?

    • Authenticity is a difficult thing to achieve. Lots of people do this thing where they say they are “real” fans… or the “real” deal..or “real” (insert something here). I often think its a mix of insecurity and projecting a need to be validated onto others. Can it be super annoying, oh yeah. Does it often leave a bad taste? Sure does.

      But that is just my theory as to why someone would start some discussion on “real” anything, as if such a thing existed. There is no one mold, just a continuum of types.

  69. I’m 37 and just came out after being married to a man for 16 years. (Yep.) This thread has impacted me for than anything else I’ve read during my journey over the last couple of years. I have felt just about everything– stupid for not figuring this out earlier, ridiculous/selfish for doing it, and guilty for disrupting the lives of my ex, son and extended family. I read every comment the last few days and went through all of these feelings all over again. There are a lot of mean people in the world who don’t validate my experience and refuse to accept who I am. (In fact, I know some of them personally). But then there are some amazing people (like many of you) who make me hopeful.

    I still don’t know if I will get to keep custody of my son, and if he will understand all of this. In the grand scheme of things, that is more important than any label.

    • I have no reference for what you’re going through. But you are right in that your son and your relationship with him are far more important than what anyone else here, or frankly anywhere, thinks. If I could somehow send you strength I would. I would hope that once the initial pain passes for him, he will understand you are still his Mom..Still love him more than anything. And hopefully will come to see the bravery it took to do what you’ve done. But until then, I will keep you in my thoughts. Be well.

    • I am seperated from my husband because I am gay. I hAve a crush on a coworker but she has a partner. I have an 8 year old son. Ifeel very guilty for what I am doing to my family and at times depressed. I feel like I am broken.

  70. I mean, shouldn’t we all just be really, really excited when a gorgeous woman like Laneia comes out as a lesbian? Regardless of when it was, and especially because it was twice as hard for her (and the other women who have been sharing their stories above) because she had to risk SO MUCH to be herself?

    The mean “gold stars” who are responsible for the graffiti all over the comment section are making the rest of us look bad. It’s really embarrassing me.

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