I’m obviously attracted to people who don’t identify with the gender binary, and I’m increasingly questioning my own alignment with the heteronormative status-quo (this is new to me since I’m a woman in my 40s who passes as cis, and it’s only in the last three years I’ve realized I’ve probably been queer since my late teens).
Where I’m really finding difficulty moving forward is in knowing whether I’m bisexual or a lesbian. I’m very clearly not straight, and I find I’m far more attracted to femmes and trans folx, and even to some cis women. I’m not often attracted to people who present as cis males, and the idea of sex with a man grosses me out at the moment. I’m also not at all interested in another relationship with a man. Where do I fall on the spectrum? I feel this is important in being able to find my community of like-minded folx.
I don’t want to invalidate your very real anxiety about not having a label that seems to fit, because that can be very stressful, and so much of our society — and especially LGBTQ culture — seems to revolve around them. But I also believe that sexual identity labels are, in my opinion, a bit overrated? It’s rare that any label actually describes anyone with 100% accuracy. Since you’re still somewhat new to the community, it can feel very important to find your “place,” and I totally get that! But it might not be as necessary as you think.
There’s who you’re physically/romantically attracted to, and then there’s who you want to date, and then there’s who you want to sleep with — and all of these can be different things, all of which can also change! Yet we’re expected to align under a single label. Most labels are also non-inclusive of non-binary and trans people to different degrees. All of this makes finding the “right” label tough.
You mention that finding the label that works for you is important to find community, and I want to very gently push back on that idea. If you’re in community with other queer women and non-binary folks, it might not actually matter much whether you’re lesbian, bi, pan, or whatever! I’m struggling to think of a scenario where whether you identify as lesbian, bi, or pan would matter significantly, except to gold stars, TERFs, or biphobic radical feminists. But do you want to be in community with people like that anyway?
To actually attempt to answer your question, though, we have to discuss what “lesbian” and “bisexual” actually mean. Women who exclusively date other women identify as lesbians, but there are lesbians who date trans men and non-binary people (note that some trans men and non-binary people feel this is problematic), non-binary people who identify as lesbians, and a variety of other configurations. Lots of people believe that bisexuals are people who date people of the “opposite” gender, but others believe bisexual means dating people of your same and another gender. Lots of people believe that pansexuals date people regardless of gender, and that it’s the only “true” orientation that’s inclusive of non-binary and trans people, while trans and non-binary-inclusive bi people disagree.
It’s so tricky! I think that, if you had to land on a label, “bisexual” would probably be the worst fit, since you’re not interested in men, and most people who hear bisexual assume it includes men. (Of course, not all bisexuals date men or are attracted to them; assumptions don’t dictate identity, etc!)
All of this is why a lot of people gravitate toward “queer” (or, increasingly, “gay”) as a catch-all term to say that they’re “not heterosexual,” and the rest is just details. If there were a label to signify that someone was interested in dating everyone except cis men, I imagine it’d be very popular – but as far as I know, that label doesn’t yet exist.
To find community with like-minded people, your best bet is to look for LGBTQ spaces, particularly queer women’s spaces (like Autostraddle!), and just meet people. I promise you’ll have commonality and find friends and lovers even if you don’t have the exact same label. And even if you do, the diversity of folks who fit under a single label means you might have more in common with some folks who doesn’t share your label than with others who do!
Here’s the tea: lots of lesbians are terrible. Lots of bisexuals are terrible. Lots of trans people are terrible. And lots are amazing beautiful people! You’re going to have to connect with real ones regardless of how they identify. And you’ll hopefully find dope people of a variety of different identity labels!
You might also find it helpful to check out other things we’ve written on bisexuality, which get into some of the questions you’re asking here. Good luck finding a label that works for you, but if you don’t, it’s totally OK!
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.
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