The Hook Up: Welcome to the Club

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I am 24 years old and deeply in the closet. Over the past year I have stopped lying to myself and have come to the realization that I am a lesbian. I know that in the age of marriage equality there should be no reason to be terrified to come out (especially to my super liberal, gender-studies-major friends), but I am. I do not feel ready to come out to those who I am most close to.

In a couple of months, I’ll be moving to a completely new town to finish my college degree. When I move, I want to be out; I want to be a lesbian. I want the new friends I make to know that I am gay, and I want to date women (finally!). But I have two major concerns with this plan: One, It feels like it would be a betrayal to be out to a bunch of strangers/new friends while I am not out to my close friends and family. I would be leading a double life. Two, I feel like I have absolutely no credibility to say that I am a lesbian. I have had sex with men, but other than kissing, I have never been intimate with a woman. How could I tell someone I am a lesbian when no one close to me knows I’m gay and, for all intents and purposes, I am a virgin in my mid-twenties? And, perhaps more important, who would want to date someone who fit that description?—Trying to Come Out

 

Dear Trying,

I was almost 21 the first time I had ladysex. It was with a gal I went to high school with, though we didn’t really know each other then. She’d been macking on girls since she was 14, much to my dismay. The only experience I had with women was when I drove three hours to meet a girl at a hotel and it took us six hours to kiss and by the time we finally got around to it, it was morning and we had to drive back to our schools/places of employment and she ended up falling asleep at the wheel and crashing her car in a ditch and then not speaking to me for a month. I was a ladykiller ALMOST LITERALLY.

Did my inexperience matter to my first girlsex companion? Not a jot. Because we were far too busy smashing our faces together in awkward lusty bliss and then getting stoned and going to Wendy’s for a Frosty. All this is to say, you don’t need “credibility” to say you’re a lesbian. No one is going to make you recite Adrienne Rich or quiz you on the textural differences between tempeh and seitan. And, unless whoever you’re talking to is particularly tactless, they aren’t going to pronounce you UNGAY for not already having banged a bunch of chicks. Your sexuality is not a Sub Club card. (Bang 10 ladies, get a free month of couples therapy!)

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We don’t ask straight ladies to prove they’re straight by blowing a bunch of dudes in an alley, you know? We simply take their word for it (unless we are in love with them, but that is another story). So if anyone should have the audacity to question your identity, or say to you: “But how do you KNOW you like girls if you’ve never scissored one on an auspicious day in the lunar calendar while listening to Enya?” You can say, “I just do.” And leave it at that. Or feel free to use the alley blow job analogy above. That also gets the point across.

But remember that inexperience is not necessarily a liability. Good sex is about showing up, knowing what you want, and being able to communicate those wants with others (and reciprocate, obvs.) It has very little to do with whether you’ve banged all the forwards from the local women’s rugby team. Your effectiveness on the Lust-O-Meter scale is dependent on many random, important, trivial, strange, compelling, worthless things—Is she single? Does she wear glasses? Have tattoos? Ride a motorcycle? Is she kind to her mom? To waitresses? Good at poetry? Good at math? Good at knitting? Does she even lift, bro? Et cetera. Choose to not let yourself be ruled by a silly number. A better question to ask, my dear, sweet, mid-twenties virgin, is not “Who would want to date someone who fit that description?” but who WOULDN’T want to date you?

(For more on inexperience, see this column.)

As for coming out, it’s always a little scary, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’ve got all these stories in your head, expectations, imagined conversations about what will happen or won’t happen. The good news is there’s no “right” way to come out. Everyone does it a little differently. Some do it piecemeal, conversation by conversation, until they’ve hit all the necessary bases. Others make a YouTube video announcement or a cake. (It gets batter!) Still others come out a little bit, to one or two people, and that’s it. Still others only come out to their liberal, supportive relatives and friends. Still others never come out at all except to the people they are sleeping with. It takes all kinds, in other words.

If for you it’s easier to come out to strangers than it is to those close to you, then that is a-OK. We don’t have a deep personal investment in strangers, and hence if your hairdresser/barista/gender studies TA has a negative reaction to your sexuality, it won’t hurt as much. The point is to try. The point is to be who you are. To dip a toe into those sparkly waters of your glorious self and realize you’ll still be loved and liked and celebrated as a lesbian. Test some waters. See how it goes. I’d swear on a stack of Tegan and Sara albums that after you come out a few times to a few strangers, you’ll find that coming out to one or two people from your past will become a possibility. Because coming out does get easier the more we do it. Most things do. And because coming out is a lifelong process, you’ll have lots and lots of opportunities to perfect your elevator pitch. Welcome to the club, sugar shoes!

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