Originally posted on Thought Catalog August 8, 2012
What’s it like to make the switch from opposite to same sex?
This is a common question, surprisingly. And guess what? You’re not going to hurt any lesbian’s feelings by asking this. You may get the response — “I’ve never been with a member of the opposite sex, actually,” and then you can high five that lady and give her a pat on the back. Or the ass. She is a rarity — a “gold star lesbian.” A gold star lesbian is hard to find! And when you do find her, she’ll be the one telling you that you’re a beautiful, delicate flower that is gorgeous even when you’re bloated from your period because hey — you’re a woman, and that’s goddamn beautiful. For the rest of us screw-ups, there’s a shift that happens.
For me, that shift happened organically. I dated men, was engaged to a man, dated some more men, and just went through life thinking everyone was having sex that made them feel average and then they lied about it to their friends in a Carrie-esque, Sex-and-the-City-told-me-this-is-what-you-do sort of way. I then fell in love with a woman and realized that (for me) I was doing it all wrong! The men were supposed to be my friends, and the women were supposed to be my partners!
But, being with a woman didn’t immediately bring me to that conclusion. It took me a few months to use the term “lesbian,” and though I use it interchangeably with “queer,” I had trouble with it. I didn’t understand how I could go from physically being with a man to a woman a) with such ease and b) for the rest of my life. But, as things do, it took time to learn to be true. Just as you learn to ride a bike or make a favorite dish, it might take a few tries and some practice. Everything was natural in my switch, but that doesn’t make it any less weird!
My changeover from men to women came with the love and support of friends near me and most of my family far away. And though some people aren’t okay with it, the switch from being with men to being with women could actually be changed to switching from what felt wrong to what felt right, or the change of what my mind was taught versus what my heart needed.
How can I support a friend that’s just come out?
First off, hurray! I would say excuse yourself to the restroom and do a little dance! This person has just trusted you with the most important information in their world, and they want you to join in on this journey. You are a great friend! Shake your little booty, kiss yourself in the mirror, compose yourself, and walk back out to them. Don’t dance too long — you don’t want them to think you’re in the phone calling every Tara, Rita, and Harriet you know!
Now, sit back down at the table/bar/floor/wherever you are, look that person in the eye, and thank them. Thank them for involving you in their personal life in such an enormous way! For someone to tell you that they’re gay/bi/trans/whatever they identify as is huge!
Next, let them talk. Ask them open-ended questions that are meaningful — “When did you know?” “What helped you come to this decision?” Let them talk. Chances are they’ve only had themselves and their cat to talk to, so they might need to get some stuff out. And since you’ve thanked them and let them know that it’s a safe space for them to talk to you, they’ll probably be as open and honest as you want them to be.
Next, ask them what you can do to support them on their journey. Think of that cheesy “Footprints” poem you see posted in churches, nursing homes, and other slightly depressing places. They may need you to walk alongside them, and they may need you to carry them at times. Coming out is rarely an easy process, but they’ve selected you for that journey, so be ready to swim against the school of fish you travel with sometimes.
Lastly, after you’ve shared tears, shots of whiskey, hugs, “ohh-my-GAWD!”s and the like, stand up and hug them. Remind them of your support. Go home, buy a rainbow flag, and become the ally you were born to be! Congratulations — you have joined my LGBTQ family, you sweet baby angel.
What do the LGBTQAIPS… well, really, what do all the letters REALLY mean? Am I saying it right? Whose feelings am I hurting by just saying “gay?”
There are SO many letters added to the “spectrum” of sexuality, and those can be hard for those to grasp if they’re outside of the community. Hell, sometimes it’s hard for me to grasp and I’m boobs deep in it. Let’s have a brief history session, shall we?
LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) was the first abbreviation used by the gay community in the 80s, meant to replace, well, the “gay community” as a term. The lesbians and bisexuals were feeling like they weren’t encompassed. In the later 80s, T (transgender) joined the club, and the mid-90s brought the resurgence of the letter Q (queer), which for many is reclamation of the word, seen as all-encompassing of the LGBT community. Q can also include questioning.
As for the other letters, they have joined the club fairly recently. A stands for both asexual and ally — someone who doesn’t have sexual attraction to anyone and someone who will stand with you no matter what your sexual orientation is.
I stands for intersex — someone with the non-presence to distinguish themselves from female to male or vice versa. This includes both physical and psychological identification.
P stands for pansexual — someone who is gender-blind in their love and has sexual and emotional attraction to all people. It differs from bisexual in that it includes those who may not identify in a gender, or someone who identifies with both genders.
S stands for straight. Plain and simple, y’all.
I wanted to answer this question for someone who has started referring to my crew as “alphabet group.” I personally say “LGBTQ,” refer to myself as a lesbian or queer, and accept all of the other forms as totally cool in my book. I don’t say anything past Q not to be non-inclusive, but frankly those truly are a lot of damn letters to say. I have friends who identify in nearly all of those categories, and I love and respect them for who they are.
I consider myself a down to earth human who’s not going to get hung up on you just calling me “gay,” and most people in the spectrum will probably feel the same way. Most people aren’t out to offend others on the regular. What wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings is asking them what they prefer to identify as. I know a woman who does all actions of a lesbian, but prefers to be called queer. I know of a pansexual woman who prefers to date girly girls and manly men, therefore could fit under the spectrum of bisexual, but if her preference is to be pansexual, then she is pansexual. I’m positive you won’t offend a person in the spectrum if you ask, so do it!
It seems like most of those in the gay community seem to start with the physical relationship and then move into more of the other parts. Maybe this is more true for gay men than women (as I have experienced with having some male gay friends). So, why does it seem like that is the first part of the relationship?
This is a good one. I have to say, from my experience, that it really comes down to emotions. I was once engaged to a man. I have been with other men as well. Other than one relationship, they didn’t start with sex. They started with dates — hanging out, getting to know each other. There’s a trust that needs to be built, and I’ve found that between opposite sexes, that trust takes a while to build. Even if you’re the most in love that you’ve ever been and you feel like you knew that person inside and out after the first date, there’s still a little barrier that needs to be climbed and/or broken down. It’s only natural: men and women don’t always understand each other.
You’ve heard the saying before: men are from Mars, women are from Venus. We’re differently aligned humans, and we don’t always know what the other person wants. Men can be more closed off, like rocks, and not as open with their emotions; women are sometimes crying, emotional wrecks (please read with sarcasm). But in truth, men don’t often wear their emotions on their sleeves like women do. But! In same-sex relationships, all bets are off. I’ve learned from my first relationship that I can be extremely open and honest, because my wonderful girlfriend is also a woman and can read into when I say “everything’s fine.” She is well aware of my emotions because as a chromosomal similarity, she knows what I’m trying to say. Now, this of course can be learned with time in a male/female relationship, but it comes more naturally in same-sex relationships.
Let me share a story with you: I have two friends (well, more than that, but for the sake of the story… two). We’ll call them A and B. Both of these women were previously in relationships. They met at a party I threw. The night they met, there was flirting. The next night was a date. The next night, they had slept together. When A woke up the next day, it just so happened that she was leaving the state permanently. B was heartbroken and cried. I’m pretty sure they now have Skype sex and are really, really into each other. All just after three days of knowing each other.
Women. We are emotional, open creatures and we know what we want (even if we don’t always say it). So when two women enter a relationship together, it’s usually a firestorm of “yes” and “I want you” and the like. I can only assume the natural aggressor in men is the same, which may be your experience with gay men entering sexual relationships early on as well. This being said, when the relationship ends, hold on to your hats, because the lid will be blown off in a major way. You rarely hear about lovely, amicable splits in the LGTBQ community. I had a coworker who had his hair torn out when he left his lover. Drama to the max. But, it’s because all of these heavy, thick emotions are mixed together, and it takes time to untangle and separate them. That’s also the beauty of same-sex relationships: you see a lot of exes brunching together with their new significant others, because once the knots of the past are untangled, they are forever separated. I have heard more LGBTQ people say that they shared a past with this person, so why would they want to hate them if the relationship ended on good terms (aka not because of cheating, etc)? Emotions ride the waves of homosexual relationships, which I believe is why sex is so tied into that. I’m also pretty sure it’s why the sex is so good, but maybe that’s just my assumption.