Sexuality educator Karishma Swarup writes about the journey of figuring out your preferences and how there are no right or wrong answers
KARISHMA SWARUP | PUBLISHED 19.06.23, 04:38 PM
I’m a woman, aged 23, and sometimes I question whether or not I am attracted to other women. I have only ever dated men. How can I know if I am lesbian?
Step 1: Google ‘How can I know if I am lesbian’, and take the first BuzzFeed quiz you find. Based on the results, you’ll know… I’m KIDDING! While most baby queers (i.e. people who are new to the LGBTQIA+ community) have probably done this at some point in their lives, unfortunately there is no diagnostic test I can point you to. I wish it were that simple!
I want to ask you to consider this: What is making you ask yourself this question? The answer to that might offer some information. Some people have a very clear understanding of their sexual orientation (i.e. which genders they are attracted to), they “just know”.
“Okay, hold up. But I haven’t been with any women. How will I know if I am attracted to women if I haven’t kissed any?” you may say. And my question back to you is, how did you know if you were attracted to men long before you kissed any?
Most of us have grown up with books, Bollywood movies and music about girls who are excited to lock eyes with a boy across the room or girls who are willing to die for a boy (I’m looking at you Juliet). Our society doesn’t give us straightforward (no pun intended) scripts to follow on any non-heterosexual romance. So if you’re feeling confused or are unsure how you identify, you are not alone.
Back to basics
Let’s start simple. What does lesbian mean? Typically, it refers to a woman who may be sexually and/or romantically attracted to women exclusively. Which brings me to a few questions for you to ponder:
- Have you ever felt wildly or mildly romantically or sexually attracted to women?
- Are there women (real or fictional) you have a serious crush on?
- Does your heart beat faster when you’re thinking about them or around them?
- Are you fantasising about them?
If the answer to the first two is ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ or ‘sometimes’, you could be lesbian. However, you could also be
- Bisexual, if you are into both your own gender and people of other genders
- Pansexual, if you are into people regardless of their gender/sex
- Questioning, if you think you are something other than straight, but just figuring it out
- Bi-curious, if you’ve mostly been heterosexual but are curious about what it’s like to be bisexual
- Queer, which is an umbrella term that is purposely ambiguous — for people who may not want to explain, or may not be sure what they feel, or may have a more fluid sexual orientation that changes
- …and the list goes on!
The options may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to figure it all out right away! There’s no right age or right way to explore your sexuality. Some people are born knowing, some people figure it out in their teenage years, while some people don’t even realise until they are late into their lives in their 50s. Sexual orientation can also change and evolve, just the way our other likes and interests can change over the course of our complex lives. You don’t have to discover one single label for your whole life.
If you’ve only dated men, you can also consider what types of attraction you feel about which gender. For example, you may have only dated men, and you may be sexually attracted to women, or vice versa.
You also don’t have to rush to conclusions — experimentation doesn’t mean your sexual orientation has instantly changed. For example, plenty of heterosexual people experiment with people of the same gender without having to decide how they feel right away.
Telling other people and ‘coming out’
“Okay, based on everything you’ve said it feels like I am queer – or at least bisexual. But I’m so scared of people finding out!” you may say.
That’s totally fine – if you don’t want to tell people right away (or ever), you absolutely don’t have to. You don’t owe anyone any explanations!
If you feel excited about this discovery about yourself, feel free to shout it from the rooftops, tell your friends, add a little rainbow to your dating app bio — it is truly SO exciting to find out something new about yourself after spending two decades thinking you and yourself know each other.
Whether or not you choose to share this information with everyone you know, I’d strongly recommend sharing with a trusted friend (bonus points if this friend is also queer!), or if it’s causing you a lot of anxiety, perhaps even a therapist. If nobody in your immediate circle feels like a safe option, you can also explore finding Internet-based support groups where you can try showing up anonymously.
Even if it feels like everyone around you in your immediate circle doesn’t seem to understand you, it’s important to remember that you are not alone! Cultures are shifting and changing – 53 per cent of respondents from India in a Pew Research Centre survey said they were in favour of same-sex marriage, and 21 per cent of Gen-Z respondents from USA identified as LGBTQIA+.
We are far from where we need to be to create an LGBTQIA+ inclusive society, but I hope you are able to find at least a few corners of your community (online or offline) that allow you to go on this wonderful journey of self-discovery. Happy Pride Month!
Karishma Swarup is a Kolkata-born and raised sexuality educator, Instagrammer (@talkyounevergot) and works at a global consulting firm. She busts myths about sex, pleasure, intimacy, orgasms, periods, and all things related to sexual health.courtesy- Telegraph