The first time I woke up next to a woman was amazing and terrifying.
I literally tried to melt into the wall beside the bed. She reached over grabbed my hand and said, “It’s OK” and of course it was. For days afterwards I walked around with this thrilling secret. I felt like a different person.
People ask what it feels like to come out, to realise you’re gay. For me, it was terrifying, exciting and pretty confusing. I was a late bloomer, had dated guys right up until the age of 26 but by 28 I was out, and even though I found it hard to say the “L” word I was definitely a lesbian, albeit one with “L” plates.
There’s a lot you have to learn when you come out.
Not just the whole sleeping with women stuff – which is an education in itself – but also you’re now part of this amazing, all consuming community. It was a scene I threw myself into wholeheartedly.
I marched at Pride, I read the Gay Guide to London then went to all the bars, and I joined a gay sporting team, where I ended up meeting my future wife.
Recently I went back to my old school to talk to the students and saw my old softball coach. Having skipped the 10 and 20 year reunions, she hadn’t seen me since I walked out of the school gates as a 17-year-old.
She asked me if I was married, when I said yes, she asked me about my husband. I looked her in the eye and told her I had a wife who I had met playing softball. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I knew softball would come in handy for you”.
But back to the question,what’s it like, how do you feel when you come out? When you fall in love with a woman?
The best answer I have is that I felt more like me. Perhaps a more eloquent answer was a description I heard recently that the first time they slept with a woman they realised they had been playing an instrument and using only one string. Now they were using all of them.
I’m a reader so when I came out I read a great book written by Chastity Bono (as she was called then), where she described coming out as “overcoming your own homophobia.”
In those early days there wasn’t homophobia from family and friends per se, more that they had to adjust who they thought I was. One of my oldest friends confronted me one night and accused me of being gay and expecting me to deny it. When I didn’t, she was hurt I hadn’t been able to tell her.
At the end of the night, I went to hug her goodbye. She recoiled. She’s still one of my best friends, she just needed some time.
I know, I know, I’m ducking the question.
Coming out, admitting to yourself you fancy women, that you want to sleep with them, is exciting and for a time I behaved like an 18-year-old. Do you remember what it feels like to fall in love for the first time, to lose your virginity, to not be able to think of anything else? That’s exactly what it was like, I was experiencing a second adolescence.
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It felt dangerous, snogging women in bars, staying out until all hours and going to work wrecked. I was trying to figure out where I fit in, by that point I was living in New York trying out every part of the scene.
On any given night there was a Burlesque show on the Lower East Side, a Top Surgery Fundraiser in the East Village or a Lesbian Oil Wrestling Night in Dumbo (I kid you not). The cast of “The L Word” used to hang out at the same bars as us when they were in town.
I had to figure out what my type was, all while trying to figure out what type I was.
The first time I went out to a Gay Bar in London ironically called “First Out” a butch woman pinned me up against a wall and said, what are you doing here you’re straight get out. When I asked why she said anyone wearing a skirt and dangly earrings couldn’t possibly be gay.
But I was. I loved kissing women, they have really soft lips, there’s no stubble and I had dates that went on for days. And when I met my wife I knew I was done, that this was the person I wanted to grow old with, that this was my favourite person in the world. She still is.
The author is known to Mamamia and wishes to remain anonymous.