Even if you’re not sure right now where you fall into the gay/straight spectrum, that’s okay. At some point, however, you may come to the point of recognizing that you are in fact, gay. And as with any major life chance or decision, you may naturally begin to move through a number of stages as you grow and deal with that change. I call these stages the 5-As: Avoidance, Acknowledgment, Acceptance and Acclimatization. Wait, that’s only four As, right? That’s because the last stands for how you’ll feel at the end of the journey: Awesome.
Step 1: Avoidance
Whether you’re 7 years old or 27 years old, you might first flinch at the feelings you’re beginning to have for other women. I know I did. After all, it was the exact antithesis of what everyone told me I’d start to feel when I got to that age. Because of this you might start to avoid those feelings, and to hide them from yourself just as much as you do from others.
Perhaps you start spending even more time with boys to compensate for those feelings, or start dating as many men as you can to convince yourself you aren’t gay (okay, maybe that was just me …). Maybe you start talking about boys a lot in front of your girl friends so they don’t have any doubts regarding your sexual allegiance. This is a perfectly natural thing to experience, as realizing you’re gay can be pretty overwhelming and scary.
You might be thinking, “Hell, no! I knew I was gay when I was three years old, and I started dating when I was 5.” Okay, that’s awesome, and I’m sincerely glad to know there are some self-confident women out there who weren’t afraid to make their feelings known. But for some others, I just want you to know that wanting to avoid those feelings is natural. After all, acknowledging them would mean that you’re admitting your entire life as you know it is about to change. The good part? Once you do admit it to yourself, you can finally start acting on it, as well. And that is when things start to get really interesting.
Step 2: Acknowledgment
Eventually, there comes a point in every lesbian’s life when the urge to live the life you were born to live (or your urge to make out with women — whichever comes first) is stronger than your urge to overcome it. That point comes earlier for some and much later for others, but chances are good that if you’re reading this blog, you’re getting pretty close to it.
Still, we can only acknowledge what we’re able to recognize within ourselves. Sometimes it’s difficult to know if we’re gay, and sometimes it’s even more difficult to admit or accept it about ourselves. And once we do, it’s a journey all of its own. Lesbian blogger, The Card Carrying Lesbian, explained it this way:
“[M]ost of us have a pretty rocky road to navigate from the All- American girl who’s supposed to grow up, get married to the man of her dreams and have children, a career and an SUV to realizing your future is never going to be what your mother dreamed of for her little girl.”
Indeed, the acknowledgment phase encompasses much more than acknowledging what being a lesbian means to you. It encompasses all of your ideas regarding how that change will impact your family, your friends, and your employer. Furthermore, it consumes your ideas on what those people think of you.
It can be overwhelming. For some gals, this can be a pretty heavy emotional breaking point in terms of coming in touch with who they really are. But once you break through, you’ll be amazed at the calm that washes over you. And that is when you can enter Step 3.
Step 3: Acceptance
Once you’ve acknowledged that you’re gay, you can finally move on to accepting the new you. It means loving yourself for who you are, and tossing out any feelings of anger or guilt that you might be harboring about the fact that you’re a gay woman.
Does acceptance mean you have to come out to everyone you meet? Absolutely not. After all, straight people don’t walk around telling everyone they’re straight, do they? Acceptance is an entirely personal process. Some might feel comfortable sharing their lifestyle with friends and family, while others may prefer to keep it to themselves until they feel more comfortable with the lifestyle. Others literally pick and choose who they’ll be straight with about being gay.
For instance, if you have a really open-minded boss, you might decide to come out at work … but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to come out to certain conservative clients. Or, if your grandmother is reaching the end of her life and you think it might upset her to know you’re gay, you might choose to let that one go. Either way, the choice is up to you, and you should never let anyone make you believe otherwise.
Personally, the acceptance stage took me the longest (well over 6 years after I had been with my first girlfriend). It is still new to me as I have only fully accepted my sexuality roughly 6 months ago. However, I must tell you, I have never felt more happier with myself and even the people the around me. The freedom to express who I am and how I feel has really allowed me to become closer with my friends and family because I no longer have to lie and be defensive about certain subjects.
Step 4: Acclimatization
Now comes the fun part: exploration. Learning about your new lifestyle, reading, joining support groups and chat sessions, learning the lingo, exploring your body, and exploring the things that turn you on. For all those sporty lesbians out there, think of this as your Red Shirt phase. A time when you get to learn everything you want to know about being a lesbian from those you respect and trust in preparation for your long-term commitment to the team.
This is the period where you’ll have a chance to start defining what type of lesbian (and person) you are, what type of women you are attracted to, and what role you want to play in the your relationships. For many, this is where the fun truly begins, and where you start to feel “at home” within yourself. Like I said, it’s Awesome. It’s also a point at which you might start to explore something else that’s pretty awesome — playing a part in the greater Lesbian Community, The Other Team ;).
Step 5: Awesomeness
No explanation necessary.
What You Might Be Saying
Avoidance: “I like guys. No, really.”
Acknowledgement: “I like girls. Eeek!”
Acceptance: “I like girls. Hell, yeah!”
Acclimatization: “I love girls. Let me at ‘em!”
Awesomeness: “Hey, cutie. What’s yo number?”
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What stage are you at now? Or which stage was the most difficult for you? Let me know in the comments section below!