I just finished reading Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women tonight. I’ve been slowly working my way through this book—story by story—for several weeks now.
Some of these stories reminded me very much of my experience coming to terms with a different perception of my sexuality, many others had ostensibly little in common with my journey. Some stories have happy endings, others ended badly with much suffering.
Every one of them inspired and encouraged me on this journey at a time when I desperately needed it.
There are general themes that appeared over and over again in these stories that I recognize deeply as being part of my experience even if the details of the way they appeared in another woman’s life bore no relation to my life’s story. It was this discovery of common themes that was so encouraging because it showed me that I am not alone. I may not personally know anyone who is walking in the shoes I’m walking in, but I am not alone.
It is reassuring to read of the confusion and panic that other women felt with this sudden realization that this key part of themselves was not who they thought they were. I recognize the attempts that many of them relate to suppress or hide their growing realization of this part of their identity, the fear at what being honest about their true feelings and true nature may cost them. I am relieved to read of others struggling with the sense of loss that giving up their heterosexual privilege brings—a sense of privilege that most of them, like me, didn’t even know existed until they saw it slipping away.
I identified with the way many of them reported searching their pasts for hints of clues to this new identity that perhaps they should have recognized sooner. I am encouraged to hear that I am not the only one that obsessively questions her perceptions of herself in this because she didn’t realize this about herself from puberty onward. There is that sense of not being a “real” lesbian if one didn’t know all along that I wholeheartedly relate to.
I am overjoyed to hear that I’m not the only one who is both intimidated by and uncomfortable with the need people have for labels—and the inability to determine what label(s) might or might not apply to me. Like me, many of them could only say that they knew they were attracted to and/or loved women (or a woman), but they had no more clue than I do whether that made them bisexual, or a lesbian who was able to love a man, or a heterosexual who was in love with a woman.What happens when none of the labels feel right?
Even beyond that, there is the complete bafflement at the slew of labels within the lesbian community: am I a butch, a femme, a baby dyke, a lipstick lesbian, a dykeling? It shouldn’t matter, but at a time when so much of my identity is already in flux, to be unable to answer any of these questions for myself—much less for anyone else—adds to the sense of not belonging anywhere. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this shock of finding that the very community that we thought would understand our struggle is often a foreign land with its own culture that we have no idea how to enter.
This path of redefining myself and my sexuality for myself and soon to others is not easy, but it is so enormously reassuring to know that I am not walking this path alone. There are truly other women out there that have been on this same journey, and I am deeply grateful for their willingness to share their stories with such honesty and courage.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.