Q: I began coming out to myself as a lesbian in 1991 and have not questioned that identity since 1994 and still don’t. I am 32 years old. Because of a seriously disabling chronic pain condition, which often keeps me homebound, I’ve only had one serious girlfriend and a few other dates over the years, but none in over two years. A few months ago, I was asked out by a man, which shocked me a bit because it hadn’t occurred to me in a long time that a man might find me attractive (although I am usually assumed to be straight from how I look). Anyway, I took 6 weeks to myself before accepting that, indeed, I am attracted to this human being, who happens to be male, and that that does not have to negate my identity in any way or cast doubt upon my very strong preference for women. I have been dating him for two months (with complete honesty about who I am) and am in the early stages of love.
I have told my closest friends, gay and straight; they have all been supportive and encouraging. My question is: Will I be rejected from my local, suburban, fairly narrow-minded lesbian community if I tell my lesbian acquaintances and casual friends that I currently have a boyfriend. I fear I already have been marked as “too femme” or “too disabled.” I’d hate to be “ex-communicated” from the local lesbian scene just for exploring this other dimension of myself. I’d also hate to go back into another closet! My casual friends call me once in a while to check on my health and to ask what’s new in my life. For once, I have good news, but I’m not sure how to predict if they’ll see it that way. Unfortunately, I cannot decide on a case-by-case basis (I have very good instincts about individual people) because the rumors fly around this community very quickly. So I either have to be completely open or stay quiet or wait until I’m more certain about the relationship. What do you advise?
Diva Says: Ahh, how I would love to tell you that I forsee calm seas and smooth sailing as you dip your toes into the outgoing tide from the Isle of Lesbos… however, I imagine you may have to wade through a few breakers before you’re through. If you sit a group of women down in a circle and bring up the subject of sexuality, I’d bet you a shiney silver dollar that more than 99% of those women will admit that sexuality is a fluid thing (heh! if you’re lucky, that is…) and that everyone has moments of curiosity about BOTH (or all three? four? countless?) genders.
However, if you sit that same group of women down on a different day and announce that Anne Heche is dating a man, you’ll walk away more shredded than a box of triscuits. It’s a sad, sad thing. And you’d think, as a community that has faced our share of being misunderstood, misjudged and misrepresented, that we’d be far more open-minded as a rule.
But you have one thing going for you. You’re in a small community. Small communities breed stronger bonds between individuals. And if these people know you and care for you as an individual, and have a bond with you that’s not based SOLELY on your sexual orientation, I’d say you stand a very good chance of keeping those friendships. You may have a few awkward moments and have to deal with a surprised gasp or a pointed question or two. And if you do, just answer them. Tell them you found someone that makes you happy, and that if they care for you, they’ll be happy that you’re so lucky… regardless of your new love’s version of genitalia.
There’s nothing in this world that is worth living any aspect of your life in secret unless you absolutely want it that way. No one individual or group of individuals should have that power over you. And even if you weren’t in love, and even if you just felt like dating a guy for the hell of it, that should be ok. You have to let it be ok for yourself. What they think doesn’t matter. And if you live that way, I imagine you’ll find that it really doesn’t matter much to them, either. The more weight you give it, the more they’ll feel comfortable giving it themselves.