Ask Dave-Am I A Lesbian?

One woman tries to figure out her orientation and bypass the confusion. Here's advice to help her.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
Where do I begin with my question? I'm in my mid-thirties and, over the years, I have been in and out of relationships with men. I have never really felt what you might call that long-term chemistry or spark that people use to describe being in love. We
Five years is a long time to go through a phase.
have always turned into good friends and whatever minimal passion was there at the outset soon disappeared very early into dating, mainly because of me.

But for about the last five years, I have found myself strangely attracted to women. It's been more about really clicking with them, but I haven't felt the need to act on my feelings.

That changed recently. I was recently introduced to a girl (a friend of a friend) who I cannot get out of my head. Have I convinced myself for years that I was searching for Mr. Right when, in fact, I should have been looking for Ms. Right? She seems to like me as much as I like her.

The problem is that this type of lifestyle change doesn't fit in at all with my family or friends. So I guess I need to figure out: How do I know what I am? And most importantly, what do I do about it?
-Confused Girl

Dear CG,
Five years is a long time to go through a phase. I can't decide for you if you are a lesbian, but what you've described — a slow process of discovery — is more common to coming out than you might think.

Based on the media depictions of coming out, it might seem like a hastened process, especially in movies when a character meets someone of the same sex who rocks their world emotionally and physically. But in reality, slow discovery of being gay or lesbian happens all the time.

What sometimes slows the coming out process is external and internal homophobia, both of which sound like issues for you. You'll have to overcome fear of what society and people close to you think about homosexuality. You'll also have to fight internalized homophobia, your own fear and shame surrounding how you feel about possibly being a lesbian.

Being scared is understandable. Sure, it's hard to imagine breaking the news to friends and family who might disapprove. But based on the fact that you're writing me and are excited about the woman you met, living your life without love and out of fear of reprisal is a pretty scary alternative, too.

To answer your question, you
A good counselor will encourage you to make the decision that's best for you.
know who you are after you explore the options and decide for yourself. Sexual orientation is not a choice, but choosing whether to accept yourself or not is.

To spark your process, there are a few excellent books on coming out that I suggest you read. Try these four titles that focus on telling family and friends, as well as coming out a little later in life:
  • Outing Yourself: How to Come Out as Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends, and Co-workers by Michelangelo Signorile.
  • Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming-Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, & Their Families by Chastity Bono and Billie Fitzpatrick.
  • Lesbian Epiphanies: Women Coming Out in Later Life by Karol L. Jensen.
  • Is It a Choice? — 2nd edition: Answers to 300 of the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Gays and Lesbian People by Eric Marcus.

    It's possible that, within these pages, you'll see yourself in the stories of other gay men and lesbians who've struggled to come out. Finding out that there are others just like you, who've experienced the same things, is often a big step toward acceptance.
What should you do next? Ask yourself some soul-searching questions, especially before you act on your feelings and take the next step with this woman. What's your level of attraction to women and has it grown? Can you imagine yourself in love with a woman? For example, are your feelings so strong that you want to start seeing this woman now? Can you imagine going on a date with her, holding her, and being intimate? If so, maybe you're in the early stages of establishing a clearer lesbian identity. Or are your feelings still more like backburner feelings that you've bookmarked as a possibility for one day down the road if and when you're ready?

The reason to answer these now is that they will likely be the first questions she might pose to you. Know what you want, or at least consider the options now, before you bring your news to the table.

I'd also consider seeing a counselor to help you sort through your feelings and plot your course. A good counselor will encourage you to make the decision that's best for you.

Bottom line: Your sexual orientation is a fact. But you can choose whether to act on it, once you are more aware of your feelings. Almost all gay men and lesbians fight external and internal homophobia in order to create and foster healthy same sex relationships. You can't control what other people think (though they might be more accepting than you imagine). The best things you can do right now are:
  • Learn more and demonstrate honesty and integrity toward yourself.
  • Investigate ways to tell family and friends if you come to the realization that you are a lesbian.
  • Once you feel a little more assured, decide if you want to approach this woman as a potential date.
I wish you well in your process. Let me know how it goes.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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