What happens when you fall in love with a girl?
And she is your best friend?
And you are also a girl?
And you only like boys?
And you really, truly are
convinced you are straight?
What do you do?
What do you identify as?
Who do you tell?
These questions are among many that I asked myself a few years ago when I realized that I no longer had purely platonic feelings for my best (girl) friend. They are questions that are not unique to my situation. Many women struggle with them as they try to figure out how their sexuality decided to turn its back on its owner, to turn from solid to liquid to gas, to seek out something new.
I was reminded of these questions a few weeks ago when a close friend of mine called me and said, “I’m the straightest person you’ll ever meet, and yet I have a crush on a girl.” She, like so many of us, was thoroughly confused how she could now feel so passionately for a woman she had only previously thought of as a really, really really, really good friend.
It can be quite a surprise when you — a woman who loves to date men and identifies as heterosexual — starts thinking about another woman in a more-than-cuddle-buddy way. I felt very uncomfortable. Having a best friend who always had time for me and was genuinely interested in my life was fantastic, but imagining getting to know her more intimately (much less have sex with her) was terrifying. I was scared to lose our friendship, but more importantly I was also scared to pass up an opportunity that would result in growth and development in my life.
In a situation such as mine there was no right or wrong answer. Whatever decision I made would simply result in a different outcome. I chose to try to absolve my confusion by telling her my true feelings. The result was one we can all hope for: she in fact wanted to be with me too.
I do not wish to delve into particular details regarding this specific relationship, but rather to say that it undoubtedly changed me. I was engaged in this relationship in such a different manner—emotionally, mentally, intellectually, physically—than I had been in my previous relationships with men. I questioned and fostered parts of myself that I barely even knew existed. Dating this woman led me to realize that my identity has a very fluid aspect to it. (During this time I also was introduced to words like “identity” “fluidity” “bisexual” and “sexuality”). It is not as if before I had been blind to homosexuality, many of my friends identified as gay or bisexual, but I had never examined how this label, or rather this experience, was relevant to my life.
I did not call myself a lesbian or even bisexual. I did not hide my relationship, or with whom it was with, but I was not yet comfortable applying a bold label that would allow others to determine who I was. If I was struggling to find who I was, I was not going to let others decide for me. Furthermore I did not think that I was meant to be with other women. I felt right with my girlfriend, but imagining being with another woman made me even more uncomfortable than I had felt about being intimate with any woman. It was only she. And men.
It is difficult to overcome these seemingly contradictory feelings—being in love with a girl, being in a homosexual relationship, and yet not seeing oneself as gay—and there is no one solution to work through them. They are quite cumbersome to break down. I found it was best to take no notice of the outside forces that were pressuring me to come out to the world. This allowed me to explore at my own pace. Intimacy found its way between the long conversations and coffee dates. It had its own agenda. It was okay to believe she was the only woman for me. It was okay to take things one day, one step, at a time.
Telling other people was simultaneously easy and difficult. I told a very select few friends right away and others waited months to find out. As the months passed, though, I became more and more aware of my growing happiness and fullness, and I wanted to share with others why I felt this way. I wanted them to be introduced to its source. I never explicitly said, “Oh yeah, by the way I’m gay,” but I felt comfortable with saying, “Oh, have you met my girlfriend?”
This relationship shifted my perspective on myself, on relationships, on humans. Now I really try to see the person I am dating, the person I am falling in love with, rather than their sex or their gender. I see the qualities in them that complement, highlight and strengthen the qualities within myself. Of course I need to thank my first girlfriend for what she gave me, but I also need to appreciate that I did not just walk away from this opportunity.
Let’s be honest- A relationship is not a race. There is no predetermined end point. There are guaranteed to be hiccups along the way, but treat them as you would any other—with honesty and curiosity. This relationship suffered from its own difficulties, as all relationships do. But for me it is worth looking over these blemishes and acknowledging the beauty of it and the doors it opened for me (and I am sure for her as well).
Did I tell her I liked her? Yes. Did I second-guess myself? Absolutely. How did it turn out? We dated for over a year.