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Just Out And Dating?


So your date wonders why it took you so long to say “I’m a lesbian”? Put her (and yourself) at ease with this advice.

By Adrian Margaret Brune

et’s face it: Though it’s more socially accepted than ever, finally coming out as a lesbian is never a walk in the park. There’s confusion, awkward kisses, more head-scratching and then… the first lesbian date, which can be extra-tricky if she starts questioning your transformation. It can be hard to tackle these topics—you feel on the spot and like you have to prove that you’re a “real” lesbian, maybe right after you’ve uttered “I’m gay” for the first time. “We all go through this process when solidifying our sexuality,” says Jennifer Gallo, a licensed social worker in New York City. “Nobody should feel guilty they weren’t
“Nobody should feel guilty they weren’t born knowing they were gay.”
born knowing they were gay.”

So to help “fresh” lesbians tackle the topics, here are four of the most common questions that seasoned gay women ask of someone new to the scene. Turns out they’re not trying to see if you pass some secret lesbian litmus test—they have real concerns about what a relationship with you may entail. Here’s how to answer gracefully without getting into lots of uncomfy details that don’t belong on a first date!

Question #1: “Are you just experimenting, or have you been with a woman before?”
A little more than two years ago, Kris Witter, an aspiring artist, decided to move to Brooklyn, and soon thereafter, went straight into her first lesbian relationship with Shannon. Though she’d never dated another woman, Kris admitted to crushes on girls, which set Shannon at ease. “That was more reassuring than hearing she’d just made out with someone at a party,” says Shannon. If details like that don’t convince your date, playing it cool may be more convincing than getting defensive: When Shannon first asked, Kris replied, “It doesn’t matter, since I’m with you and that’s not going to change.” They’ve been together since.

You can always use the textbook answer, which would be since the age of 12, when most of us hit puberty with a bang. “Coming out is a core developmental process that can span many years,” says Gallo. “You don’t have to go into detail, but answer directly. If you announce to your date you just realized you were a lesbian last Tuesday, this should be a red flag for both of you about embarking on a serious relationship.” You can also go into brief detail about your evolving sense of self—that you wondered about your orientation when you were younger, tried dating guys, and now are recognizing who you really are.

Question #2: “How long have you known you’re a lesbian?”
You can always use the textbook answer, which would be since the age of 12, when most of us hit puberty with a bang. “Coming out is a core developmental process that can span many years,” says Gallo. “You don’t have to go into detail, but answer directly. If you announce to your date you just realized you were a lesbian last Tuesday, this should be a red flag for both of you about embarking on a serious relationship.” You can also go into brief detail about your evolving sense of self—that you wondered about your orientation when you were younger, tried dating guys, and now are recognizing who you really are.

Question #3: “If you’re bi, do you think you’re more into men or women?”
Lauren Rabinowitz, a lesbian who used to identify as bisexual, used to hate this question. “Some of the ‘bisexual’ women in my Bisexual Women’s Group in D.C. probably preferred one or the other, and some were on their way to
It’s perfectly fine to be partly out to different people in your life.
coming out as lesbians,” she says. During college, Lauren dated several guys and had a serious boyfriend her senior year, but she also had a fling with a female roommate. During that time, she felt she was more into guys than women, and during her first serious relationship with a woman, Lauren felt the other way. She now considers herself a “full-fledged lesbian.” In other words, sexuality is fluid and people change. Admit this—a date who can’t accept the truth may be reacting to her past bad relationship baggage, not yours.

Question #4: “How out are you and whom have you told?”
For some women, the “out” factor is a deal-maker or deal-breaker—and not just with new lesbians, either. But when you’re first coming out, the thought of telling, say, your therapist, may be less scary than breaking the news to grandma and grandpa. It’s perfectly fine to be part-out to different people in your life: For example, Kris came out to her parents soon after she began dating Shannon, but Shannon, the daughter of very conservative parents, remains in the closet to her family, though she has only dated women and her friends all know she’s a lesbian.

Remember that while a date may be curious about how out you are, “no one has a right to expect or demand that you are out to ‘everyone,’ though your date may be at a stage where she no longer wishes to hide her sexuality from your friends or family,” Gallo says. “Ask her to be respectful, and when you feel right about coming out to a larger group, solicit your girlfriend for her support.”

With openness but not too much information, you can learn how to answer these sometimes tricky questions and enjoy your dating days that much more.


Adrian Margaret Brune contributes regularly to The Hartford Courant and has also written for publications such as The New York Times, The Nation, and The Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine.
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