New To The Gay Life

Did you realize you were lesbian after years of dating straight? Then you’ll want to read this advice from someone who’s been there, done that.

By Randi Barnes

actually had a boyfriend when I fell (and fell hard) for a female co-worker at the company where I had my first long-term job. We quickly became friends, then best friends, and then best friends who slept over at each other’s apartments a lot (which I can tell you now is pretty suspicious behavior for an allegedly straight 24-year-old and 30-something woman to be engaging in). Those sleepovers ultimately transformed into an actual, if incredibly tumultuous relationship (it only took us about nine months to finally admit what was going on) that lasted five years. That’s right—five years.

We both struggled with it, went through the process of coming out to parents
I was single (OK), but gay (yikes)!
and friends (not to mention ourselves), and then it ended. Which meant that suddenly I found myself in a place I had never been: I was single (OK) but gay (yikes)!

Hey, I’m gay!
I had certainly been single before. I can tell you many stories about awkward dates and boyfriends with whom, for some reason, I never seemed to want to have breakfast in the morning. And, in retrospect, I probably should have known how this would all work out for me: I played rugby in college, hated wearing pantyhose and, when I was nine, insisted I get to be Luke Skywalker whenever the girl up the street and I played Star Wars. (I mean come on—I played Star Wars. How did anyone not know?) But, no matter how it may have looked to others, I thought I was straight, so being single and a lesbian was definitely something new for me. Even scarier, I had no idea how to do it.

Completely ignorant of what I thought was the right way to be gay (merely thinking there was a “right way” was a symptom of my ignorance), I started with the basics: lesbian bars. Let me first tell you that I am an Ivy League-educated, self-admitted comedy geek, who in her catalog of “hobbies” lists improv, going to the movies and reading. Single Straight Me had never been much of a Bar Girl, but I assumed that Single Gay Me would have to be. That was, after all, what lesbians did. Right?

Hitting the bars
I managed to coax some of my more open-minded female friends into accompanying me every now and then to “Girls’ Night” at various bars throughout the city, so I could drink and stare and not talk to anyone in a crowd of my own kind. Once I went by myself to a
I’d rather meet someone doing something I love…
bar in West Hollywood and promised myself I would stay for at least an hour. I felt this was a very self-empowering, Oprah-type thing to do, but I spent the ensuing hour literally doing laps around the place, drink in hand, and never stopping, for fear of looking like the terrified, lonely girl I really was. I left promptly at 11 o’clock, wondering why nobody had spoken to me.

Trying a gay running group
Following my List of Lesbian Things to Do, I signed up for a gay running group. Bars weren’t for me, I thought, so I will run with lesbians! I showed up with my running gear on, my ponytail bobbing, and proceeded to go for a jog with about twenty middle-aged gay men. They couldn’t have been nicer, but there was not a woman in the bunch. Boy, I thought, it’s hard to be a lesbian!

Let’s talk about it…
Next I signed up for a lesbian “talk” group after seeing a posting at a gay bookstore. This was essentially a group-therapy gathering (What had happened to me? Straight Me had been so together!), and the only thing I really had in common with these women was the fact that we were gay. It seemed as if I had somehow turned my sexuality into a disease, one that required I be kept in quarantine. I started to resent my gayness. And I really missed my straight friends. I quit the group, pretty sure I was the worst lesbian in the world.

Discovering my real gay self
All of these failed endeavors did eventually help me, however. They helped me get to where I am now, which is… exactly where I started. You see, the thing I learned while trying to figure out “the right way” to be gay, was that how I had been all along was actually OK. I could be me — dorky, movie-going me — and still be gay. I have re-entered my comfortable world of comedy and friends and nights spent playing board games (yup—geek!), now armed with just a little bit more knowledge about myself. I’m gay. Surprise! But I don’t have to become a “new” person in order to be gay; I just have to be myself.

It wasn’t until I became comfortable with being who I am — every aspect of it — that dating actually started to happen for me. You never know where you’ll meet someone, and I’d rather meet someone doing something I love, with people I like. Then I know we’ll have more in common than just being single and gay. Which, I’m proud to say, I am. (That is, until someone comes into my life and makes me coupled and gay. And that’ll be good, too.)

Randi Barnes is a writer on the Disney Channel series Imagination Movers. She is also at work on her first animated film, an adaptation of Roger S. Baum’s book, Dorothy of Oz.
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