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Asking for a friend: ‘I’ve only ever dated men, but I kissed a woman on a hen night and really enjoyed it. Am I a lesbian?’


Some people find labels for their sexuality really helpful; some find them a hindrance

Some people find labels for their sexuality really helpful; some find them a hindrance

Some people find labels for their sexuality really helpful; some find them a hindrance

Q: I’ve been in relationships with men my whole life, and I thought I was okay with this. My sex life was usually just okay, but I thought that was because I had a low sex drive, and that sex wasn’t a big deal for women anyway. Recently, I went away on a hen night for my two female friends who are getting married. It was a great night and we ended up in a gay bar with lots of women. I ended up kissing another woman in the toilets. I was really surprised, but it felt really nice, and I enjoyed it. Ever since then, I have been questioning my sexuality. I can’t stop thinking about the kiss, and I am in two minds about going back to that bar and seeing how it feels if I am there by myself and more sober than on the hen night. Does this mean that I am a lesbian and have wasted my time not being the real me because I’ve dated men all of my life?

Dr West replies: It sounds like you are going through a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s very common to want to explore your sexuality. Lots of us have learnt to repress our sexuality and sexual desire due to pressure from society, family, religion or other cultural norms. You don’t specify your age, but if you are from an older generation in Ireland, it would have been a lot harder to explore your sexuality, especially as a woman. In the past, a lot of people spent their lives not being able to explore who they really were, and it caused a lot of hurt and intergenerational trauma.

We also live in a world that is very much geared toward heterosexuality. Most pop culture references straight people and monogamy and it has been tough to find positive and authentic LGBTQIA+ on screen up until recent years. Heterosexuality was the default reference for our society, but times have changed. You can now explore what it means to be LGBTQIA+ through shows, podcasts, films, songs and social media by people who identify that way and so create content that accurately reflects their lived experiences.

Some people find labels for their sexuality really helpful; some find them a hindrance. Labels can help you explore and try out different words to describe how you identify, but there is nothing to say that you have to have a label and stick to it. Some people find their sexuality is fluid and changes over time, and others don’t want to be defined by any particular label. The word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by many people to use as shorthand for LGBTQIA+ identities and is used in a positive sense. You don’t have to figure out what works for you as you can just go with how you feel, but language and labels can help us find other like-minded people sometimes. Try not to lean into stereotypes — there are so many ways to be queer, but so often we see the stereotype of ‘lesbians are either butch or femme’. This isn’t true, and women who like women exist in all kinds of ways.

There are so many community groups that you can get involved in if this is something you want to do. Linc, Dublin Lesbian Line or BelongTo offer support services for all genders and sexualities, and there are lots of social groups for women, such as Running Amach, or you can find groups on meetup.com. It might be nice to make friends with similar experiences.

Alternatively, it might not mean anything. It might mean it was just a fun experience and doesn’t reflect on your sexuality. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss. If you do find yourself kissing another woman again, it might feel a number of ways. You could have built this up in your head so much that there may be a lot of pressure on this potential next kiss to ‘reveal’ more about your sexual identity. First kisses can be awkward enough without all that weight behind them, so let yourself go with the flow, and there doesn’t have to be any big life-changing decisions or reveals. If there is too much expectation, there might be disappointment. There’s no rush or time limit on getting to know ourselves.

You haven’t ‘wasted’ time dating men before. You might find that your sexuality is fluid, or bisexual, or something else. All the lessons you have learnt from your ex-partners help you grow as a person and help you understand healthy relationships, regardless of gender or sexuality. Don’t be too hard on yourself either. Life can be challenging enough without shame or judgment thrown in, so be kind to yourself as you explore this side of you. Often, sex education in Ireland is centred on the experiences of straight people, so many people don’t have education on what it means to be LGBTQIA+, or they see stereotypes on TV. That can make it a confusing experience to try to figure out what feels real to you, but it is a journey that should be shame free and one that goes at your own pace.

With regards to your comment about a potential low sex drive, many women feel like this, but this can be down to stress, hormones, or a poor sexual partner who doesn’t prioritise the pleasure of their partner, or doesn’t know what they are doing. Treat yourself to some new sex toys and figure out the kind of touch you like, on your terms. You can explore erotica or porn that features women only, if that helps to navigate your way through your feelings. You can also visit your GP to rule out any medical issues, and it’s always important to remember that many medications such as some antidepressants can impact your libido.

Take your time and see where your journey takes you. Whatever happens, you will learn how to find the kind of relationship that is right for you.

Dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to drwestanswersyourquestions@independent.ie. Dr West regrets she cannot answer questions privately

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