My Journey of Discovering Sexuality Later in Life

*All names were changed*

I considered myself straight for the first 25 years of my life. I had liked boys since a very young age. There’s an old journal entry from when I was 7 years old, where I wrote (with questionable spelling and grammar) about how I had a crush on Thomas, a boy in my class, and I thought he was very cute. He was actually my first ‘boyfriend;’ we would hold hands at recess and play a very intense robot game where we fell in love as humans and then later found out tragically that we were both robots.

 I don’t specifically remember ever fantasizing about or having crushes on girls. I don’t think I knew that was even an option. It’s not that I grew up in an oppressive household at all; I just didn’t have any exposure to woman-woman relationships. Even on TV, it seems the only same sex relationship representation was of man-man relationships, and even then, it was limited.

Paranoid of Rejection

The weird thing is that as a pre-teen and teen, I was always paranoid of being accused of liking girls. I was adamant about never cuddling with my best friends, not sitting too close to them, not touching them unnecessarily, not playing with their hair. Even though they would hug each other and cuddle under blankets while watching movies, I was too scared. What if I did something wrong and they thought I was flirting with them? In my mind, being accused of liking my girl friends would have been the worst thing possible. I don’t know if that came from a place of fearing rejection or somewhere else, but either way, I could never let that happen.

Stuck in Christianity

When I went away to college, I was immediately sucked into a Christian group. I had never been very religious growing up, so I was intrigued by these friendly and loving people who spent their free time reading and discussing the Bible. Sometimes looking back, I wish I would have used college to discover my sexuality, to ‘experiment’ with girls, to be as open as I am now. However, I also know that being a part of the Christian group on campus gave me a stable ‘home’ and kept me from getting into trouble. Anyway, I was so indoctrinated into the Christian way of life for the first 2.5 years of my 4-year college career that I never even thought about being with other girls romantically; it wasn’t an option. I went to Bible study every Wednesday, worship night every Friday, women’s retreats every few months, and even an 8-week long intensive Christian summer camp. When I wasn’t at one of these activities, I was hanging out with the other women from this group, watching wholesome movies/shows or playing board games. When we were alone, we were encouraged to pray, read the Bible, journal, and work on our Bible study. Now, I’m not saying that there is anything at all wrong with this lifestyle; I’m just trying to paint the picture that I never even had time to even consider same-sex attraction during that season of my life (which is probably the point).

My break from the all-consuming Bible study, worship-every-week, evangelize-others worldview came when my best friend came out to me as gay. At the time, I was living in a Christian sorority/fraternity house on campus that housed about 60 fellow Christians (boys on the first floor and girls behind a locked door on the second floor). Let me set the scene. Patrick and I had been best friends for 4 years at this point. We had met in AP Chemistry our junior year of high school and quickly became inseparable. I had a huge crush on him for years as we navigated life together. I had never had a boyfriend and he was the closest I had ever gotten. We hung out together all the time, went to the movies, played video games, and baked. He never showed me any more interest than a friend, but I was hooked. All of this to say that when he came out to me it was doubly devastating (once from a love perspective, and once from a Christian perspective).

As we sat on my little twin bed in the room I shared with two other Christian women, with the door propped open because people of the opposite sex couldn’t be behind closed doors in the Christian house, he looked at me and said, “Tiffany, I have something to tell you.” He looked so serious, so scared, so sad. I sat there silently, waiting. “Geez, Tiffany, it’s not like I’m going to tell you I’m gay…Okay, actually that’s it: I’m gay.” Patrick said quickly, nervously. I was stunned. Being gay wasn’t right; that was against the Bible. Oh my God, I had him in the Christian house and he’s gay, I’m going to get in trouble. A million dumb thoughts crossed my mind. I honestly don’t even remember what I said, but I know the rest of the night was awkward. I felt embarrassed to have him there, like I was going to be guilty by association.

It’s an understatement that our friendship hit a rocky patch. It was more like hitting a rocky patch, flipping off the side of a mountain, and careening through a forest of thorn bushes until we landed at the bottom of a swamp. I tried to explain his sexuality away with ‘scientific’ articles I read – “you’re probably gay because you’re so close to your mom. Or maybe you were sexually abused as a child.” He pushed back against that (and for good reason). I told him that he could just not follow his ‘urges,’ just be celibate for the rest of his life and he would still get into heaven. (Yes, I was horrible, terrible, and mean).

I think our biggest blow up could have been a movie scene. We had just run a college race together where everyone ran in undergarments. We were standing under a streetlight, half-naked, in the rain, arguing and crying, and I told him I thought he was going to Hell. Why did he stay friends with me? I honestly can’t say. He should have given up on my intolerant ass. But he didn’t. He persevered, and he was able to rediscover the ‘me’ from before the college Christians took over. It took time, and it took me talking to the ‘leaders’ in the Christian house and realizing how messed up their views on homosexuality were. I cried a lot, I prayed a lot. The more I realized how hypocritical and uncaring the Christians I lived with were, the more I realized how wrongly I had treated Patrick. We reconciled and even ended up living together the next year. (And we’ve only grown closer every year since then).

Let’s Explore

After moving out of the Christian house and into an off-campus apartment, I still wasn’t thinking much about being with women. The only one-off situation I can remember where the thought even crossed my mind was when a friend of mine from the Christian house came over for a sleepover. We slept together in my bed and she made some comment about ‘being a cuddler when she sleeps.’ My original fears of being accused of being a lesbian came up, but at the same time I was hoping she would cuddle me. I wanted to know what it would feel like to cuddle with another woman. But she didn’t make the first move, so I stayed frozen next to her on my side of the bed. The funny thing now, is that she came out as being a lesbian a few years ago!

It wasn’t until after I got married to a man and we opened up our marriage that I actually felt comfortable and stable enough to explore my attraction to women. Something about having someone who completely and utterly loved me and could talk to me about my fears and experiences made it so much easier to open up. I had someone who completely accepted me and wanted me to try new things out, to explore, and he was genuinely happy for me.

I created a Tinder account and tried to connect with women, which turned out to be much much harder than I thought it would be. Turns out that I didn’t (and still don’t) know how to keep women interested in me. I can flirt with men and keep their interest all day long, but women were like from a different dimension. I was able to get somewhere with one woman, and we actually hung out a few times at her house. She was the first woman I actually ever did anything sexual with, and it was amazing. This is when I started to confirm to myself that I was in fact actually bisexual.

All of this exploration coincided with my husband and I’s journey into non-monogamy/polyamory. So, I also was able to explore same-sex interactions with some of his girlfriend’s who were also interested in exploring their sexuality. It really sticks out to me that many of the women I’ve met since we’ve opened our relationship were just as curious and clueless as me about their own sexuality – and we all are in our mid-20s/30s, and most us are married to men.

Dating Women Now AKA Me Chickening Out Every Time

I have a couple of women that I seem to connect well with now; one that I met on OKCupid (June) and my husband’s current girlfriend (Victoria). However, I’m still trying to figure out if I romantically connect with women or just sexually. June and I have been on 3 hangouts/dates (all before the pandemic, of course). After our first date/hangout, which was at a charming little coffee shop, I REALLY liked her. I felt the desire to hold hands or have a goodbye kiss, but I didn’t know if she felt the same way, so I chickened out. (Side note: maybe this is why I’m bad with women, because I refuse to make the first move because I’m so afraid of being rejected; whereas, with men, they generally will make the first move.) Our 2nd and 3rd dates were at the local shopping mall. We walked around, tried on clothes, and had a great time. Still no physical contact, besides a hug. My feelings seem to wax and wan, and I wonder if I need that physical touch, some sort of cuddling or hand holding, to really connect with someone. Or maybe it’s just the fact that we both have husbands, kids, and busy lives, we live 30 minutes apart, and now there’s a pandemic. Maybe I’m just not cut out for long-distance relationships (or friendships). Only time will tell. At least I’ve kept her interest this far. (Hi, by the way, since I know you’re reading).

With Victoria, we’ve bonded over having kids around the same age (and both thinking my husband is cute, LOL). Before the pandemic, we hung out A LOT, both with my husband present and without. We’ve had girls’ nights, gotten drunk, and confessed our fears about non-monogamy (which is mostly me talking about my fears because I’m a huge worrywart in all aspects of life). We text/Snapchat/FB message every day, usually about the kids or something annoying our husbands have done. I really feel she has become one of my best friends. She has put up with a lot of my emotions and keeps coming back, so that’s a plus. Even though we’ve had a sexual connection, I still wonder whether I can form a romantic connection or not. I still fear rejection, and the last time I was over there before the pandemic, I was too scared to ask to cuddle. I can flirt through text all day long, but when it comes to real life, I chicken out with other women (this is obviously a theme in my life). I honestly feel like the only reason I’ve bonded so well with Victoria is because she is dating my husband, who, in the beginning of their relationship, often orchestrated the plans and had her over to our house a lot (AKA a man making the first move(s)).

Conclusion

When you delve into the terminology, there are so many ways to label oneself (if you’re into labels). Even now at 27 years old, I don’t know if I would consider myself more bisexual or heteroflexible, though I generally just use the term bisexual since it’s more well-known. Who knows, I could even be pansexual, but with a lack of interaction with/ exposure to transgender people, I have no idea.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading my ramblings. I will be writing a few more posts on this subject, some from a research perspective and some from the many interviews I have done with others on their sexuality. Stay tuned for some heart wrenching and heartwarming tales of people coming to terms with their sexuality and coming out to friends and family.

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