Q&A: Does having dated guys make me less of a lesbian?

Lesbian Q&A: Does having dated guys make me less of a lesbian?

Many of our readers have reached out with great questions about relationships, sexuality, coming out, and dealing with adulthood. With their permission, we thought it would be helpful to share some of these questions and answers with others out there who might be in similar situations or pondering the same questions.

As always, we're so grateful to have the support of readers from around the world. If you have a question, you can ask us anything here.

Question from a reader:

I read a sort of checklist online that basically listed signs that I might be lesbian, but am not admitting it to myself because of hetero-normativity and I was overwhelmed with how much I related to it. But I am confused. Does never having dated girls before and being with boys, instead makes me less of a true lesbian? - K.

Dear K.

Thanks for reaching out and sharing this with us! Figuring out whether you’re a lesbian can definitely be confusing at times. We were once going through the same thing so we can relate to this experience. There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’ll break down your questions into a few parts and address them as best as we can based on our experiences and knowledge.

1. Does never having dated girls before and being with boys make me less of a true lesbian? 

Absolutely not. We wanted to address this question first because this is often a common misconception and source of guilt for many lesbians who at one point weren’t sure that they were gay and might have identified as straight. Being a lesbian isn’t a game where you keep score of how “lesbian” your dating record is. You don’t get negative points for having dated men in the past and you don’t get bonus points for being a “gold star” lesbian -- that doesn’t make anyone any more or less of a “true” lesbian.

Both Chia and I have dated boys before we dated girls and we both had different experiences and reasons for doing so. 

For me, I had way more boys pursue me than girls and when I was young, I simply wanted to experience what being in a relationship was like despite knowing that I didn’t have true romantic feelings for boys (I knew I was gay early on) and that the relationship would be short-lived. I was optimizing for experience over longevity and happiness, but I don’t regret having done that and I would say that I’m no less of a lesbian–in fact, I can’t imagine myself not being with a woman.

For Chia, she had an inkling that she might have been gay early on, but was in denial for quite some time before coming to terms with her sexuality. She also dated guys in high school and college to try to understand if maybe she just needed to meet the “right” one for everything to click, but these experiences only helped her confirm that she wasn’t attracted to men.

Ultimately, we still both consider ourselves lesbians despite being in relationships with guys in the past. Just know that your experiences can be a way to better understand yourself, but the existence or lack of certain experiences doesn’t dictate what your sexuality is.

2. I read a checklist online that listed signs that I might be a lesbian, but am not admitting it to myself because of hetero-normativity.

In general, lists can be helpful guideposts to understanding your sexual orientation, but everyone is different. For example, I remember reading “are you a lesbian” quizzes when I was younger that signaled that girls who had short nails and wore plaid were likely gay, but I definitely had a lot of straight friends that kept their nails short and many gay friends that never wore plaid. As you can imagine, many of these checklists and quizzes can’t capture all of the possibilities or make assumptions that may not be accurate for every reader. That’s why navigating these questions can be a very confusing process for a lot of people (you’re not alone!) -- there’s no template for figuring this out!

Ultimately, for Chia and I, our experiences helped us understand ourselves the best. While I always knew I was gay, even before I dated my first girlfriend, once I did have a romantic relationship with a woman, I knew for sure. Chia, on the other hand, had a strong desire to fit in and was in denial about being a lesbian, but came to terms with her sexuality after her experiences dating men and then women helped her reach that conclusion. Dating a woman just felt so right for both of us that it became very clear we were lesbians, despite living in a world where most people are heterosexual.

That all said, there isn’t a deadline -- don’t do anything that you’re not ready to do. Take your time. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t feel pressured to be straight if you’re not, nor should you feel pressured to be gay or to be with a woman if that doesn’t truly make you happy. Only you can decide what makes you feel fulfilled and happy. 😊

- Poppy


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