Featured image credit: @LUCYMACARONI | SANCHI OBEROI
I have never felt as though I am part of the LGBTQIA+ community due to my relationships with men. The reactions that I receive from others (both heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ individuals) upon telling them I am a bisexual female range from supportive but dismissive to overtly sexualising my personality and making presumptions that I’m ‘greedy’ or ‘kinky’.
This has been particularly problematic during my straight-facing relationships wherein my bisexuality has consistently been sexualised and used to the man’s advantage, often as a gateway or reason to suggest sex with another partner.
I had grown up in a small town which meant dating options were limited, I had a boyfriend during sixth form who I stayed with until the end of my second year of university. When he broke up with me, I was completely lost in terms of the dating scene; I hadn’t been single since the age of 16 and it felt as though I was just beginning what everyone else had already been doing for years; I was completely out of my depth and had no idea how to talk in a romantic sense with someone new. For the first few months of single life, I refused to date women purely out of fear of being judged by others and yet none of the men in my life were giving me what I needed.
You could call my current relationship a lockdown love story – we met through a Zoom quiz with mutual friends when the global pandemic was still very much a reality and life had come to a complete standstill. The moment that I saw her face I knew that I had a crush on her; she was quiet but made occasional jokes which had everyone laughing, mysterious and absolute beautiful. As the weeks went on and the flirting between us amped up, she invited me over to her house in London (I live in Liverpool for the majority of the year) before my flight to Spain where I was going to be for 2 months. I said yes and we started to count down the days, talking on Facetime every night and becoming increasingly excited about finally being able to meet.
The problem was that as the days passed, my excitement was matched with an equal amount of anxiety. All of my previous relationships had been with men and although I had previously had sexual interactions with women, I was completely inexperienced in terms of relationships with the same gender and felt embarrassed about such. To go from having my sexuality questioned because of my perceived heterosexuality to being labelled as a ‘baby gay’ and mocked by a lot of the LGBTQIA+ community for having only limited experience which therefore made me not ‘gay enough’ was a challenge in and of itself.
Once I arrived in London, my girlfriend met me at the train station, and we made our way to her flat. For the duration of the journey I was hyper-aware of people looking at me when I was holding her hand and stories of homophobic attacks were racing through my mind constantly. It was an unexpected aspect to our relationship that I did not foresee as an issue – fear. For months I refused to hold her hand around the estate that she lives on in London and I’ve continued to make a concerted effort to make it seem as though we’re friends around the area of Liverpool that I live in. There is a persistent stream of terror running through my head when we’re walking, wondering if we’re going to be the next hate-crime news headline in the local paper. I’ve been promised that this is normal and that it will go away with time, that I’ll stop noticing the stares and the whispering and although that’s partially true and I’ve been able to ignore the looks as time has gone on but the apprehension of someone targeting me hasn’t disappeared even remotely.
I’ve found that I’m not as jealous as when I was in a straight-facing relationship, mainly due to my partner actively encouraging communication and helping me in terms of opening up and expressing my emotions clearly when necessary. Although I’m certain that this is not a unique aspect of homosexual relationships, it is something that I have noticed a drastic difference in within my new relationship.
The final major difference that I’ve noticed in dating a woman for the first time has been with reference to intimacy. Dissatisfaction within the bedroom is not something that I’ve ever totally struggled with, but I’ve also never been completely content with my previous partners and could never explain why. As a woman herself, my girlfriend is aware of what feels good on the female body and is able to translate that onto my body, using her own experiences with her body to dictate her actions towards mine.
Ultimately the fear of the unknown has been the most difficult transition point in the change from dating men to dating women. The fear of other people’s actions, of not being part of the community, the fear of other people’s opinions and not being “qualified” enough to sleep with a woman. All of these issues were created by myself and have been overplayed in my head until they became a perceived reality; I hope and believe that with time and patience these changes will become a normality and the fear of things that are beyond control will subside.