WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A LESBIAN?
Lesbians are women who have relationships (mental, emotional, physical & spiritual) with other women. Lesbians are everywhere: in every community, every type of job, every culture, and every age group. As well, it’s important to note that not all women identify with the term lesbian; some women prefer gay or queer. It’s all about finding words that are right for you, even if that means no words at all!
How Do I Know If I’m A Lesbian?
There is no checklist that determines whether or not you are a lesbian. People often focus on sexual behavior and who you desire or are attracted to as the definitive “answer” to one’s sexual orientation. However, being a lesbian is not just about sex! Take some time to ask yourself:
Who do I have crushes on or romantic feelings for?
Who do I want to share multiple aspects of my life with—mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual?
Who do I imagine being the person(s) I want to do simple, everyday tasks with?
Your answers to these questions can help provide valuable insight into what your sexual orientation might be. As well, because lesbian relationships are about more than just sex, some people are more likely to identify their romantic orientation as lesbian instead of their sexual orientation (i.e. homoromantic as opposed to homosexual). Some people choose to make this distinction because a growing number of people are identifying romantic and sexual orientations as different (asexual folks, for instance) as opposed to interchangeable elements of relationships. However, both work together to describe the complexity and beauty of human experiences.
You may feel confused or uncertain about what your sexual orientation may be, and that’s okay! It is yours to explore and there are lots of resources out there to help you out along the way. Check out books in the local library and contact places like the Avenue Community Centre to learn more. Again, only you can identify your sexuality and you can do it at your own pace.
It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain.
~ Francis Maude
Okay, I’m A Lesbian. Now What?
Once, you come to the realization that you’re a lesbian and you’re okay with that, you will need to make some decisions. Who you tell, how, and when or if you tell is totally up to you. There is no set of rules for coming out, and every person and every situation is different—which can be challenging or fun, depending on how you look at it. As well, there are places like the Avenue Community Centre that can help you figure things out.
You will need to be realistic about coming out. It can be as difficult for someone to hear that you are a lesbian as it is for you to say it. Throughout this process, you will discover who your true friends are and the strength of your family members’ love. This is why so many lesbians wait until they support and love themselves before coming out. Again, since you know your situation best, only you can decide if and how you will come out to people.
Choosing openness over self-denial is an important way to ensure mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Unfortunately, it is common for people in denial of their sexuality to use unhealthy ways to cope; drugs, alcohol, unsafe sex, and self-harm or suicide are some of those ways. Lesbians often say that accepting their sexuality helped them become calmer, happier, and more confident, self-aware individuals.
For a long time I thought I wanted to be a nun. Then I realized that what I really wanted to be was a lesbian.
~ Mabel Maney
Where Can I Find Other Lesbians?
The most obvious place to find other lesbians is in the GSD (gender and sexually diverse) community. Lesbian/gay nightclubs, festivals & pride events, community centres and GSD-friendly neighbourhoods are all places you will find lesbians. Check out lesbian magazines, websites, or newspapers for personal ads and to find out about nearby GSD events.
Do I Need To Worry About HIV/AIDS?
Every sexually active person needs to be aware of the risks they are taking when having oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Using fresh, undamaged latex condoms, dental dams, and latex gloves will substantially reduce the risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS or a number of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important that you never take risks you are uncomfortable with.
Want to find out what your HIV status is? Want to see if you have any other STIs? If you do, then the Gens Hellquist Queer Sexual Health Clinic at the Avenue Community Centre is for you. The Clinic provides a full range of tests for HIV (including the rapid HIV test – results within 5 minutes), hepatitis C, syphilis, and other STIs in a queer-positive environment. You can either book an appointment or drop in.
If you want more information on lowering the risks of getting HIV/AIDS or other STIs, contact your local sexual health clinic or AIDS organization.
No matter who you are or how you identify, you have a right to be happy, safe, and fulfilled. Being a lesbian is a wonderful thing and gives you a unique perspective on life and the world. And at the end of the day, it’s your life and your choice how to live it. Choose being your happiest, most fulfilled self!
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~ Anaïs Nin