Welcome to this blog post about the process of finding out you are a lesbian in a straight world. The process of finding out you are lesbian in a straight world is an important idea to look into. The effects this ‘straight world’ can have on experiences is monumental. Throughout this blog, I recount my personal experiences to help look into what the effects are on gay/lesbian people simply by living in this ‘straight world’.
What does it mean to be a lesbian in a straight world?
Being a lesbian from my personal experience although at times can be a very liberating experience can also feel very othering based on living in a heteronormative world. Especially the fact that many people find out they are a lesbian from a very young age. I started figuring out this part of myself from very young however, I was never given the vocabulary to understand it. It led me to feel very let down by my education growing up simply because I was never given words to describe myself. Instead, I felt constantly out of place and confused.
Why am I not like my friends?
Why don’t I feel the same way?
Is there something wrong with me?
Since being straight is the normality within society LGBTQ+ education is often looked over briefly or not at all! It can be difficult for a heterosexual person to understand the impact of this. A straight person growing up often understands terms like ‘marriage’, ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ and some sexual education. However, the reality for many young LGBTQ+ children is they simply do not have the terminology to describe themselves. The question to ask yourself here is:
What would you do if you didn’t have the vocabulary to describe yourself? How would that make you feel?
Internalised homophobia is a really important factor for this blog post to understand. This can be found most often in LGBTQ+ who have been taught the norm is to be heterosexual. This causes mental distress when trying to come to terms with being LGBTQ+. This can manifest as denying their identity, low self-esteem and many other things. This can be a very difficult thing to challenge. This is due to the ingrained idea that being straight is the only way to be accepted in society. In a society that struggles to educate others with LGBTQ+ education, internalised homophobia is a major issue within the community.
Personally, I have been affected in different ways by this. The entire process of accepting that I am a lesbian within myself was difficult. But then coming out became a very difficult process. It made me question many things such as whether I was even a lesbian because it felt so wrong at the time. Questioning your own identity is such a difficult process and it has so much to do with this internalised homophobia created by the heterosexual society we live in.
Accepting myself being out of the norm
Although LGBTQ+ discourse can often be focused around the idea of coming out being a major part of the process of figuring out yourself I would argue that coming out or accepting yourself is often the first and most difficult step.
Accepting myself was a difficult step in my process of being an out lesbian and was my most difficult step. Realising that everything I had expected about how my family would look in the future had changed was often traumatising. Looking back on my childhood, it was very heteronormative. I was a little girl obsessed with Disney princesses, makeup and dressing up. Due to this, there was an unconscious expectation set on me that I would grow up as a straight woman. This expectation was what made it so difficult to stray away from the norm.
Further into understanding myself, when I realised I liked girls and not boys I had a difficult time using the word lesbian. The term ‘lesbian’ felt wrong to me and I didn’t know why. I feel as though the media representation of lesbians only depicted them in one way in the early 2000s. Simply presented as masculine women who simply did not match my identity. I am only now coming to terms with the fact that a lesbian can look any way they want to and that has no effect on their sexuality. This is why I feel so strongly about good representation in the media, if I had some more positive lesbian role models when I was younger I feel that I wouldn’t have had such shame around me. The good news around this is that representation is starting to really improve in the media which will hopefully make way for children growing up now!
Coming out to others
Coming out to others can be a very daunting process in life that can also come with trauma. Trauma from coming out may not look the same way. Although an LGBTQ+ person may have accepting people in their life, the coming out process can naturally come with trauma.
For me, it lies in the fact that straight people do not have to go through this. I was constantly questioning why I feel this massive weight on my shoulders to tell people I am a lesbian. Yet straight people simply do not have this burden. It felt almost wrong to force myself through the anxiety of coming out. I wanted to be ‘out and proud’ yet I had to put myself through this major anxiety to be like this. Telling people around me went and everyone was accepting, however, it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. LGBTQ+ people around the world go through this simply because being straight is the norm and you must come out as anything else. Why do we put such pressure on it?
How does this link to the debate around LGBTQ+ children?
This links to a debate on whether LGBTQ+ children are truly LGBTQ+ or if they were influenced. LGBTQ+ children have grown up in a straight world and were not influenced by that. It can be incredibly harmful to push the idea that you can influence someone into being LGBTQ+ because that stops education or representation in the media. It is important to give children the vocabulary to understand a wide variety of identities because one day they will need them to understand themselves. Why only give children one version of identity to understand when they may not be that?
How can you help a loved one?
You may be reading this as a heterosexual person wondering what you can do for your LGBTQ+ loved ones around you. The best advice I can give is to always practice empathy and ask respectful questions! Show people that you care about them and never pressure anyone to label them.
The times that I have felt the most supported by loved ones are when they have just shown empathy. Most importantly when they just want to understand. This may look different for different people however if you make sure you are an active listener for that person they will always appreciate that.
Being a lesbian in a straight world can be incredibly confusing and isolating, especially when still in the closet. It is important to make sure that there is a positive representation for children growing up for them to feel less shame around their identities. It can also help bring up confidence. LGBTQ+ education is so important for this. Providing education around different identities to let people know it is okay to not fit a ‘norm’ constructed by society.
Here are further blog posts on LGBTQ+ lives :
Feel free to leave a comment on your own experiences or how you help others!
Many thanks to Norbu Gyachung and Monika Kozub for the photography!