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Coming Out as Lesbian/Bi/Queer After 35

A brief orientation to your new life

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Maybe your attraction to women came as a surprise to you. You might have suddenly started having feelings for a friend. Perhaps a woman expressed attraction to you, and you were surprised to find yourself feeling open. Or maybe you’ve known about your feelings for a long time, but there were inner or outer barriers that kept you from living your way. Then something shifted and what seemed unthinkable suddenly became something you couldn’t stop thinking about.

Although I’ve been out for a long time, I still remember how scary it was walking into my first LGBTQ meeting. At that time, the “Q” stood for “questioning,” and I made sure every woman in the room knew that’s all I was. A few weeks later, a woman kissed me, and my physical response to her kiss answered that question in a way I could no longer deny. Since then, I’ve spent my adult life loving women, and, more recently, teaching other lesbians and queer women about dating, love, and sex through the Conscious Girlfriend Academy.

So, what do you, as a new lesbian, bisexual or queer woman, most need to know? Here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I came out.

Relationships are Deep and Complex

Relationships between women are deeper, more emotionally intimate, more dimensional, and complex. At their best, lesbian relationships can be like “best friend” and “lover” in one package.

Think about it. In general, heterosexual women experience more emotional intimacy with their non-sexual girlfriends. When you combine that emotional intimacy with sexual intimacy, you’re in a new universe.

That said, it can also be harder. Women who come out later in life often say that lesbian relationships take more emotional intelligence and skill to navigate.

Also, two women tend to fall hard and fast and often feel ready to commit very quickly. This can be exhilarating, but it can also be very unwise. Much of my work involves helping lesbians learn to slow down and really assess their compatibility with the women whom they’re dating, rather than just diving in.

A Complicated Start to Dating

Lesbian dating can be complicated. First, you may need to find out whether a woman is even interested in women and communicate to her that you’re interested in women. Once you’ve both established that you’re interested in women, how do you find out if she’s interested in you?

It can be complicated to have your friendship pool and your dating pool suddenly be one and the same. If a man asks a woman out, it’s usually assumed to be romantic unless otherwise specified. But if a woman asks a woman out, how do you know if you’re looking at a potential dating relationship or just a friendship? Communication is key.

Fear of the Bisexual and/or Newly Out

Unfortunately, some lesbians mistrust bisexual women or women who have recently come out and don’t have a lot of experience yet. A lesbian might be afraid of being your experiment. She might worry that she’ll fall in love with you and then you’ll leave her for a man.

Some lesbians have actually had these kinds of experiences over and over, and it can leave a residue of fear and mistrust, even hostility. You don’t deserve that hostility. But if you remember that it comes from someone else’s pain, it will hurt less.

By the way, if you are just experimenting, be honest with yourself and others about that. Date responsibly, please!

A Wide Gender Spectrum within the Community

The lesbian and queer community has a wonderful array of genders. There are many, many shades and expressions of “woman,” and some within our community who have female genitals but don’t identify as women, while others have male genitals and do identify as women.

At first, the gender nuances and differences between lesbians and queer women might seem confusing, alienating, or frustrating to you. Over time, you may come to appreciate the enormous creativity and freedom with which the lesbian community understands the nuances of gender.

Final Thought

If you don’t yet know “who you are” and what you prefer, that’s normal. There is simply far less room in the heterosexual world to claim or even understand these nuances in your sense of your own gender, or the energetic, psychological, and physical dynamics you prefer in bed. You don’t have to know any more than you know right now. As you go about your new life, you will undoubtedly learn more. One of the wonderful things about engaging in lesbian/queer culture is that there is a vast and ever-changing vocabulary. The menu of identity and sexual options are available to you to try on, play with, and explore. You go, girl! Or boi. Or whatever you are, and whoever you turn out to be.

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Ruth L. Schwartz, Ph.D. is the director of the Conscious Girlfriend Academy, an intelligent, compassionate learning community for lesbians and queer women worldwide, and author of the Amazon bestseller Conscious Lesbian Dating and Love: A Roadmap to Finding the Right Partner and Creating the Relationship of Your Dreams and seven other books. Ruth has taught at many colleges and universities, and is a certified Somatica Method Sex & Intimacy coach. An out lesbian for 40 years, she is passionate about bringing life-changing dating, relationship and sexual education to empower all women and adjacent non-binary people who love women, or want to. Follow Conscious Girlfriend on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or Tiktok.

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