Coming Out Information and Advice

I Think I Might Be A Lesbian

NOW What Do I Do?

Information for Young Women

Information written by lesbian youth for lesbian 
youth 
and young women questioning their sexuality

What does it mean to be a lesbian?

Lesbians are women-loving-women. We are women who 
are sexually 
attracted to other women. We are women who 
may feel emotionally 
and 
spiritually closer to women. 
We are women who prefer women as our partners.

As lesbians, we are not alone. One out of ten teenagers is lesbian or gay. 
Many famous women in history were lesbians. Lesbians are teachers, 
doctors, lawyers, factory workers, police officers, politicians, ministers, 
movie stars, artists, mothers, nuns, truck drivers, models, novelists. 
You name it, we do it. Lesbians are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, 
Native American, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist. Lesbians are 
rich, poor, working class, and middle class. Some lesbians are in 
heterosexual marriages. Some lesbians are disabled. Lesbians are 
young women and old women. You name it, we are it.

Lesbians live in cities and in the country. We are everywhere.

How do I know if I'm a lesbian?

"When I was young I always wanted to grow up and live with my 
best 
girlfriend, & that feeling never changed as I got older"
--Tammy, age 17.

"When we're really young, we have crushes on girls, but then we're 
supposed to grow out of it. We're supposed to read books about how 
girl meets boy and boy meets girl. Well, I'd never finish those books" 
-- Terryle, age 16.

During adolescence, most young women begin to be aware of sexual 
feelings and take an interest in dating. Many young women feel 
physically attracted to men. But many other young women feel 
physically attracted to other women.

You may notice that you feel turned on by other women. You may feel 
different from your girlfriends, like you don't fit in sometimes. When 
your girlfriends are checking out boys, you may find yourself checking 
out girls. Going out with boys may not interest you. You may find 
yourself wondering, "Why aren't there any men like these terrific 
women I keep meeting?"

You may also feel confused or unsure about whether or not you're a 
lesbian. Many adults will tell us that we're too young to call ourselves 
gay, or that we're going through a phase, or that we don't know what 
we're talking about. That's their way of avoiding the fact that some 
of us are lesbian youth.

You may feel confused because you're attracted to both men and 
women. That's OK. Some women have relationships with both men and
women throughout their lives. Some may later decide to be exclusively
lesbian or heterosexual. Our sexuality develops over time. 
Don't worry if you aren't sure.

Am I normal?

"We're told that it's sick, or perverted, or sinful, or abnormal. But the 
people who tell us that are the same ones who say that women belong 
in the kitchen, and that Black people are inferior, and that handicapped 
people are useless. Who's to say what's normal? Some people think 
eating raw fish is normal, and other people think it's disgusting and 
abnormal"--Terryle, age 16.

"I think we're very brave to have recognized this in ourselves and to
 have wanted to come to terms with it"--Natalie, age 18.

Yes, you are normal. It's perfectly natural for people to be attracted to
 members of their own sex. But it's not something that's encouraged in
 our society. Many people push away these feelings because of prejudice
 against gay men and lesbians.

Most scientific experts agree that a person's sexual orientation is
determined at a very young age, maybe even at birth.

It's normal and healthy to be yourself, whether you're gay or straight.
What's really important is that we learn to like ourselves.


What is it like to be young and lesbian?

"I feel very powerful, special, independent, strong, and courageous"
 -Natalie, age 18.

"It's scary sometimes. I've felt very unsure of myself. But other
 times I feel wonderful and proud"--Terryle, age 16.

There's no "right" way or "wrong" way to be a lesbian. 
Because of 
society's stereotypes about lesbians that we've all grown
up with, you 
might think you have to be a certain way if you're a lesbian.
But lesbians
 come in all shapes and sizes, from all occupations,
and 
with all levels of education. 

Your sexual orientation is only one part of who you are. You probably
 have hobbies and interests that are the same as your straight friends.

Because of homophobia and prejudice, some people don't accept
 lesbians and gay men. Lesbians and gay men suffer from discrimination
 and violence. That's why there are many gay and lesbian organizations
 that work for gay and lesbian civil rights.

"Once I accepted myself and my sexuality, I found that I became more
 involved in life with my friends because I was more comfortable
with myself"--Tammi, age 18.

"I feel down and depressed a lot because of the homophobia that I'm
 constantly up against, but then I realize that I have the power to
 educate other members of my generation"--Tammy, age 17.

Who should I tell?

"You shouldn't feel pressured to tell anyone at all until you are
comfortable with the idea of being a lesbian yourself. Be prepared 
that people's reactions will vary"--Tammi, age 18.

"Only tell someone if you feel you have enough support to face what
 may happen. Try to tell someone if you think you can't deal with these
 feelings alone anymore. If you think your family might flip out,
 tell someone who might be more impartial"--Sarah, age 19.

"When I told a couple of my friends, I told them I was no different now
than I was five minutes before I told them, except that now I wasn't
keeping a big secret from them"--Terryle, age 16.

Coming out is the process of accepting yourself as a lesbian and figuring
 out how open you want to be about your sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, not everyone you know will think that being a lesbian is
the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's hard to know who can handle
 the information and give you support. Some friends may accept you.
Some may turn away from you or tell other people without your
permission. Telling family can be very difficult. Some families are
very supportive. But some lesbian and gay youth have been kicked
out of their homes when their parents found out.

Maybe there's a guidance counselor or social worker in your school, 
or in a local youth or counseling agency, that you can trust. 
It's important to have someone to talk to because it's not normal
or 
healthy for young people to have to keep secret 
such an 
important part of their lives.

What about sex?

"First I would ask myself if I felt ready. Then I would talk to my partner
to see if she felt ready. When you decide to have sex, it feels good when
you've made the right decision. Only you can know when it is and isn't
right for you to have sex" -- Tammi, age 18.

"Just because you're turned on to someone doesn't mean you're ready
to have sex. You have to feel emotionally ready. It's important that the
two people talk about what they like and don't like. No one should have
to do something they don't want to do. There's no need to rush things.
It'll come in time" -- Terryle, age 16.

Deciding whether or not to be sexual with someone is a big decision.
You may feel very scared at the thought of having sex with another
women. That's OK. Lots of us do, especially if it's our first time.

Women aren't encouraged in our society to talk openly about sex, 
but it's important that we communicate about what we like and don't
like to do sexually, whether we feel ready to have sex or not, and 
different expectations we may have about the relationship. 
And it's 
important to talk about whether we're at risk for HIV,
the virus that is thought to cause AIDS, or other sexually 
transmitted diseases, like herpes.

There are many ways that lesbians can be sexual with each other. 
We can give each other pleasure by holding, kissing, hugging, stroking,
stimulating each other's genitals with our tongues and hands, inserting
our fingers into each other's vaginas, rubbing our bodies together to
stimulate each other, and anything else we want to do. 
We can use our imaginations!

Do I have to worry about AIDS?

All of us should know about HIV, the virus believed to be the cause of 
AIDS -- how it's transmitted and how we can prevent ourselves from
becoming infected. You and your partner should discuss your risk 
factors for HIV infection and decide what, if any, 
safer sex methods you should use.

Lesbians who are at risk are those who:

Share needles if using IV drugs. 
Have vaginal intercourse with men without using condoms. 
(It's fairly common for young lesbians to occasionally have 
sexual contact with men.) 
Have oral sex with an infected women without the use of a barrier 
to protect against infected vaginal secretions or menstrual blood. 

Safer sex for lesbians includes:

Use of a dental dam for oral-vaginal and oral-anal stimulation. 
A dental dam is a piece of latex about 5 inches square designed for
 use
in dental surgery. They are available at dental or medical supply stores. 
Use of surgical gloves when sticking your fingers into your partner's
vagina or ass, especially if you have tiny cuts or rashes on your hands.
And all the other wonderful things that lesbians do together. 

How do we learn to like ourselves?

"It's important that we don't deny our feelings. If we be who we truly
want to be in our hearts, we can be surprised at how happy we can be.
And we should think a lot about all our positive points, and being a
lesbian is very positive" -- Rebecca, age 16.

"It helps me to interact with people who make me feel happy and good 
about myself. And I try to do things I feel good about doing"
--Sarah, age 19.

All people have a right to feel good about themselves. We're all valuable
human beings. Developing self-esteem is very important for young 
people. It's hard for gay and lesbian youth to feel good about ourselves
because all around us are people who believe that we're sick, or 
perverted, or destined to live very unhappy lives.

When we feel like we have to hide who we really are, it can make us feel
like hurting ourselves, like through alcohol, drugs, or suicide. We may
feel very isolated, fearful, and depressed, especially if we've had no one
to talk to about the fact that we're lesbians.

More and more, we, as young lesbians, are learning to like who we are. 
It helps to read good books about lesbians -- books that have accurate 
information in them and that are written about lesbians who are leading 
very fulfilling lives. It also helps to meet other lesbians because then we 
find out that lesbians are as diverse as any other group of people and 
that we've been told a lot of lies by our society.

It can help to say to yourself every day, "I'm a lesbian and I'm OK." 
And try to find someone to talk to who also believes that lesbians are 
OK. Remember: it's normal and natural to be a lesbian, just like it's
normal and natural for some people to be heterosexual.

How can I meet other lesbians?

"There are many lesbians around you, but you don't know they're 
lesbians, just as they don't know that you're a lesbian. Don't lose hope.
You'll eventually meet some" -- Sarah, age 19.

Make contact with local feminist organizations like the National 
Organization for Women (NOW). 
Many colleges and universities have
campus gay, lesbian, and feminist organizations. 
Check your phone 
book for a local hotline and ask for the gay and lesbian organizations in
 your area. There might even be a gay/lesbian youth group in your area. 
Look for a gay/lesbian or feminist newspaper in your area. 
Check local bookstores, health food stores, and gay bars for copies. 


Helpful Resources and Information


Counselling Directory  

''Connecting you with professional 

support''


Telephone: 0844 8030 240 (Lo-call rate 5p a minute from BT Landlines) 


E-mail: jennifer@counselling-directory.org.uk


Website: www.counselling-directory.org.uk




Life Coach Directory  

''Connecting you with professional 

support''


Telephone: 0844 8030 235 

(Lo-call rate 5p a minute from BT Landlines) 



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