I’ve dated two boys. I left the first one because I had fallen in love with a girl, and the second because he abused me and made my life miserable, but that’s a story for another day. My experiences with these boys had one major thing in common – I had very little desire to actually spend time with them. I made up excuses to avoid hanging out. I spent a lot of time pulling away from kisses, and pushing their hands off of me. I dreaded being alone with them, because that would mean romance, and even worse, intimacy. Making out. Being touched. I thought that I just hated kissing, and had no desire for sex. I thought maybe I just didn’t want a relationship, and I wasn’t ready for or comfortable with any of that "dating stuff."
Then I dated a girl. I had fallen in love with multiple girls before, but they were all long distance. I thought that maybe the reason why I could love them, and not the men I dated in person, was because they were far away and therefore couldn’t hurt me. This hypothesis was debunked when I was intimate with a girl in person. I had dated her long distance, but when we met up and could be together, it was like heaven on Earth. I loved holding her hand, hugging her, kissing her. I never wanted to be apart from her. Kissing and touching didn’t make me feel gross. Getting grabbed didn’t make me feel filthy or uncomfortable. I learned that I didn’t despise or fear intimacy. In fact, I loved it. I just didn’t want it with men. When I think about dating and marriage, it sounds terrifying with men, but lovely with women. And it was then that I finally figured out why seeing heterosexual sex on TV made me uncomfortable, but gay sex was fine.
So why did I ever date boys?
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this question, and regretting my past heterosexual relationships. I have less regret now that I know why I did it. I dated them because I was a naïve, insecure teenager desperate for affection. I was a victim in a world that teaches girls their value is based on how desirable they are to men. I bought into that message, and I don’t blame myself for that. What a utopia we would be living in where young girls didn’t feel pressured to impress their male peers. Compulsory heterosexuality is one hell of a drug, one that tells people how they should live their lives, without ever leaving room for questioning. Rejecting patriarchal norms and allowing yourself to question who you are, and what you want, is one of the most powerful things you can do in a society that wants you to be complacent.
I no longer regret dating men. I don’t think I would’ve learned as much about myself if I hadn’t experienced what I did. I wouldn’t know how different it feels to be with women as opposed to men, and I might not have figured out who I am and what I want. The world of romance feels much less daunting now, and more like something I want to embrace rather than avoid.
No, I will never be a “gold-star” lesbian, but that doesn’t invalidate my identity. My life experiences are what helped me discover my identity – they don’t take away from it. Don’t think of your regrets as things that make you flawed, think of them as lessons that helped you grow into the person you are today.