The author, Dominique Cowling

A personal story about love, labels, and lesbian life.

It’s common knowledge that your mid-twenties are riddled with life lessons, like the realization that college wasn’t true independence, adult life is way less exciting, or even that sexuality is more fluid than we had been conditioned to believe. I’m here at 25 to share and attest that my perspective on sexual orientation has been directly challenged, as I am happily in a relationship with an incredible woman.

My choice of a same-sex partner has led me to embark on a journey this has brought unique experiences from my psyche and social circle. As my friends and family embrace my new relationship, I’ve become aware of the new identity their mind has adopted for me. “My friend became a lesbian” or “Oh, you swing that way” are phrases I have commonly heard.

Although I take no offence to these comments, the context assumes I have left a life I once lived. What I believed was normal was considered a “transition” to others. I guess I became a snake that shed new skin and arose as a fabulous lesbian now? I don’t feel any different just because I am romantically involved with a woman. I still react to situations according to my emotions, wear my bright red lipstick and short shorts, and become feisty when I want to be. I have felt more pressure to redefine my sexuality and question my 25 years of life from the outside world than my girlfriend or myself.

My journey of understanding sexuality goes back to high school, when women in same-sex relationships were considered “experimental.” I quickly learned that a man’s presence has always defined a relationship’s validity. On a personal account, gender roles and expectations within same-sex relationships confuse people more than anything else. A conversation with a friend of mine ended in, “So, who takes on the role of the man?” Nobody prepared or adequately trained me for the curious questions that would ensue within this new paradigm.

So as any emerging lesbian would do, I assumed the next step would be to go through the labels I should consider: lesbian, femme, bisexual, or queer, but those soul-searching sessions always ended in a headache. As human beings, there is a tendency to categorize others, but receiving those labels can be as comforting as a wool blanket. Yet, there is also a sense of pride in brands, a feeling of community we all crave so deeply. Does that mean I don’t fit in anymore? I’m not entirely straight, so do I get a warm embrace from the LGBTQ community? The questions stir as to where I fall within the continuum.

Somebody asked me what my sexual orientation was. I said it depended on who I was in love with.”

Learning more about the LGBTQ community and self-proclaimed identities, I began thinking about the fluidity of sexuality. My relationship meant I was flowing through a continuum from heterosexual to homosexual. Our culture dismisses the idea that sexuality is fluid. Although outdated, the Kinsey Scale 1948 described that: “[People] do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black, nor all things white… The living world is a continuum in every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behaviour, the sooner we reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” (Kinsey et al., 1948, pp. 639)

The interaction between sexual attraction, sexual behaviour and sexual identity has been discussed. When I asked my girlfriend what she would like me to define myself as, her response was,” Whatever you feel comfortable with.” This gave me a sense of empowerment and the feeling that I could provide my identity. Queer love spirit of colour seems accurate enough, but who knows what it may be as I continue my life journey. Is it taboo to think that just as our interests change and develop throughout our lifespan, so does our sexual orientation? Some may think I’m confused, but all I know is that exploring my sexuality has led me to a healthy relationship built upon support, respect, love and excitement- something I may have missed out on if I had stayed within society’s rigid walls of gender/sexuality expectations and boundaries.