During an intense relationship with your best friend in your mid-20s, these questions about your sexuality will come flooding back. You’ll move to London and meet some amazingly unashamed queer people. A lightbulb will switch on in your head. You’ll remember the times you had feelings for girls but swatted them away out of your brain, like a pesky fly. This time though, this feeling won’t go away. The only thing you can do is tell your boyfriend. His reaction will be hurtful, but you’ll come to learn this is down to his insecurities. It’s not because who you are is wrong.
This – among other things – will spell the end of the most important relationship of your life so far. You’ll feel you can’t go on not knowing this other part of yourself. That doesn’t make you selfish. When you end it, you’ll immediately know you’ve done the right thing.
After sleeping with men for so long, having sex with women will feel daunting – like you’re back in that single bed, staring at the ceiling all over again. But you’ll meet someone who doesn’t care that you’re only just figuring it out. She’ll tell you there’s no ‘one way’ to come out, that your experience is no less valid than someone who always knew they were not straight.
You’ll come to realise your sex education knowledge has some serious gaps. Thanks to a heteronormative curriculum, you know nothing about the STI risks you face when you sleep with women.
Even your girlfriend, who’s been an out lesbian for years, won’t really know. Her school missed that part out, too. Together you’ll work it out, relying on your own research to pick up where the lessons left off.
Best of all, you’ll enjoy sex more than you ever have. With no penis involved, you’ll figure out between you what constitutes sex. This’ll change every time you do it, and will depend on how you feel in the moment. There’ll be no set menu to follow, which will mean your sex life is varied and exciting. You’ll no longer believe sex only counts when penetration is involved. And you’ll even come to enjoy a bit of that, if done right and gently with someone you trust.
Above everything, I want you to trust your instincts. Forget what other people think about your sexuality, you know yourself best. You won’t be able to rely on mainstream sex education to really understand pleasure, so you’ll have to figure that out on your own. Most of all, please know sex is meant to be fun and enjoyable. Any experiences that don’t live up to that aren’t worth having.
An older – and much more at peace – Paisley