I love who I love: What the word “lesbian” means to me

 We’re going to the NOH8 photoshoot in Baltimore tonight and I am SO excited! This is one of my favorite campaigns and I’m thrilled to finally be able to participate. 

These are our friends Jo & Jaimee posing for NOH8 last year… hot right?

This got me thinking about my own sexual identity and what makes me (or anyone) a lesbian. I came out 9 years ago when my wife, Rose, and I started dating. She is the only woman I have ever been with – and we were just kids at the time! So we really shared our journeys out of the closet and into lesbian adulthood together.

We were in high school when we first met in theater and became fast friends

When I started telling people about my relationship with Rose, I had many of my friends and family ask if I considered myself a lesbian now – often in a sarcastic way. I was a crazy intense Catholic at the time, so I was battling with my own internal guilt and really had no idea what to call myself – or if I even wanted to. I was afraid to give myself a label, because of what it might mean. I had my own stereotypes built up about gay people, and I just wasn’t ready to consider myself one of “them.” Although I loved Rose, I was scared that I would never have the option to go back to being normal (whatever that even means).

And even after I was sure that my attraction to a woman wasn’t simply experimental (remember, I had Catholic upbringing and was extremely jaded about what made someone gay), I was still hesitant to use the word lesbian, not only because of my own reservations, but also because of how I thought other people might react. I didn’t want to be forced into a box. I was afraid that it would make my parents even more ashamed of me. Most of my friends were also conservative (or at least so I thought) and I worried that they’d look at me differently if I fully identified as gay.

Now I know that labeling myself as a lesbian is empowering.

I never really had much interest in boys growing up. I knew I was supposed to occupy my time with crushes, so I’d often just pick a boy I thought was cute or nice and focus on him. I only had one boyfriend in high school and one in college – both lasted for about a month. But because I have only really had a serious relationship with a woman, I guess you could ask how I am sure of my sexual identity. Well, I’m not. And who cares?

You fall in love with the person, not the gender. Everyone has a certain type that they are drawn to – brunettes, tall, outgoing – and I think that gender is part of this. Anyone that says that they can’t tell if someone of the same sex is good looking is lying – perhaps even to themselves.

So, yes, I’ve seen plenty of women I find attractive… and I’ve also seen plenty of men. Does this make me bisexual? Maybe it does. But does that really matter? If I weren’t with Rose, would I date other women? Probably. But I can’t really say for sure. I plan to be with a woman for the rest of my life, so I’d say that definitely makes me a lesbian. And I’m damn proud of this label, because it expresses my commitment to my partner, my identity as a woman, and my plans for the future. I use it intentionally now, even when I know it might make someone uncomfortable – because that is their problem and not mine. I know who I am and I know who I love. End of story.

Together over 9 years and going strong!