Posted February 14, 2021 by Zoe Stoller

How I Knew I Was LGBTQ+

How I Knew I Was LGBTQ+

My story of discovering my lesbian and genderfluid identities


Some people know their LGBTQ+ identities from an early age. They go through their lives being able to recognize who they’re attracted to — as well as who they are as a person.


That was not the case for me.


I was assigned female at birth, and I saw pretty quickly that the narrative for girls fixated on being with men. Having boyfriends, finding your knight in shining armor, getting married, reproducing…


I wanted to be “normal” so I forced myself into that narrative. I believed myself to be a cisgender straight woman, and so I started dating men — not realizing that I was experiencing a complete lack of attraction in the ways society had promised me.


(I wrongly assumed that the nothingness I felt was attraction — which only served to convolute my sense of self even further).


I didn’t know that I was gay until I was 20 years old. This was six years after I started dating boys and had come to deeply dislike myself because I thought there was something wrong with me for not experiencing good sex and romance.


I had gotten slight hints of my identity before this (particularly when my high school boyfriend asked if I’d ever kiss a woman — and without hesitating, I gave a resounding yes!), but I’d just assumed I was bisexual, or that every cis/straight woman wants to be with other women occasionally.


But, as they say, hindsight is 2020 — and looking back now, I can see so many signs that I was attracted to women, and not at all to men.


For example, in my early teens, I became obsessed with Uma Thurman after watching the movie GATTACA. So much so that I rewatched it constantly, and I made a collage of Uma Thurman the background of my computer! (But I had no idea this meant I had a crush on her!)


Additionally, at the all-girls school I attended for 13 years (kindergarten through 12th grade), I consistently felt this desire and pull to look at my classmates’ boobs (so gay!) — and I actually remember wondering at one point how every other girl was able to keep their eyes from wandering in this way!


(Spoiler, not every girl needed to prevent herself from staring at the female form because not every girl was gay like me!)


I first started getting real insights into my attraction to women once I got to college — especially after watching the movie The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and finally realizing that men (i.e. shirtless Chris Hemsworth) did absolutely nothing for me, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of women (in this case, Jessica Chastain…)⠀


I was still with men for a bit after this, and then I went on a 6-month sex/relationship detox (which was partially due to being sexually assaulted around this time, and developing a painful vaginal disorder called vulvodynia — but that’s another story).


But once I felt comfortable being with someone again, I decided to take a deep look inside of myself and decide who it is I was really attracted to. And it was undeniable at that point that I wanted to be with women.⠀


After this, I came out to the world pretty quickly as a lesbian. I had spent so long trying to live life according to “societal norms,” and I was so so ready to live life for myself (and finally be in a relationship with someone I felt attracted to).⠀


But of course, the story doesn’t end there — unbeknownst to me, I would soon embark on a journey to discover the next part of my identity: my gender.


About 3 months after I came out as gay, I woke up one day and suddenly did not feel like a woman. I wasn’t ultra familiar with the term non-binary yet, so I didn’t connect myself to that experience, but I could understand so strongly that I was feeling like neither a man nor a woman.


And that absolutely confused and terrified me.


After all, if I was not a woman, would that negate my having just come out as a lesbian? Would I not be allowed in the same female-occupied spaces as I once was? Would I have to leave the wonderful lesbian community I’d found in order to live as my authentic gender?


But then, as soon my feelings of not being a woman came on, they disappeared — and suddenly I felt like a woman again.


This brought up a whole new host of questions: was I making up my experience of not feeling like a woman? Was I going crazy? Was I just trying to be “special?”


My fear of all of these questions and uncertainties led me to avoid confronting my identity. Instead, I pushed all the thoughts down for a while — 3 years to be exact — and lived my life as a cis lesbian woman.


But, of course, you can only ignore who you are for so long.


Over time, it became so painful to not deal with a part of myself that so clearly was important and wanted to come out. And I deeply felt like I was doing a disservice to myself for not allowing myself to be true to my identity in this way.


So, after 3 years of convincing myself I was just a cis woman, at the age of 24, I decided to do some research about gender. I read a lot of articles and personal stories by non-cis people, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos by trans creators.


And while it took me a few months of this research to have a better understanding of gender (which makes sense because is much more open, vast, and free than we were taught to believe!), I ultimately discovered that I was not going crazy; rather, I was experiencing being genderfluid — having a gender that shifts and changes over time.


I had absolutely no clue prior to this research that it was possible for gender to shift and change, and that there were so many identities within the umbrella of genderfluidity.


And what I also learned was that it’s possible to be a lesbian who doesn’t wholly identify with womanhood! Non-binary lesbians exist in multitudes, and my sexuality didn’t need to be such a barrier in discovering my gender identity.


But now that I know these two incredibly important aspects myself — my LGBTQ+ identities — I’ve committed to not ignoring any other aspects of my identity that may pop up along the way.


I am so proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community, even though it took me many years to discover these parts of myself.


Because the truth is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes a person to figure themselves out — what matters is that each person is living a life that feels happy and authentic to them. 

Written by Zoe Stoller.


About the author

Zoe Stoller
Writer | Website

Zoe Stoller (she/they) is a professional writer and digital marketer based in Philadelphia. She is passionate about sharing education and motivation about the LGBTQ+ and mental health communities, and her goal is to inspire others to be their fullest, most authentic selves. She is a recent Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and in her spare time, she loves to read and write poetry.
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Zoe Stoller

Zoe Stoller | Digital Creator | United States

Zoe Stoller is a professional digital creator based in New York City. Visit her site to see her portfolio + learn how to partner with her!


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