Written by Makeba Tsibu
When I realized I was a lesbian, it felt like coming home for the first time. I originally identified as bisexual for many years, but as I got older, I began to start questioning. Even when I was bisexual, my attraction to men was super low. After years of going back and forth, I realized I only had love for women. I felt ecstatic, finally I had an answer to the question on my mind. It felt like I could finally breathe again. After a long journey, I felt like I had finally found my way home. Then I noticed while in my new home, it felt rather lonely at times.
Loneliness was a feeling that I was used to. Growing up as an only child, I had to learn how to have fun by myself because I was usually by myself. My family was usually arguing so I was more or less raising myself. In school, I kept a small group of friends, but that didn’t stop the feeling of loneliness I carried with me. When I became older and came out as a lesbian, I was hoping for an end to the lonely feeling I had. I was eager to connect with other lesbians, make friends and learn from them. The hard part was, I didn’t know how to start.
I had read about lesbian bars in the 70s and 80s and how many women found lovers and friends there. Unfortunately, a lot of lesbian bars in the US are no longer available, so my next best move was dating apps. I started with the dumpster fire that is Tinder. I was about 18 and testing out the site trying to see if I could find new people. The first girl I matched with immediately tried to get me into a threesome with her and her boyfriend. Then I matched with someone who was trying to start a threesome with me, her, and her fiance. Getting older, I was able to form connections with other people, but being a shy person, I didn’t always know how to navigate those connections. Especially when it came to dating, I felt like a baby giraffe wandering into a battle. But with my first dip into dating apps, I was mainly met with people trying to rope me into threesomes. Needless to say, it felt disappointing.
The loneliness I felt as a lesbian even trickled into my work life. Briefly I worked in a sex shop that was in the middle of LGBTQ neighborhood of my city. In this store we catered to every customer, but the advertising and overall vibe was undoubtedly heterosexual. Me and my friends would always joke about how the in store commercials catered to straight people even though the store was in the middle of the LGBTQ neighborhood. The in store commercials would gush over “helping women find the secrets to drive him crazy”, and “ladies here’s how you can get his passion back.” There would be constant retail commercials that also quietly left out anyone that wasn’t straight and cisgender. Even in terms of the sex toys itself, the store was split with women’s toys taking up most of the space, a section devoted to gay men and a small section in the back devoted to lesbians. The section was so small that whenever we got new toys, we had to find a way to cram it into the 3×3 corner. The collection consisted of strap-ons, three skin shades of dildos (light, medium, and dark), and a couple sizes of harnesses, one size fits all and one size fits all XL. We had some dildos that displayed the rainbow flag for pride, but we weren’t able to get the trans flag, lesbian flag, or bisexual flag that was included in the full collection. Even with strap-ons being seen as the classic toy for lesbians, they would still be marketed with a heterosexual spin. One strap-on kit featured a hollow strap-on and harness and on the side of the box was a picture of a man and a woman. The idea of this kit was for men with small penises to use the harness to quote, “give your wife the pounding she deserves.” It felt strange and alien for a toy popularly used by lesbians to be rebranded for a heterosexual purpose. Whenever gay women would come to the store asking for strap-ons it would always be awkward as i showed them the small corner of toys and they would ask, “Is this all there is?” As I did my rounds in the store and saw the plethora of other toys and then came back to the tiny little section in the corner, it just felt like lesbians were treated as an afterthought. The store overall was supposed to cater to couples and bring the love back to relationships, it just felt like even for a sex shop in the middle of an LGBTQ neighborhood, lesbians were stuck in the back corner.
Once I came out, I wanted to be where the lesbians were. I felt like I was stuck in a hole, isolated from everyone else. It felt like I was not able to be accepted and I just felt isolated from other people. As time went on, I sank deeper into the loneliness of it. Whether on dating apps, school, or work, I felt like the odd one out for being one of the only lesbians in the room. Lesbian loneliness has been experienced by many other people. When I asked some of my friends how they experienced it, they mentioned that it is a true feeling of loneliness. One of my friends mentioned how lesbian loneliness is the combonation of homophobia and living in a heterosexual society. Basically, since everything in society is geared towards heterosexual and cisgender people, anyone who does not fit that mold is alienated. I remember being a kid and listening to my friends gush about the boys they had a crush on and I wasn’t able to relate. I think about times I would try to flirt with a girl I like and I would constantly be scared that I was doing something wrong. After a certain point, I felt more enveloped by the depression and loneliness I was feeling and I didn’t know how I was going to escape it.
Eventually I found a way to escape the loneliness. A few summers ago, I got very interested in poetry. I started reading poetry from LGBTQ writers and stories from lesbian writers. The words that they spilled on the page helped me to feel less alone. Then I read stories by lesbian authors and everything clicked into the place. Reading their words made me feel seen and made me feel like there was a place for me out there. I soon got inspired to get out of my comfort zone. I spent a lot of my time worried and feeling alone. But I got inspired by the poetry and stories of those before me. I could form the connections and build the community that I wanted. I just had to take the first chance. I left my house and went to search for where the lesbians are.
I ventured out and became friends with other lesbians and bisexual women, through work and even going back to dating apps. Finding friends that were also gay women helped me to close the gap that I had been feeling in my spirit. I was able to connect with them and realize that we had a lot of shared experiences. We were able to talk about the loneliness, the awkwardness of trying to navigate dating in a heterosexual dominated world, the joy of loving other women. I finally felt the loneliness leave me. Building the right friend group is what helped me to come out of my shell in the end. I had found the comfort and safety I was looking for and the house that originally felt lonely, finally felt like home.