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Confused. Would any helpful feminist be able to advise me?

(14 Posts)
thanksforthatinformation Mon 26-Nov-18 13:03:04

I don't really know if this is the place to ask, but I'd need some help from women who know about centering females.

Background: Not been in a relationship for over a decade, because I have mental health issues and thought I would "sort myself out" before venturing into partnering up territory. Long story short, I've realized that the project of getting myself into "perfect shape" mentally is completely unattainable but that I would like to find a person to share my life with at some point. I've dated only men in the past, but have always felt more comfortable around women. Recently, a few people around me have hinted that they think I might be a closeted lesbian. It sounds idiotic, but it's not something I had even given myself permission to really consider before... Now I wonder if they're actually onto something, because on reflection I think I would rather be with a woman than with a man. However, I can't be sure. I've never done anything romantically with a woman, and would not know where to start. I've have pretty intense feelings towards my female friends at times, but always thought that was just normal. I would not want to risk using another woman to "work out" my own situation regarding my orientation, as that seems exploitative and wrong. Especially as I could just be a mentally unwell heterosexual who is being ridiculous.

I basically feel silly and confused.

Would anyone be able to give me any advice what to do with this, preferably from a genuinely feminist perspective?

Thank you and very sorry to be so awkward blush

KataraJean Sat 01-Dec-18 07:43:01

In truth, I honestly have no idea!

I guess my starting point for all relationship scenarios would be what you like and enjoy doing? So look after your own needs first because if you put yourself in situations where you will meet like-minded people for your hobbies or things you enjoy, that is a good starting point. So first off, get out and meet people without dating in mind or the sex of the person.

In terms of the sexual orientation part of your question, I think it is probably a question of being open and honest if you do meet a woman you like who is interested in you. Say exactly what you have said here. Make sure you have good boundaries (only do things you are comfortable with) and respect hers. Take it one step at a time. I think if you are open, honest and respectful, you are not going to ‘use’ someone. You are more likely to do that if you pretend you know what you are doing.

I have been single for quite a while now and I have to say after my experiences with men, I would not know where to start in a heterosexual relationship either. Ideally, slowly and gently by getting to know the person, not feeling rushed, and being respected and respecting the other person. At this point, it still freaks me out a bit, the very idea.

I am not sure if the mental health part of your question matters a huge amount if you have appropriate treatment and are functioning. One in four people suffers some kind of mental illness, so it hardly makes you a pariah. I think you are right not to wait until you feel completely sorted, very few people are!

recently Sat 01-Dec-18 07:47:58

Well being lesbian is also about sex so I think you should think about what attracts you physically. I have also been told that I am probably a lesbian - I love the company of women but I can honestly say I have never fancied one.

thanksforthatinformation Sat 01-Dec-18 23:29:47

Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. KataraJean you have given me such helpful advice. I appreciate it.
I get anxious around new people, am not declaring anything as fact, cannot understand modern "dating", have been emotionally/sexually dysfunctional in past relationships, and don't have any friends I can talk about this with. I feel pretty lost, so I thought: when in doubt, ask a feminist.

KataraJean Sun 02-Dec-18 06:20:24

flowers have you been emotionally or sexually dysfunctional in previous relationships, though? Or have you been told that, or had someone whose emotional register doesn’t match yours, ditto their libido. There are so many expectations on women to do the emotional labour and to be good in bed or whatever, rather than just be ourselves, if you have a partner who is going to pick at your flaws rather than accept you and work with who you are, or you have not been really that into him, it will lead to dysfunction. You do not need to answer that on here of course, but it is worth reflecting on. It takes two to tango and all that.

I am not sure I could understand modern dating either, but then how much has it changed? I mean, if you discount online dating, which I would not touch with a barge pole myself at the moment (way too vulnerable), surely it is still a case of going for coffee or out with a person to see how you get on?

thanksforthatinformation Sun 02-Dec-18 22:02:24

Thank you KataraJean, I am so touched by your kindness. I think it's a case of re-analysing my relationships with a lens of "what do I actually want?"
I believe I have always approached relationships as how to be available if any man would want me. Then if they did then that was good enough for me. It was a way of being validated, somehow, in the eyes of myself, my family and friendship groups. In terms of sex, this was the same. Sex to me meant that if he got enough pleasure, then that must be "correct"... I am now starting to think that perhaps the reason I have been SO disinterested in bringing another man into my life for so long is because I was just playing along with some very strong social cues and being unable to engage with what I want. All I have to go on is that if I really think about my future, I am much more hopeful and happy when thinking about the prospect of sharing time with a woman than with a man.
However, I have so many other things going on, including mental health issues. Additionally, the feminist in me has a really strong aversion to "this narrative might fit so therefore that's correct." I don't want to make any quick judgments. I am incredibly against many arguments about people being "born in the wrong body", or intrude on labels that aren't mine, or step on anyone's toes, or stuff around cultural appropriation etc...
In any case, KataraJean you are correct. It should just happen organically between people who might find each other interesting. I think I just worry about things, and don't want to be a total dickhead.
But thank you again. I will be thinking about this conversation for some time. flowers

KataraJean Mon 03-Dec-18 21:23:07

I totally get what you are saying about trying to please rather than be pleased, it has taken me three decades and serious therapy to realise I can say no (I got that bit in principle rather than practice) and I should expect to have it listened to (I did not get that bit) and if someone did not listen, they were not good for me (rather than there was something wrong with me for not being able to deal with it).

I think it is emotionally healthy and sensible to reflect on where you are now and what you are feeling about going forward, and it does not sound to me like you are rushing to appropriate any kind of identity. More like trying to be the person you feel comfortable being; with (eventually) the person you want to be with. Women are so strongly socialised with (heterosexual) romantic ideals, where we are passive people pleasers, so even just getting to the stage of thinking - what do I want? - is very important. I do not think you come across as a dickhead at all. Fools go rushing in and you are going slowly and carefully, I think.

I have not ruled out a relationship, I think I have just placed it so far in the future it is not currently a threat, if that makes sense, plus I have too much on my plate right now. But I do see my older self with a soul mate who is male, rather than female, so I would certainly place some weight on who you see yourself with in the long run.

thanksforthatinformation Fri 07-Dec-18 01:03:07

Thank you again KataraJean flowers
I cannot express to you how helpful you've been. I think I've a very complex relationship to this question, but I think if I REALLY consider it, I really do want to be with a woman long-term. I just don't know how to test this idea out in a way that feels "feminist" or "correct." I really do not want to idealize anything, or join a community where I don't belong.
And I certainly cannot engage with mainstream LGBT+ spaces because I am very much gender-critical and wrong in all sorts of ways.
In any case, thank you. I've much food for thought.

Shriek Fri 07-Dec-18 01:10:10

Why would feminist know anymore about this than any other women? Just wondering why you have restricted tour audience to feminists - bit hmm that feminists only very often referred to by mysogynists as lesbians!!

Don't you think you would have actually been sexually attracted to women if you were sexually attracted to women.

Is it something you feel you want to try, as it sounds like you are doing it because others say they know you better than you know yourself?

KataraJean Fri 07-Dec-18 07:27:27

Shriek I do not think it is a case of a feminist knowing more about this, but more looking at the question from a feminist perspective. And not necessarily wanting to put the question on the main and much more trafficked boards.

thanksforthat I am not sure there is an easy answer aside from get out and about doing things you enjoy. I do not know much about the LGBT community because the people I know who are gay or lesbian I know as individuals or couples in my social circle. I think at least some of them fall into gender critical but keeping their own counsel on it for the same reason that many women keep silent in day to day life.
On the other hand, if you are out as GC, and attend events, it is as good a way as any to meet people.

Anyway, I think make sure your own foundations are as strong as they can be and get out and do things you enjoy. Sometimes with mental health issues that itself is a challenge and it will build your confidence.

The other thing I think (tentatively) is that you are assuming lesbian woman have always been secure in their identity and known what they want. I do not know if that necessarily holds true - I remember a friend of mine had a long relationship with a woman who came out after having been married. I think the path of exploration may be more common than you think. Just be true to yourself, respect your potential partner and seek respect?

Anyway, I am glad to have been of some help. The whole question of how to meet people (regardless of their sex) is one I need to broach myself at some point in the next decade if I am not going to be on my own forever. But right now I am working on building my own confidence and just doing things I like.

Shriek Fri 07-Dec-18 21:55:17

Oh I see, yes, I can understand wanting to avoid the high traffic and possibly harsher view.

A 'feminists' view of lesbianism? Curious. What would a feminists view be?

thanksforthatinformation Fri 07-Dec-18 23:44:44

I actually don't really want a feminist's view of lesbianism or to get into any arguments... All I know is that MN feminists give very good woman-focused advice and support. I felt very alone with these thoughts, so was hoping someone might talk to me in a somewhat safe-ish environment, with an opinion I trust would come from a place of putting females first.

As far as my own sexual desires go, it's complicated. Figuring out who I actually am is proving very hard. Almost like only other people get to pursue what they want, not me. Even typing this out feels like I am doing something I really shouldn't be allowed to do. blush Sorry.

KataraJean, again, your posts have given me much comfort.
I think you are right about just doing things I enjoy, take things one step at a time, and try to be respectful. You sound like a really lovely person, so I hope you meet someone brilliant.

Shriek Sat 08-Dec-18 03:13:21

Completely get what you are saying g Thanks yes, and I can see why you would post here for a woman front and center approach.

II am sad to hear of your feelings of not being able to put yourself in that front and center position in your life, feeling like you are doing something wrong.

It's great you've felt its time to say this,to ask and explore for yourself. You have made great steps forward in the right direction!

Good wishes in your endeavours!

paffuto Mon 10-Dec-18 22:02:43

thanks could you possibly be bi? If so, nothing wrong with that either. brew

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