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3 LGBTQ Women Share What It’s Like To Come Out In Your Mid-20s And Later

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TinderEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #AllTypesAllSwipes, by Tinder and Youth Ki Awaaz to celebrate Transgender Awareness Week. Tinder now supports more ways to express gender identity by giving users the ability to add information about their gender outside the binary. Share your experiences of love, dating and authenticity here.

Now they’re comfortable in their sexual identity and navigating the dating world.

The average LGBT adult cites 12 as the age at which they confronted the first inkling that they might not be strictly heterosexual. It took an average of eight more years for them to disclose their sexuality to a close friend or family member.

For a variety of reasons, these women waited longer.

Their journeys speak for themselves.

Emilie, 28, Came Out As A Lesbian This Year

I officially came out as a lesbian earlier this year [2018], though I didn’t claim to be straight before. I just ended up being with men more frequently. I knew I was attracted to the same sex as a child. I first tried to come out as a lesbian in high school, but was told that I ‘couldn’t be a lesbian’ because I had dated boys, and I didn’t fit the idea of what a lesbian is supposed to ‘look like.’ It was really confusing. I think I was also desperate to be “normal,” since I have struggled with mental illness since childhood.  

I had some short-term relationships with men that were predominantly bad experiences, using sex as self-harm and self-harming after sex on my part. [There was] emotional manipulation on their part. My most recent ex, also a man, asked me out and we ended up staying together for around eight years. During this time, we had some great times [and] lots of fun; we were best friends! I would cry to him about my same sex attraction, and tell him how much I wished I could make it go away.

[Now that I’ve come out], dating is hard! I think my location has a lot to do with it. The lesbian [and women-loving-women] dating pool in Cincinnati, Ohio is so small. Although I feel a lot more enthusiastic about seeking out female partners than I ever did dating men. Online and in-person lesbian communities and individuals have been so, so welcoming. I don’t think it has been particularly difficult to navigate dating as someone who came out later, apart from my own insecurities. I have generally felt accepted, and it is a lot more enjoyable to be able to enthusiastically, authentically express romantic and sexual desire. It’s never too late! Be true to yourself, be who you really are. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Chelsea, 30, Came Out As Bisexual Thanksgiving Of 2017

I’ve considered myself bisexual since college but I haven’t necessarily been ‘out’ until last Thanksgiving of 2017 when I came out to my mom. She said that she had always figured as much and that she was happy that I was exploring. Honestly, I think I’ve had queer thoughts since late night viewings of ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ as a child. I knew what ‘gay’ was very young but I didn’t have a word for it yet. Later, during puberty, I somehow got the message that ‘gay’ was legitimate, but ‘bi’ was selfish and pretending. So I had a kind of internalized biphobia for much of my teen years.

Being single used to give me a lot of anxiety. Being black and somewhat ‘alternative’ in a dating pool rife with cis white maledom makes dating feel like an obstacle. I feel that I’m either constantly fetishized or deeply misunderstood. I’ve rarely been in [committed] relationships that last over six months. Since high school, my heterosexual relationships were almost always a product of proximity, convenience and even desperation. The last of which, before I came out, I found myself living in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone who would regularly threaten my life. Heterosexuality had become compulsory, perfunctory and performative. You can chalk a lot of evil in this world up to toxic masculinity. I’m thankful because I have a spectrum of experience that has lead me to understand that my attraction to women is not strictly lesbianism. Before coming out, a series of confusing experiences occurred while testing the boundaries of my sexuality. At some point in my life, couples approaching me for threesomes was a regular thing. I’ve had a successful sexual experience with a couple, but that dynamic wasn’t right for me.

I have less anxiety about being single [now]. I attribute a lot of that to coming out as it’s allowed me to be open and honest with myself about what I need. I no longer base my expectations around a binary belief system. Moving to a city with a larger queer scene [in Seattle] prompted me to come out. The first woman I dated here actually picked me out of a crowd at a show […]. While our relationship never got off the ground, our friendship is still strong and has lead to meeting lots of other amazing queer people. A bigger city means more options on ‘the apps’ and more opportunities to meet people in the real world. I’m currently only seeking out women, but I’m still open to dating men, but ideally, queer men. Coming out has opened up a whole spectrum of love in me — love for myself and my loved ones.

Suzanne, 25, Came Out As A Lesbian This Year

I came out ‘officially’ in February of this year, but it’s not clean cut at all. I’ve had a lot of false starts and then when it got too real or didn’t seem safe, I swung hard in the other direction [back to heterosexuality]. I’ve always had sexual and romantic relationships with women. Even in kindergarten, I had this friend and we would kiss at sleepovers and play pretend that we were married. I did a lot of mental gymnastics to try and make heterosexuality work for me. I’ve also used hetero sex as a way to self-harm. I’m not entirely sure where I fall on the Kinsey scale or if it’s changed as I’ve gotten older. I do not want sex or romance with men, but I used to think that I did.

I did a lot of hard bondage, and I think a big part of that was me trying to turn heterosexual sex into something else. Like there was a point in high school where I re-skinned all of my [women-loving-women] sexual fantasies with men. And then when sex with men in real life didn’t feel like that, I started pursuing pain instead of sexual pleasure, because the pain was going to be there anyway. I’ve cried constantly in every heterosexual relationship I’ve ever been in. I’ve spent a lot of time with people who either could not tell I wasn’t present during sex or enjoyed that I wasn’t present. And I think that’s caused a lot of hurt; mostly to me, but also to my partners. I’ve definitely had some wild experiences that I don’t regret, and I’ve definitely loved the people I’ve been with — just not in the way I know I can love a woman.

It’s a wholly different kind of connection. Lesbian dating is so slow compared to hetero dating. Like if I decided I was looking for sex, with guys, I could swipe someone new, match, chat and meet up tonight. You can’t really do that with girls for all sorts of reasons. It’s also a smaller pool of people even in Los Angeles. But there’s something kind of fun about that. As far as timing goes, here I am at 25, jumping into sex and relationship mistakes people make as a teen. I mean, I’ve had sex with women but I’ve never been in a lesbian relationship. But! Lots of people come out at 25 or even later. If you’re crying a whole bunch in your hetero relationships, maybe there’s a reason and that reason is you’re gay. Burn down your life and be a dyke (when you’re ready).

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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