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When You Realize You're a Lesbian

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The coming-out process can be an overwhelming experience. It is most definitely an emotional rollercoaster as one goes through the self-realization that they are gay all the way to admitting it to the world. But how much of the 'when you come out' affects how you identify within the gay community?

A researcher from the University of Utah, Lisa Diamond has been studying whether or not a woman's sexuality is fluid or not throughout her lifetime -- resulting in the recently publicized term, "late-life lesbians." Referring to women who had led a straight life for the first half of their existence, usually including a husband and children. But then, after a divorce or death of their spouse, they found themselves being attracted to women. A completely new experience for them, these were not closeted gay women, but women whose sexuality seemed to shift throughout their life.

I had written about the topic, 'When you realize you're a lesbian' a few years ago and it has garnered comments and coming out stories from hundreds of women. My question then and still, is does the age at which you come out have any affect on how you identify within the gay and lesbian community?

From a purely personal observation in my life, I have noticed that my lesbian friends that are what I call, lifers, because they always knew that they were gay; they seem to be more on the androgynous-to-butch scale of the lesbian world. That is to say, they look gay. But other girls, including myself, that took a bit longer to realize our sexuality, are more feminine -- both in looks and mannerisms, and even being drawn more into the butch/femme dynamic in their romantic lives.

One could draw the connection between living life as a supposed straight woman for a longer amount of time, helped to form our sense of identity from our appearance to our mannerisms. So that when we finally realized that we were gay, we had already molded ourselves to fit societies' idea of what a feminine woman should be. Likewise, a girl that knew early in her life that she was different or gay, would never have subjected herself to societies norms of what she was supposed to be. But instead set out early on, to embody and fully represent her otherness.

I wonder if so-called late-life lesbians tend to be more femme? What do you think? Does knowing you're gay early in life affect what type of lesbian you're going to end up being? Or is a butch a butch and a femme a femme no matter when the proverbial light bulb goes off? I wonder if this has any parallels within gay male society? I would love to hear your thoughts.