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When You Realize You're a Lesbian

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I'm in a constant state of awe at my total lack of self-awareness as far as figuring out I was a lesbian. Really, how could I not have figured out I was gay before the age of 24?! I mean, I could understand if I were bi. But I'm not. I'm just gay. I'm so gay that it's hard for me to fathom how it took me so long to figure it out.

My wife is one of the lucky ones, a lifer -- that is, she's known her entire life, since she was a little tomboy trying to impress all her older sister's friends, that she was a lesbian. Before she even knew the word for it, she knew what she was. God, how I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self, "Hey, don't waste your time on him. It's his sister you really want."

I can't help but try to imagine how different my life would have been if I had known back in high school when I started dating, how smooth I'd be with women by now if instead of honing my skills on the more brutish of the species, I had spent that time sweet-talking the ladies. But seriously, had I known earlier, how different would my life have turned out?

Perhaps I wouldn't have grown up to be a "femme" lesbian. I wonder how much of my current style has been molded by my lost years in the straight world. Within the lesbian community there always seem to be labels, which is ironic for a group of women who usually protest the loudest against such things. But even still, the label "femme" was hoisted upon my shoulders shortly after coming out -- but only after I had convinced people that I wasn't bisexual, because apparently, a stereotypically feminine woman, if not straight, is probably bi. Not!

After realizing that the "type" of lesbian category I fit into was indeed "femme," I found comfort in that. At least I belonged somewhere within the community, even if it seems to be on the fringes most times, forever destined to walk by my own kind, invisible to the obviously visible of our community. Unless, of course, I happen to be holding hands with my super-gay-looking wife. I found that instantly gives me "street cred" among other lesbians.

But I can't help but wonder every once in a while how I didn't know I was gay sooner! Would that have caused me to grow up into a more stereotypical lesbian? Are late bloomers more likely to hold onto their heteronormative style even after they come out?

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 lightbulb goes off that says "Oh, I'm so gay!"?