No More Celibacy
I'm a woman in my forties and have always considered myself bisexual, but I've never really explored relationships with women. After my last heartbreaking relationship with a man, I was celibate for five years. Recently, I took up a casual connection with a man, but found that I'm no longer interested in servicing men. This leaves me back to being a hermit with no external sex life—unless I take a plunge into my interest in females. I really don't know if the fact that my basic orientation is lesbian has caused all my problems with relationships, or do I simply make poor choices in male lovers? Is switching orientation going to help me reach the goal of having a long-term relationship? Or at least, what questions do I need to ask myself to figure out this dilemma?
At this point in your life, you don't know exactly how strong your interest in other women might be. You've thought of yourself as bisexual, but without more experience, you'll never be able to find out whether you are in fact lesbian, or bisexual, or a straight woman who has fantasies about woman-to-woman sex. It would be so nice if our culture would offer people a sort of vacation from their past lives so they could explore a new identity to see if it fit, without any consequences. Unfortunately, there's still quite a lot of homophobia operating at an institutional and personal level. Proceed with some caution until you are clear what the next phase of your life is going to be like
Read up on lesbian literature and politics. Can you imagine yourself being a part of the community that these books describe? See if you can find a coming-out support group. These groups are usually run by LGBT community centers in large towns or cities. Don't worry about your age; it's not unusual for women to come out or think about coming out in their forties or later. There will probably be other women in the group in a situation similar to your own. Visit some lesbian bars, go to events where women musicians or poets are performing, volunteer for a lesbian or LGBT organization.
Most importantly: Do you look at other women and feel physically and romantically moved? Have you ever been in love with a woman? Do you have sexual fantasies about lesbian sex? Does it excite you to think about slow-dancing with another woman or taking a shower with her? Some people think they are bisexual just because they're not homophobic. The idea of same-sex relationships or lust doesn't squick them. But to be a queer person, or at least a happy and fulfilled queer person, you have to feel same-sex desire. And those feelings have to be important enough to get you through whatever disapproval, ridicule, or anger you'll experience from others who won't understand why you are making such a radical change.
Lesbian relationships are often stereotyped as intimate, conflict-free, and long-lasting. But I can't promise you a long-term, committed relationship just because you find another woman who says she loves you or at least wants to spend the night with you. Sexual minority communities have the same problems that mainstream culture exhibits—plus a very natural reaction to the stress or being different and being treated as second-rate citizens. Queer people are all affected by the fact that a lot of people hate us. Some of us are able to keep it together and channel our unhappiness and anger about that into activism. Others have a harder time, and can resort to drugs or alcohol to dull the pain. We don't always treat each other as well as we should.
But I don't want to paint an entirely negative picture of lesbian life. This is a vital and diverse community, full of many different sorts of lesbian life. There is a lot of courage, artistry, passion, humor, political fervor, compassion, and adventure there. You could have an amazing life relating sexually to other women. Unfortunately, you will also probably encounter a certain amount of crap about being bisexual. Despite all of the education that bisexual people have tried to do, a lot of gay men and women still assume that a bisexual is a gay person who is afraid to come out, or a straight person looking for kinky thrills who is unable to make a serious commitment to a same-sex partner.
In the 1960s and 1970s, when it was common to hear that lesbianism was the ultimate form of feminism, I ran into many women who called themselves "political lesbians." They wanted to be part of the women's movement vanguard, and they felt that men weren't ready to have relationships with strong, radical women. But they weren't into pussy, to be blunt. Women's bodies were not what their libidos wanted. At the time, I didn't have much sympathy for them, but as I've gotten older, I've come to believe that sexual orientation has a strong biological or genetic component. You can look at any sexual practice from the outside, intellectually think that it's cool, and wish like hell that it made you get wet or hard and took you on a wild ride to the orgasm of your life. But if you aren't wired that way, it won't work. I've seen this happen several times to folks who really liked the idea of S/M—the theatrics and the costumes—but couldn't actually deal with doing any play.
Then there's that famous dichotomy between fantasy and reality. I sometimes think that the id is laughing at the rest of the individual's personality. I've heard from hundreds of people who say that they fantasize about things they know they would never do. There are gay people with straight fantasies, dominant men with submissive fantasies, vanilla people with kinky fantasies, demure and compliant women who vibrate to images of kicking the shit out of a bevy of male slaves, and a wealth of fantasies that are unsafe, insane, and nonconsensual. We work out some of our fears about sexuality in our fantasies. Sometimes they are an excellent predictor of what we really want in bed—and sometimes they are not.
That's why it is very important for you to get out of the house and do some footwork, maybe even have a few dates and some casual sex. (Provided you don't fall madly in love with the first lesbian you meet and go off to have a 45-year marriage with her. It could happen!)
Men have progressed a bit, often kicking and screaming all the way. But the fact that you feel pressured to merely service a male partner sexually is a sad reality for many women. He should be as devoted to "servicing" your needs as you are to his; not just getting off then rolling over to snore. There are a hell of a lot of angry heterosexual women out there who dislike the standard male/female paradigm, and wish that men would update themselves, stop trying to grab more power or privilege in their intimate relationships, and realize that there's been a revolution in gender equality. Try to step aside from all of that crap and just think about how you feel about the male body. Do you like the way men look, smell, and taste? Do you enjoy touching men? Are cocks erotic for you, or do you feel neutral about them? Have you ever enjoyed sex with men, or has it always required you to put on a performance that didn't shake you up with longing for his touch and melding with his soul? I'll be rooting for you to figure this one out. I'm sorry I can't promise you a great relationship if you change sexual orientations. All I can promise is that you'll understand yourself a whole lot better once you allow yourself to find out what that "bisexual" adjective really means for your body, mind, and heart. I think that's the most important thing we can do in our lifetimes. A true love will open up those doors with you and rejoice at what you find.