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  • Writer's pictureElise Braunschweiger

Why Women Don't Often Realize They're Queer

I myself have wondered how I didn’t know just how queer I was until my 20s. Sure, I had expressed some interest in women in high school and considered myself bisexual. But it wasn’t until I entered my first long-term relationship with a woman later in adulthood that I could picture myself marrying a woman. I always assumed I’d default back to being with men, but why?

Compulsory heterosexuality, often shortened to comphet, was first mentioned by Adrienne Rich in her 1980 essay, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence". She wrote it in response to the ongoing feminist movement, which in her eyes was teaching “from a perspective of unexamined heterocentricity.” It was Rich’s belief that heterosexuality wasn’t some innate, natural instinct we all share, but rather something we’re socialized into by a heteronormative and patriarchal society.

Whilst her point of view is controversial, some of her ideas have objective value and are worth consideration.

Mainly, that we are socialized from a young age to follow a script which tells women to marry a man and have children.

Nearly without exclusion, all of the available media for children, if it touches on romance, does so from a heteronormative perspective. How would little girls possibly know that they can have a happily ever after with Princess Charming instead of the Prince, if it’s never been shown to them?

In terms of how this plays out in real life, it causes confusion and impacts women’s ability to identify their own queerness. This is even more common amongst bi women, whose romantic and sexual interest in men often discounts those feelings they have towards women - almost as if to say,

“if I am attracted to men and I’ve never been with a woman, how can I be confident I’m queer?”

A study from 2014 by the National Library of Medicine concluded that according to their survey, “bisexual people experienced sexual identity and disclosure milestones later than gay and lesbian people.” 

It’s also important to note the ways in which society and media portray heterosexual dynamics as being unsatisfying to women. How many sitcoms have you seen where the husband makes a pass at his wife, only to be met with eye rolls and complaints of a headache? If a recurrent joke amongst straight people is that men rarely know where to find the clitoris, leaving their partners’ sexually unsatisfied, how are queer women supposed to know that something is “off” for them sexually? I remember one client of mine saying, “I used to tell myself, ‘he must just not be the right guy.’ After a while, I started to think something was wrong with me… but I didn’t even consider I might be gay.”

If women are conditioned to autopilot into heteronormative dynamics, often unaware of an alternative, and are convinced that being sexually dissatisfied with men is normal, it makes perfect sense that it might take them a while to realize they’re queer. In fact, many women never realize they’re queer and whilst there are times this is minimally impactful, they might internalize those feelings as the above mentioned client had. 

My personal philosophy is:

if you think you’re queer, you are!

Simple as that. Queerness is yours to claim any time it feels right for you. It is not dependent on your sexual experiences or past partners, and it’s perfectly acceptable not to have all the answers right away. Because sexuality is fluid, know that you can adopt new language as you see fit at any time.

If you’re queer, questioning, or just seeking a safe space to explore your romantic and sexual self, I’d love to help anyway I can. Please don’t hesitate to contact our team for a complimentary consultation so that we can learn more about your unique needs and journey, as well as discuss the many ways we might be able to help make dating less stressful and more enjoyable.

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