How I overcame internalised homophobia and found my true sexuality 

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By Susannah Mannie,
22 June 2023

Everyone tells lies — some are big and some are small. We might tell a lie to save someone’s feelings (of course that shirt looks good on you!) or to get out of trouble (I didn’t smash that vase; maybe it was the cat?). Some lies we tell ourselves over and over again until we actually start to believe it (No way! I’m not a lesbian, I’m bisexual! I LOVE guys, I just have a preference towards women!

For 23 years I convinced myself that I was bisexual, though I always knew deep down that I’m only attracted to women. As I was in a long-term heterosexual relationship and had only briefly dated two women, I put unnecessary pressure on myself to somehow ‘prove’ my queerness. This feeling of ‘bi imposter syndrome’ is unfortunately quite common, however you can be bisexual even if you’ve only been in relationships with people of one gender. Sexuality is about who you’re attracted to, not your dating history.

I was drawn towards women from a young age, but was afraid to interact or even talk with them in a romantic capacity. In movies, on social media, and in books I always fantasised about the women being portrayed. Some of my early girl crushes were Bryce Dallas Howard, Kristen Stewart, Nikki Reed and Marie Ulven Ringheim. I didn’t feel sexually attracted to male characters or public figures, so I would overcompensate because I felt ashamed and like something was wrong with me. I just LOVE Robert Patterson; I LOVE boys who look like they haven’t ever slept and only drink Monster Energy and cigarettes for breakfast, I told myself. Yet when I pictured my perfect life, it was always with a woman. I dreamt about living in a cute little cottage where I would have a writing studio and she would have a place for her passions. We would have cats (how did I believe I wasn’t gay?) and we would be so happy.

The thing is, during the last two years I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. I had this weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t shake off. Then I read the Lesbian Master Doc, and something cracked inside of me. I started to think, what if I’m not bisexual? What if I’m a lesbian? I freaked out, as I was in a five-year-long heterosexual relationship with a man. I felt like I had been lying to everyone for years, and like I was evil for not being honest about my sexuality right from the get go.

I tried to hide these feelings, but that didn’t help at all. I would have mini freak outs in front of my partner. I would make jokes about being a lesbian, and he would too. It was like a weird game where sometimes I was okay with the joking but some days it hit a nerve. I finally took  the time to reflect on why this affected me so negatively, and why I was okay with making jokes about being a lesbian but if others did I couldn’t handle it. I realised that maybe I wasn’t bisexual, but I was too nervous to figure out my true sexuality.

I was in severe denial. I think I had a lot of internalised homophobia without even realising it. I was okay with other people being gay — hell, I was a massive ally and classed myself as a part of the community — but I thought it wasn’t okay for me. This led to a lot of self-hate — I hated that I felt so strongly towards women and that I didn’t think of men in the same way. I hated that I wasn’t like a ‘normal’ bisexual woman. I think that was one of the main reasons I stayed in the closet for so long, and unintentionally hurt those around me as a result.

“When I told him I was a lesbian it was like a weight lifted, and all the pressure I had been feeling just disappeared. Like everything was right.”

After this tumultuous period of self-reflection, my ex-partner and I had a lengthy talk about my sexuality. I broke down and just couldn’t stop crying. I think we had both known for a very long time that I wasn’t bisexual. We decided to break up but have been best friends ever since. He was amazing about it — he helped me work through a lot of my self-hate, helped me set up a Her dating profile, and is always there for me when I need to talk. I seriously couldn’t have figured out my sexuality and overcome a lot of my internalised homophobia if it wasn’t for him. When I told him I was a lesbian it was like a weight lifted, and all the pressure I had been feeling just disappeared. Like everything was right.

Now I have a girlfriend — she’s amazing and I feel butterflies just thinking about her. I’m so happy and relieved. I’ve started to feel more connected to the queer community and myself. I’m planning on checking out the grand opening of Beans Bar in Fitzroy, Naarm — one of the first dedicated lesbian, trans, non-binary & neurodivergent bars in Melbourne! I’ve been consuming more lesbian focused media such as The L Word, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. I’m going to participate in Pride this month (my first ever pride!).

For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I need  to prove my love of men or prove that I’m bisexual. Now I’m comfortable and happy with my sexuality, and yes I’m a lesbian! But that’s just a small part of me. I am also a writer, a huge dinosaur nerd, a lover of really shitty reality tv shows… I’m me. 

Further Resources:
About the author
Susannah Mannie

Susannah Mannie is a writer, poet, and a proud lutruwita/Tasmanian Aboriginal woman. She is an avid reader and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at Deakin University. Susannah is a co-host with a group of individuals for a radio show based in nipaluna/Hobart called This Way // That Way on Edge Radio that focuses on youth-led conversations about sexual and reproductive health, relationships, and culture. Susannah is passionate about spreading awareness for fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that she was diagnosed with in 2020 after multiple misdiagnoses.

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