Late to the Party
by Chrissy Snider
Prior to the late spring of 2020, the year I turned 41, I would have told you that I was a straight woman. I would have believed it, too. Hindsight is an amazing gift. It allows you to look at your past with a new lens and see all the things you hadn’t seen before. Looking back, I have no idea how I didn’t know that I was a lesbian, but I didn’t. Maybe it was my environment. Maybe it was compulsory heterosexuality. Maybe it was a combination of those things. I’ll probably never know why I never knew, but the blessing is that I figured it out and I’m finally living a life that makes me truly happy.
I was 10 in 1989 so I did my real growing up in the 90’s. My family didn’t travel so I spent all of my time in the largely rural county in Northeast Ohio, where I was born. There wasn’t an “out and proud” gay community where I lived. There weren’t any gay characters on the shows I watched or in the music I listened to. In fact, my exposure to the LGBTQIA+ community was primarily gay men. I didn’t even know any lesbians personally until my father’s second wife came out in 2003. Even then, the only lesbians I knew were like her; they had mullets and wore cargo pants.
I was always a bit of a tomboy. While my girlfriends were playing dress-up, experimenting with makeup, and learning to do each other’s hair, I was playing kickball with the boys and proudly cultivating a worm farm. As I got older, the girls became boy crazy and while I have no true recollection of ever really being into a boy, crushing on them was what I was supposed to be doing. Right? All my girlfriends wanted a boyfriend, and never wanting to be left out, I wanted one, too. I was the last person in my friend group to become sexually active. Having sex, with a boy, just really didn’t appeal to me that much. I got it over with simply to stop being the only odd one out. I hated it. It was terrible and I had zero emotional attachment to the boy. It never got better. Every girl that I knew talked about sex like it was this amazing thing and I was so confused by their excitement. I certainly didn’t feel that. I thought I was broken. I thought maybe I was just choosing the wrong partners. I spent my teenage years being pretty promiscuous, chasing that excitement my friends talked about. In 27 years of having sex with men, I never found the same excitement.
I left a lot of failed relationships in my wake; a couple long term and one marriage. I’ve got two children, now adults, and they’re the only good thing that came from any of them. They’re the bonus to believing I was straight. The common theme in these relationships was always a complete lack of intimacy. We were essentially roommates. After having a very low sex drive for as long as I could remember, I became convinced that I was broken. There must be something wrong with me physically. I went to the doctor so many times about my non-existent desire for sex; maybe I needed him to help more around the house, maybe I needed to exercise more and reduce my stress, maybe my thyroid disorder was to blame, or maybe it was hormones and I was in the early stages of pre-menopause. I never got any concrete answers and things never got better.
Ever since I was a teenager, I was always dating someone or in some kind of relationship, so when I found myself single in the beginning of 2019, I decided to lay low for a while. No dating, just spending some time with myself and figuring out who I am and what I like, learning to enjoy my own company. This is in my top 5 smartest decisions that I’ve ever made. Early in 2020, I decided I was ready to start dating again. I downloaded a few dating apps, but kept finding that no one really jumped out at me. Sure, the guys were nice looking, but no one really piqued my interest. Now, I had heard the term “asexual” in passing many times, and while I didn’t fully understand it, I was beginning to think it may apply to me. I started doing some research and really thought I found my answer. I was never into sex and wasn’t really feeling any of the guys I was chatting with because I was asexual! I wasn’t broken. There was nothing wrong with me. I simply existed on the spectrum of people who don’t experience sexual attraction.
While sitting with this new information, this answer to decades of confusion, I discovered TikTok. That app is the most amazing time suck I’ve ever experienced. When everything shut down thanks to COVID, TikTok became a place where the world was literally alone together. I spent countless hours just scrolling through the videos and somehow found my way to gay TikTok, which then led me to lesbian TikTok. My feed was filled with beautiful women and suddenly, I’m finding myself feeling that tingle, that bolt of electricity, that attraction that had been missing my entire life. Here comes that hindsight I mentioned earlier…I have fantasized about women since I was young. In fact, thinking about women was often how I made having sex with men bearable. If a female friend wanted another girl to make out with at the bar, to drive the guys crazy, I was always the first one to volunteer. I always enjoyed it and not because it was a show for the guys. I always believed these things were normal for straight women. Imagine my surprise when I learn (via TikTok and later Reddit) that this is not normal straight woman behavior. Then it hits me: I’m attracted to women, too. That “TOO” is pretty important. When I decided to come out, I came out as bisexual because yeah, I’m totally into girls, but I’ve always been with guys so I must like them too, right?
I make some adjustments on my dating app profiles; I open up the search to women and add my new label. I’m marketing myself as a gray-asexual (because clearly, I do feel some sexual attraction) bisexual woman seeking both women and men. I’m only swiping right on the ladies, though, and I chalk that up to novelty. Women are new for me, so naturally I’m focusing on them. I decide it’s time to come out to my friends and family to avoid any awkwardness should I start bringing girls to family gatherings instead of guys. I got a lot of support and even a few, “Yeah, we knew that already.”
I chat with some women, go out on a few dates, make some new friends, but I’m not really meeting anyone that I’m interested in as more than a friend until I swipe right on my partner. On our first date, very early in, she tells me that I should I kiss her. I can’t recall ever wanting to kiss someone more. She knew that I had no experience with women and that I was newly out. She asked me later how it felt to kiss her and I told her that it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Like, everything I’ve ever done was all leading up to kissing her, at the bar in that restaurant, on a Saturday afternoon. This incredible woman proposed to me just 3 months after that kiss and then moved in with me 2 months after that. It was hard in the beginning and sometimes still is. Coming from heterosexual relationships where men tend to act as the brakes, our relationship often felt exhilarating, terrifying, and very fast, but I can’t believe that I haven’t known her my entire life. I can’t get enough of her; physically, mentally, emotionally. I’ve never experienced this with anyone. Ever. I didn’t even want a relationship. Neither of us were looking for one. I’d follow her to the end of the earth if that was where she said she needed to be because where she needs to be, I need to be.
I’ve come to learn that there is a term for women like me, who come out later in their lives: Late Bloomers or Late Blooming Lesbians. Some women know they’re gay their entire lives, but repress it and force a heterosexual lifestyle simply because it’s unacceptable to do anything else. Other women are like me, and genuinely had no idea they were not straight. I can’t speak for them, but I enjoy my little moments of hindsight where my Sapphic nature was so very clear, but completely unnoticed. It seems that most of the late bloomers figure themselves out while still married to men. They need to blow up their lives so they can live authentically once the dust settles. Lucky for me, my children are grown and I was single when I figured it out. I can’t sympathize or relate to ending relationships and trying to parent young children while coming out. My partner thinks that there are at least a few men who are sleeping better at night since I came out. It’s not on them that we didn’t work out, they have the wrong kind of equipment and it was never going to work.
As soon as I felt sure that I finally found the answer I had been looking for, I jumped right in with both feet. In fact, I only waited a couple of weeks before coming out. What I wasn’t prepared for was having to come out again almost every day; to coworkers, to my doctor when I told her why I didn’t need to talk about birth control options, to my landlord when my partner moved in with me, to people that I haven’t seen or talked to in a long time, anytime I call my partner “my fiancé” and I get asked what HIS name is, etc. I don’t look particularly gay so it’s not obvious just based on my appearance and I never realized how assuming people are about a person’s sexuality. When some random guy hits on me and I tell him that I’m engaged, he says that my boyfriend is a lucky guy. Well, he’s a she and I’m the lucky one. This response usually gets me funny looks, like they’re trying puzzle out if I’m lying, or how they missed that I’m into girls.
I’m very comfortable in my new identity. It’s like I’ve found a pair of pants that fit perfectly. But imposter syndrome is real bitch. I often feel like I don’t belong, like I shouldn’t be allowed to use the term “lesbian,” like I haven’t earned it. I got married in 2000, divorced in 2009. I never should have done it and I went into it feeling like that, but we didn’t have to fight the government for the right to do it. We simply decided to get married and then did. Just a scant 6 years ago, my partner was granted the legal right to do what straight people have been doing for hundreds of years. She came out when she was 18. She’s been fighting stereotypes and bigotry her entire adult life. I just got here and I’m enjoying the benefits that were fought for long before I arrived. I am a lesbian. I know in my bones that it’s true, though sometimes I still feel like a fake. But maybe that goes away with time.
I don’t have any regrets about not finding myself earlier. I arrived at exactly where I am supposed to be, exactly when I needed to be here.
Chrissy Snider (she/her) is a 42 year old late in life lesbian from the Midwest. You can find her on Instagram @chrissy_said_what and on Tiktok @chrissysaidwhat. She’s got both human and fur children. She’s an avid reader and runs on occasion. Her biggest flex, currently, is that she’s getting married in October…at Elvis’s house.