I Left A Man I Love To Pursue A Truer Life

What am I supposed to do when someone wants all of me?

A woman writing equations on a board
Photo by ThisisEngineering on Unsplash

“AM I A LESBIAN?” by Rachael Marie Walker

Well, well, well. Look at you, @teen-w00lf, back again. You’ve taken this quiz sixteen times. How many times can quiz creator @leavebritneyalone696969 tell you what you are? What are you so afraid of? 

It’s up to you if you want to continue. Remember: These quizzes are just for entertainment. 

Q: Do you ever buy clothes from the men’s section?

I want my body to be something it can’t be. I want it to be slim, rail-thin. I want the spindly body in so much lesbian media. It isn’t. I force myself into men’s clothing that fits me all wrong, that reminds me, you are not meant for this. I can put together femme outfits, in skirts and tank tops, in clothes that show my cleavage, the curve of my ass. This is what I am supposed to look like, a girl-shape. My body feels like it is something outside of me. 

I go to Babeland to buy a strap-on. Next to the dildos is a section of packers, limp and harmless, and I have an immediate urge to buy one, wear tight jeans, make myself into someone between genders, impossible to discern, with all my girl-body and an idea of a penis packed tight in men’s jeans.  

Your body, teen-w00lf, is the way you move through time, through sex, through queerness. What do you think it means that you feel so alienated from it? What body do you expect to have? Why do you blame this body? 

Q: Have you ever had really short hair?

This is the body I will be living in,
my teens, my twenties, my thirties, my forties,
until my body moves to menopause.

My mom takes me to her hairstylist when I am eleven. This is a big deal, she tells me. She’s a great hairstylist. Up to this point, my mom cut my hair, scissors in the kitchen, straight across, straight bangs. She realizes that I am beginning to care about the way I look. I am an early bloomer, slouching in math class to hide the breasts that grew too soon, yanking at the hems of my skirts to hide a body I didn’t ask for, didn’t particularly want. I tower over everyone else in my class. I come from a tall family. My dad is so happy that I am a Tall Girl, for now, for now, for now, and he thinks I will still have another growth spurt. Instead, I get my period when I am still in elementary school, and no one tells me to expect it. This is the body I will be living in, my teens, my twenties, my thirties, my forties, until my body moves to menopause. I tell the hairstylist I want a bob, short, to my chin. I have what I don’t know yet is cystic acne, painful and rageful, that scars and blemishes my face. I don’t like how much of my face is visible when the hairstylist shows me the final cut. Even as I start hormonal birth control at twenty-two to assuage my cystic acne, even as I get older and my body and face become an adult’s, I am afraid to cut my hair again. I wear it like a mane. I wear it like a shield. For so much of my life, until I start Lexapro and Lamictal, I want to disappear. 

I am twenty-six. I cut my own hair, kneeling in my bathroom in front of the full-length mirror. 

This feels right, doesn’t it? Your body is not a fixed object. It is as mutable as you are. 

Is sexuality mutable or fixed? How can my body show this in-between-ness? I want to be something fixed. I want to hold on to something, whatever that might be. Can my queerness be this, rise up in me as fierce as a religion? 

Gender is part of this question. My body is feminine, soft, curved. 

Sometimes I wish I were a man. No—not quite—something outside of it all. Neither man nor woman, something in-between and bigger and more nebulous and mine. 

This question will take time to unspool, to learn that gender is a question that asks itself again and again. I walk through the world and I am “yes, girl”-ed and “hot girl”-ed and “yes ma’am”-ed and none of these are right and none of these are wrong and none of them are mine. My gender can be more than how I move through the world; a way of relating to the self. Nonbinary-ness allows for that flexibility, that movement. It takes time to get here. 

What are you leaving behind? Who are you leaving behind? 

Q: What have your friendships with other girls looked like?

My first best friend is a hockey player who has a GameCube in her basement. My parents are about to split up and I spend most weekends here, playing Mario Kart and Donkey Kong two-player games. She and I both have younger siblings and talk, with disdain, about being oldest sisters. Her mother picks both of us up from school on Wednesdays, and we share bags of grapes, pluck the fruit into our sweaty palms, burst them between our teeth. The two of us go ice skating for her eighth birthday. I slip, fall, and someone else skates over the side of my pinkie finger. I will always carry this scar. On field trips, the two of us curl together in the summer-sticky fake-leather school bus seats, reading from the same book. I read faster than she does, and when she reaches the end of a page, she says, turn, turn, turn. We go to different middle schools. She is an athlete, makes friends easily, and I am writing bad poems on the inside of my history notebooks, talk only over emails we send each other on family computers. I send her long messages about the boy I’ve decided to have a crush on. She responds, have all your brains fallen out? 

I’ve decided on a boy to have a crush on and talk about him obsessively.

In my first middle school, I develop a tight, desperate friendship with four girls in my English class. We sit together at lunch and talk about what we’re not eating, how many calories are in bananas and apples. I have already learned this language of thinness, but here, I can speak it fluently, hear it repeated back to me. They teach me how to do makeup in the bathroom before class. I blink and smudge black eyeliner all over my face. They give me clothes that no longer fit them and barely fit me, squeezed over new breasts, and I feel like I am showing a body that hasn’t become mine yet. I go over to their houses for sleepovers and spread out my dad’s camping sleeping bag, feeling distinctly out of place. We talk about all the food we’re not eating, do each others’ makeup, play dress up, talk about the boys we like. I’ve decided on a boy to have a crush on and talk about him obsessively. My mother gets remarried; we move from the mountains to the suburbs. My friends grow older, find boyfriends. I am invited to their birthday parties, then I’m not. 

I have a hard time finding footing in high school. My best friend is a Christian girl whose Facebook profile reads proud Jesus Freak <3 and hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner-s me when I come out. Another friend who plays the piccolo in marching band with me says she also thinks girls are pretty sometimes, shrugs, when I come out. One friend is out, queer and nonbinary, and we understand each other without question, playing ping-pong in their basement, volleying the ball back and forth, not talking about all the pain we’re carrying. I have other friends, but they are moments, they are just conversations between lockers, talking during science class, exchanging notes in world history, talking about our AP tests. I make friends easily, but have a hard time letting people in: door open, but kept at an arm’s length. These are years of sloppily undressing and redressing in bathrooms, in bedrooms at 2pm, in the backseats of cars, in church rec rooms, next to riverbeds. I don’t realize you’re supposed to like the people you sleep with until much later, so as a teenager, I offer up my body to anyone who says they think I’m pretty. 

Q: What TV shows or movies have you watched obsessively? 

16 years old, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in bed. I fall asleep with the lights on, laptop humming, sweaty from what I haven’t realized yet is desire, what I excuse as only the Virginia heat panting through screened windows. 

Rewatches of But I’m a Cheerleader, in dorm rooms and curled up on twin-sized beds, no shoes, in pajamas our mothers sent in care packages from suburban houses in other corners of Virginia, in Alabama, in Louisiana; trying on the stereotypes of a lesbian life because it’s the only blueprint we have. Smoking Marlboro reds, wearing used Docs, torn flannels. Each of us comes home with tattoos, simple line drawings, ears and noses pierced up and down cartilage. We come back together at the end of weeks of homework. Only one of us has a TV, and all of us, queer eighteen-year-olds, Tinker dorm, first floor, A Hall, congregate, lay our heads on each other. 

I spend afternoons at home alone, my siblings at after school care, my dad at work, my mom at work. I guess the PIN he uses to lock channels (it’s my birth year, the year he became a father), and watch Tila Tequila’s Shot At Love, which is where I learn the word “bisexual,” and, a soda I stole from my dad’s Costco stash in the basement in hand – this is before he stops drinking soda, before he starts running eight miles a day, before he sticks to a diet of chicken caesar salads and yogurt – I realize, holy shit, I’m not the only one who ever feels like this. 

This is when you first came to this quiz, isn’t it? The family computer in the living room, you, the only one home, before you learn what Incognito Mode is? Well, we can tell you that you like girls. That much seems obvious. But, here’s the catch: the difference between lesbian and bisexual? That’s all you to figure out, teen-w00lf. Come on. You’ve always been like this. 

Why does this still feel so wrong? Forbidden? Like I’m stepping into someone else’s clothes? 

Q: Do you feel confused about your sexual orientation?

How can this already difficult to define thing also encapsulate gender, which is fluid, too?

Am I a lesbian? Am I bisexual? Am I dealing with comphet? Why do I care so much about a box to fit myself in? Doesn’t that completely miss the point of sexual fluidity? What if I don’t want to be fluid? What if I want to be just one thing? How do I have the language for something as hard to define as sexuality? How can this already difficult to define thing also encapsulate gender, which is fluid, too? Why am I so uncomfortable with fluidity? Am I desperate for male attention? Do I want to be looked at and noticed so badly because of some trauma? Do I have daddy issues even though I have a loving, attentive father? Are step-daddy issues the same thing? Have I ever actually enjoyed straight sex? Have I ever even been present in straight sex? Do I remember having sex from the first person or third person? Does it mean anything that I remember having straight sex only in the third person? What does it mean that I’ve gotten through sex many, many times by imagining their body as someone else’s? What am I giving up by calling myself a lesbian? What am I afraid to lose? A life I don’t want anyway?

What would I gain? 

Q: Have you ever kissed a woman? Have you liked it? Is this a gain, the pleasure of a body? Has it been a pleasure? 

I left a man I loved to pursue a truer life, a lesbian life.

Kisses in dive bars, kisses on dares, kisses high in the back of nightclubs, kisses while dancing in lesbian bars, kisses immediately pulled back and said, wait, I’m straight, don’t tell my boyfriend, kisses good, kisses bad, kisses sloppy, kisses longing. First kiss with a girl: I am twelve, the summer between seventh and eighth grade, and I am about to move schools. My braces are off, teeth newly slick, and one of my friends wants to practice kissing and practice queerness all at once. We sit together in her attic, fans humming, watching a VHS of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and she tells me that I am the boy, to kiss her. Pecks on the lips, quick, a toe dipped into queerness. I am sweaty palms and greasy bangs and bras that squeeze and full of desire that aches on my tongue, somewhere in my stomach. Kisses in high school, girls who think they might be queer and know I’m a safe bet, that I can be an on-ramp, easy, eager to please. Kisses behind the gym, at the back of the bus after marching band competitions, in practice rooms, in bathrooms, in the unused showers of the locker rooms. Kisses quick, light pecks; kisses long, slippery; kisses that yearn; kisses that beg. In college, I call myself a kiss-slut, work the kissing booth at the drag king show, fifty cents for a kiss on the cheek, a dollar for a kiss on the lips, and I wear bright red lipstick that stains. At the end of the night, a sweaty room full of queer women who carry my kiss-print. At parties, I throw up my hands, drunk, and shout that I want someone to kiss me. Someone always does, femmes in pink and feathers, butches with undercuts and jean jackets. My straight friends are embarrassed by this at brunch the next morning, say I’m developing a reputation, but if my reputation is kissing happily, freely, I want it. I go to the lesbian bar down the street from my apartment, single for the first time, and kiss everyone I dance with. I’m drunk on strawberry dykeiris and loop my fingers in the pockets of a butch I ask to fuck me in the bathroom. The average person spends two weeks of their life kissing. I want so much more, kisses constant, kisses nonstop. I love when a kiss blossoms into a want. 

You have a reputation, then, for kissing women, don’t you? Okay, fine. Proof of your queerness. What’s the point of trying to prove this? 

I want someone to tell me that I am making the right choice. I want someone to tell me I am labeling myself correctly, that if I do, no one will be able to hurt me again. Does excluding cis men protect me, keep me safe? 

What if you’re still just bisexual at the end of this? What if you get hurt in a lesbian relationship, anyway? What are the stakes here? 

I left a man I loved to pursue a truer life, a lesbian life. Was this the wrong choice? Here I am again, looking for proof. Tell me I was right to do this. Tell me I was right. Tell me. Tell me. 

Q: Do you have fantasies or dreams of having sex with a cis man?

I have been in relationships with a few men, but only fantasized about one. 

It would have been kinder, teen-w00lf, to say no, when men asked you back to their apartments, asked you out on dates to share pizzas and bottles of wine. Why do you struggle so much with saying no? 

Do I want to call myself a lesbian because it is a no without having to say “no,” in all its intents and implications? 

I am twenty and living in Paris. I haven’t had much experience being attracted to men, so because I am, for the first time, I don’t know how to contain myself. He invites me to a threesome. He invites me to do a line off his dick and blow him. I am too scared to say yes and do neither. He comes from money and buys me all the drugs I want, and oh, I want. His French is terrible. We go on a date, kind of, where we both do coke in the bathroom and smoke cigarettes on the patio. He buys an expensive bottle of Bordeaux that we share. We are both so addled with substances, and when we go to the symphony together, I am still trying to be a classical musician, I coke-fast talk about my favorite composers and he tells me about his father, the pressure of growing up rich, while  I think to myself that I grew up in the mountains in a house with bats in the attic and a one-bedroom apartment and a house with my stepfather where I was never never alone and whatever part of me that’s not spiraling into substances thinks something like, jesus, we have lived very different lives, but when we both get into the metro it’s crowded and our bodies are pressed together and god I can smell his cologne his soap and he lives in an apartment in Stalingrad and I live in an apartment way out in Porte de Champerret and oh I want to go home with him and he’s got an eighth of weed to share he says but I say no because I’m coming down and feel fucking awful and go home past midnight and walk up the empty rue Guillaume Tell unlock my door kick off my heels and masturbate unsuccessfully lying down in the shower. I never have sex with him. I follow him on Instagram. He becomes a model, marries another model. When I see his posts, I think, well, lesson learned, take the opportunity to be a slut when it presents itself. 

Proof, then, in heterosexuality. I can’t be a lesbian if I feel like this for a man, just desire, nothing else clouding judgment. 


Do you think that’s lesbian behavior? 

Q: When have you lied during straight sex? What scares you about lesbian sex? 

I imagine a woman sitting on my face, pressing my tongue into her. I imagine running my hands over breasts, taking a nipple in my mouth, another between my fingers, rolled like a stack of quarters. In all sorts of settings: my sunny studio, a bedroom in a shared house dark from blackout curtains, in the lesbian bar bathroom, in tents in national parks. Want, heavy. In my dreams, I have a penis. 

It’s easy to be a receptacle for straight men;
what am I supposed to do,
when someone wants all of me?

Can I tell you a secret? Can I trust you? It scares me, the idea of being bad at sex. It’s easy to be a receptacle for straight men; what am I supposed to do, when someone wants all of me? 

Think: what are your kinks telling you? 

I want to be fucked by a group of women, the center of pleasure. Easy: I want attention. This is all I’ve ever wanted. I was a child smiling for the camera in every home video. I talk to strangers, I make friends everywhere I go. I want to be paid attention to. I want to feel real. 

Here’s what scares me: what if these fantasies are only good as fantasies? What if my sexuality is only good in the abstract, and if I admit it, if I know it, if it becomes concrete and real, what if I am wrong? 

You want everyone to like you, so much, you want everyone to like you. This isn’t a lesbian thing. This is a you thing. 

I want to perform my sexuality in front of a group of people, the exhibition, the voyeured. I want to take my clothes off. I want to go to the sex club on Femme Dominion night, stand on stage in tall, heeled boots, sweating off thick winged eyeliner. Tell me that my body is pleasure, even to look at it is something inviting, that it has worth. I want someone to fuck me in front of an audience, or do it myself. Pay attention to me, please. Tell me I’m beautiful and wantable. Tell me I am worth attention. Tell me I am worth being heard. 

No, teen-w00lf. It’s more than being liked. You just, simply, want what every person wants, to be loved, to be seen. 

Q: Imagine a hot femme is flirting with you. What is your reaction? 

I go to the lesbian bar after the DJ starts, dance close to the front, drink strawberry dykeiris, flirt with absolutely everyone. When people dance with me, stand close, make eye contact, tell me their names, I flirt back, smile soft, curve my body toward theirs. I am electric and hungry. 

I know you, teen-w00lf. I know you’re scared of wanting this. How much easier would it be to negate this, erase this? How much easier would it be to push away femme flirtation, to slip into heterosexuality? You could do it. You know you could. It would be so easy. Wanting never goes away, but you are an expert at restriction. 

She is as beautiful and longed-for as springtime. I can’t tell her this, it’s too honest.

The artist I’m dating leaves me compliments, buys us lunch, comes with me to art installations and poetry readings, meets me when we both have connections coming back to Seattle through O’Hare, share green smoothies while sitting on the airport tile floor. She stretches out with me on my couch, my cat curled between us, plays Stardew Valley with me. She tells me about queer Appalachian ceramics and I tell her about my opinions on Red Dead Redemption II. She is as beautiful and longed-for as springtime. I can’t tell her this, it’s too honest. The words get all caught up in my throat before I can spit them out. I am only good at flirting and fucking. 

She will leave you, you know this. What will you do when femmes disappoint you, too? What will you do when you can’t blame your loneliness on anything other than your own flaws and faults? 

Q: Have you ever fallen in love? With whom? 

a boy, a saxophonist | a girl, an ice skater | a girl, a fellow tumblr blogger | a woman, the communist next door |a nonbinary person, the poet with a david bowie tattoo across the hall | a woman, the environmental science major in philosophy of art | a woman, the poet I drive home from workshop | the poet, again, when we are in the same city | my longest lover, a man, with rough, tender hands 

Did you really love all these people? Or was the only person you really loved the lover you left? Isn’t it proof that you’re not a lesbian at all, that you loved this man so much, that you still worry you made the wrong choice in leaving? 

Q: Have you had lesbian sex?

bedrooms // bathrooms // under blankets in basements // dorm hall showers // dorm hall tubs // library bathrooms // bedrooms with a lizard in a cage looking on // bedrooms where one of us bleeds on the comforter // strap-ons from the sex toy store down the street // $120 vibrators // pierced nipples // what do you like? let me tell you exactly what I like // I’ll do you, then we can have a water break, and you can do me (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat) // do you like this? is this good for you? // sex where I come six times in a night, I tell my friends, and they say that can’t be healthy (they are straight-girl jealous, I say to my lover) // can I take this off? can we cuddle for a little bit? I have to pee first. // 

Q: Have you had straight sex?

in bedrooms, unwashed twin sized sheets // backseats of cars // mall family bathrooms // dorm rooms // nightclubs // sex where we simultaneously orgasm // sex where I don’t finish at all // sex where I fake an orgasm just to get him away from me // sweat // come on my toes // come on my tits // come on my ass // please don’t come on my face (comes on my face anyway, I have to wash it out of my hair and eyelashes) // keep your glasses on, keep your skirt on, keep your dress on, keep your heels on //

My het friends talk about their body counts. One goes down the list of names she keeps in her notes app; another friend asks, how many of them did you have real sex with? 

I interject, hey, wait a second, what do you mean by “real sex?”  

You know. P-in-V. 

That’s like, one kind of sex. There are lots of kinds of sex. 

Come on. You know what we mean.   

They’re telling you exactly how they see you, teen-w00lf. This is exactly how they’ve seen you since you dated your first queer college partner, asking how two people with vaginas even have sex, and you were walking back to your dorm room, just barely eighteen, and thinking – if that’s the only sex you can think of, shit, you sure are missing out. 

I have the capacity to love men, love women, people who are both and neither. But, as I undressed for a shower, age 25, sharing an apartment with a man I loved, a realization as clear and bright as lightning: I really thought I’d be living my life with a woman. 

I can imagine full, bright, happy lives without loving men. I cannot imagine a life where I do not love women. 

Result: You are a lesbian. 

The score indicates a high probability that you are homosexual. If needed, you could consult with a relevant sex specialist for further clarification. But you’re not going to do that, are you? No one can clarify this for you but you. How ‘bout that, teen-w00lf, Probably a homosexual. 

You’ll be back in a year and a half or so. It’s okay, you know, to just be. To just be a lesbian. To just be queer. This is the life you’re building for yourself, isn’t it? You know leavebritneyalone696969 isn’t the arbiter of queerness. It’s just you. 

You left your lover because it was the right thing to do. Being a lesbian can be the reason, if that’s easier. It’s more complicated than that, of course it is, of course all of it is, but this is a life you get to build on purpose. Lovers come and go. It comes down to you, all you, just you. 

Just me. Here in front of my computer, I am a lesbian, I am a lesbian. A life building community in book clubs, at the lesbian bar, through lovers and friends. A lesbian life at supper clubs, sharing writing. A lesbian life gardening. A lesbian life with fulfilling, intimate sex. Imagining a life. There is freedom in this imaging. Queer love, too, the love of friends, the love of partners, moves in prisms.

More Like This

A Workshop for Shame and Sexual Energy

I closed the gulf between my intellectual and emotional comfort zones with an erotic massage

Mar 14 - Mark Bessen

I Am the Three Things a Woman Should Never Be

I knew that body hair fetish existed, but I had no practical knowledge of it

Mar 30 - Autumn Fourkiller

The Hunger of Young, Fat, and Queer Puerto Rican Men

Christopher Gonzalez on the relationship between identity, desire, and intimacy in his book "I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat"

Dec 1 - Matthew Mastricova
Thank You!