Lean In

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Dear Dr. Darcy,

First, congratulations for the 2nd birthday of your wonderful blog. I’m wishing you many more years giving “straight advice”. I found a lot of guidance in your answers to readers and now I’m the one who is in a quandary.

I’m 31 years old and I’m completely panicked at the discovery that I might be a lesbian. Ever since childhood I’ve had crushes on girls but I always assumed it was a common thing. When I was a teenager, I never felt the desire to date boys and I had my first real boyfriend at the age of 21. I stayed with him for 6 years but in retrospect, I think I liked him more as a friend. Ever since, I’ve been dating and having sex with guy after guy, hoping my romantic feelings will emerge but they never do and every time, I feel more and more confused, inadequate, empty, and sad. A few weeks ago, I met a friend of a friend and I’m experiencing such deep feelings for her, something I have never experienced with men. Even though I tried to ignore the issue, this “love” is making me obsessed with questions about my sexual orientation. I'm not planning to act on the crush though, since I don't know if she likes women and I want to understand myself first.

I’m already in therapy and of course I want to bring this up but since I started only about a month ago (for other issues), I don’t feel quite comfortable doing so just yet. In fact, I’m extremely embarrassed. I started consulting about an intense feeling of loneliness and difficulty connecting with others. Could this whole orientation questioning emerge from this?

I keep looking for advice online and all I seem to find is reparative therapy trash and it makes me very upset. On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if I’m really gay at my core or if I became gay due to a lack of emotional care during childhood. Is it possible that some women “become” lesbians due to a difficult past or other circumstances? Is there any book out there that is not disguised reparative therapy and that would help me understand what’s going on without making me feel like I’m a bad person?

I’m sorry for writing you a novel. It’s just that I’m panicked and extremely confused. I would be grateful for any advice you may have for me.

ANSWER

You’re looking online for advice but you just started therapy so I’m not sure what type of advice you’re looking for… It’s no wonder you’re bumping up against ‘reparative therapy,’ which isn’t therapy at all and can be deeply injurious to the client who is pathologized into believing that there’s something wrong with her.  You’d be wise to stay away from that.

I can see that you’re having difficulty connecting with people for sure, starting with your therapist.She can’t help you if you’re not completely honest with her and I’d say that disclosing this issue is fundamental to your success in therapy. I realize that you may be uncomfortable expressing these feelings to her – don’t let your comfort level stop you from doing what you need to do. If you think you’re uncomfortable today, imagine how uncomfortable you’ll be in 3 months. Do you think you’ll be more or less likely to tell your therapist that you’re questioning whether you’re gay?

Stop procrastinating and resisting the support that you already have. I want you to lean in to therapy by doing this: Leave your therapist a voice mail message today telling her that there’s something you need to tell her that you’ve been having difficulty sharing in sessions. You’ll be setting it up so that she’ll initiate the segway into this topic. Good luck and let me know how it goes.