Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 9: Gender and Sexuality – Example 3


I identify as a feminine, lesbian, cisgender woman.

Growing up, I never questioned my gender or sexual identity.  Being raised in a mostly white, christian, middle-class environment, I suppose I was the typical case of “you don’t know what you don’t know” with regard to things outside my small-town minded suburb.

Although looking back I do recall vivid moments of childhood perplexities—like when my father said I could not be on the boys wrestling team because I was a girl, despite my rug burned knees as proof of my many proud victories pinning my brothers to the living room floor. Or when my high school friends told me stories about the “things” they would do alone with their boyfriends…and I would cringe.  Or how I placed the captain of my high school lacrosse team on a pedestal that rested on my heart instead of the field, where it belonged.

At the time, these were merely drifting thoughts, weaving in and out of my teenage mind without a safe place to land.  It was not until my mid-twenties when particular life events paired with the meeting of one extraordinary person, that was I able to form a map of my memories that finally made sense.  I learned that the “sight” in “hindsight” has everything to do with being “seen” as it does the time strings together many moments past.

For the first time at 22 years old, I found myself in a supportive environment of people who were different from me in all kinds of important ways I hadn’t experience during my first two decades.  Black, brown, and white people, young and old, gay and straight—my eyes were opened and I welcomed it, and became better version of me because of it.

During that time two life-altering things occurred simultaneously.  I fell in love with an extraordinary man AND for the first time in my life, I began to make sense of my intimate attraction for women.  As one might predict, this presented a potentially messy road ahead for me and all involved.  But the story is quite the opposite.

I call this man extraordinary because he loved me for all I was, and I too loved him for all he was. Over the course of five years, he became my best friend, my husband, and my ex-husband. After five years together, he was the one who accepted my truth, before I was ready to do so.  He said softly one night: “I love you and don’t want to be someone to hold you back from something as important as your sexual identity.”  Through sweet sadness, he assured me he would always be there for me, no matter what.

I went on to figure out what was inevitable.  I was gay.  He knew it.  I knew it.  At 26 years old, I separated from my husband, came out to my family, and had my first intimate experiences with women shortly there after.

Marc and I are best of friends to this day.  We share family vacations together, our kids play like cousins, and his wife and I share a sister-like bond.   I have no doubt that the boundless love that we have for each other had everything to do with my willingness to finally string my memories together and accept who I am.

I am a queer woman who has beautiful loving relationships with people across all genders.  I happen to specifically love women, intimately.  That doesn’t make my intimate love less than yours, nor does it make my love for others less than my intimate love.

The LGBTQ+ movement teaches us that, “love is love.”  If we learn to accept this like we accept the air we breathe, perhaps our love can reach boundless limits far beyond any letters strung together to ensure we belong.