Born this Way? Not Always True for Women

I love Lady Gaga for her crusade to educate the masses about the normalcy of homosexuality as well as any personality quirk that might seem to make one person stand apart from the next. Everything in her personal presentation and body of work, including her latest release “Born this Way”, not only preaches but demonstrates the virtue of individuality, acceptance of self and others, and the beauty of expressing one’s true inner self, in whatever form it may take. I see the way she affects the “tweens” with whom I work and I praise her for it. And although the premise of her new song is inspirational and certainly in keeping with the idea of homosexuality as a natural state, I want more.

Research on all aspects of humanity has historically been performed on male subjects with the results generalized to both genders. We now know this is often not helpful to women and can be quite misleading and actually dangerous in some cases. Although information on homosexuality has historically been gleaned from the lives of men, it is now known that sexual orientation in women often develops quite differently. In a nutshell, gay theory espouses that people’s sexual orientation is hardwired from the start and there is, at some point, a grand “coming out” which reveals what was there all along. Fascinating research by Dr. Lisa Diamond and others shows that the process is actually much different for a high percentage of women. Rather than present a lit review on the academic findings on this topic, I prefer to present examples of normal realization and expression of female sexuality, based on composites of real women I have known. These three styles are modeled after real women who are interpersonally successful, productive, and content with their lives.

Style #1: “The Classic”
Jeanette’s first crush was on her first grade teacher. She knew her tingly feelings were more than just appreciation for the way Mrs. Summers recounted the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Jeanette went on to develop intense feelings for her girlfriends, and by the time she was 7 or 8 it was clear that something about her was different from the stories she read in class and saw on TV. She struggled with her feelings throughout school, even having some suicidal thinking in her teens as her experience of isolation and inadequacy became overwhelming. She had her first girlfriend in high school or college and finally put a name to her experience, as she realized the love she felt was overwhelmingly real. She then began to identify as a lesbian and has never looked back.

Style #2: “Late Bloomer”
Helen always had boyfriends in her growing-up years. The truth is, her family and culture didn’t actually present her with alternate versions of “normal,” so she just followed the norm for girls and didn’t think to consider other options. She married relatively young and had a couple of kids. Life had its challenges and her relationship with her husband was often strained. Her husband’s mood and addiction problems strained the marriage and preceded their eventual divorce. As Helen entered her 50s with a hefty dose of life experience, greater self-confidence, and a desire to finally live for herself, she approached the next phase of her life with a different mentality. Perhaps related to her new perspective, Helen began noticing different types of people crossing her path. Some were women for whom she inexplicably (but somehow not surprisingly) noticed feelings of attraction. She eventually found herself in a relationship with a woman, and it felt very natural and right. Some people thought she had been fooling herself all those previous years, but she feels that this stage came about naturally when the time was right. She now fully accepts herself and feels at home in her current life situation.

Style #3: “Don’t Call Me Bisexual”
Maria was always a free thinker. She didn’t typically fit in with the mainstream crowd and she often felt misunderstood and overlooked. As a young person she had crushes on boys, but certain qualities in girls also caught her eye. She didn’t necessarily experience those things through a sexual light, but there were definitely tinges of a taboo excitement there. As she got older, she started to experience some feelings for girls that were a bit more than just friendly. Her appearance was pretty standardly feminine and she was not perceived by others or herself as “gay,” but she certainly didn’t identify with the typical dreams and expectations of the straight world. Over time, she developed greater interest in and comfort with the idea of being sexually and romantically involved with women, but she continued to have attractions to men, as well. Maria has had relationships with both men and women but is always committed and monogamous within the context of any relationship. She may be drawn more intensely to one or the other at any given time, but she believes that when she meets “the one,”that person may be of either gender and she will gladly commit herself to that relationship for the long run.

Mainstream media tends to pathologize and ridicule people who engage in same-sex intimacies after initially identifying as heterosexual. As a society, we’re quite comfortable with black and white thinking, which in the context of this issue translates into “gay or not gay.” (I am bypassing “bisexual” as a socially accepted path, as those who identify as such are often incorrectly assumed to be confused and/or promiscuous.) New research and more open-minded thinking is beginning to espouse the normalcy of more than two basic paths and, even more shocking, the knowledge that emotionally healthy and stable people can naturally express their sexuality in a variety of ways. These three styles are common expressions among non-heterosexual women, but they are not the only “normal” ways a woman can experience and share her sexuality. The bottom line here is that just because someone wasn’t “born this way” doesn’t mean she isn’t exactly who she is meant to be, right now.

© Copyright 2011 by Karen Kochenburg. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Leslie

    Leslie

    April 1st, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    I choose to believe that we all evolve and change as we grow older, and if this is the case then I think that our personal sexuality also carries into this. Why can’t our preferences change over time? I think it is the same thing like when you are young the rebellious teens may appeal to you but then as you grow older you want to settle down more and the more stable partner becomes more appealing. Maybe overall sexuality is like this too. What you like at one age is maybe not what appelas to you later on in life. I see nothing wrong with that.

  • fran

    fran

    April 2nd, 2011 at 4:43 AM

    But if you are not born this way why would you ever choose this lifestyle for yourself?

  • Karen D. Kochenburg

    Karen D. Kochenburg

    April 2nd, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    Yes, it’s such a tricky question. I definitely think human sexuality is an organic characteristic. Perhaps we are all born with the basic building blocks for the person we are meant to become. Whether someone comes out as a young person or later in life, they are expressing exactly who they were born to be. Mainstream society is impatient and wants results right away, which is to say that if a person is born gay, they may not be seen as “truly gay” unless they follow the classic path. I think people are whole and complete no matter how or when they express their sexuality.

  • Joanne

    Joanne

    April 3rd, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Not sure why there is a surprise here because it has been found time and again that women are wired differently. Not that that is a bad thing, but just the truth. We experience things in different ways and process things in a way that many men would not understand but that we understand perfectly. Sexuality has always been experienced differently from a female point of view, and i guess it will continue to be that way.

  • Cassie V.

    Cassie V.

    April 3rd, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    Even though I believe we are born with a sexual preference, I also believe sexuality is flexible. How else would people get into BDSM and such?

  • Brooke

    Brooke

    April 4th, 2011 at 4:43 AM

    What about those who are just “experimenting”? I hear a lot of that these days. We experimented with cigartettes and alcohol, but sexuality and which way we leaned was never a question. Maybe because it is more socially acceptable today than it ever would have been when I was younger.

  • TT

    TT

    April 4th, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    …And even if a person is born this way,things that happen through the course of life can change the person,isn’t it…?! Is it so hard to believe that a person’s sexual orientation can change due to life experiences? Why is it so hard when we are okay with the fact that everything else can change due to life experiences…? Isn’t this something of closing our eyes to those who have alternate sexual preferences…?!

  • KAREN KOCHENBURG

    KAREN KOCHENBURG

    April 4th, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    I agree that there is much more room these days for “experimenting” and identity changes throughout a person’s life. Whether those are “choices” or biologically destined remains a question. People ask why someone would purposefully choose to be in a same-sex relationship, and I have found that there are actually some pretty compelling reasons, especially in geographical areas with higher rates of acceptance. We honor and encourage human growth and evolution and I agree that sexual orientation is also susceptible to change throughout a person’s life. And what a great world that accepts all personal choices that respect the rights of those involved!

  • Lucinda

    Lucinda

    April 7th, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    I reckon that the more societies learn to accept alternative lifestyles or at the bare minimum tolerate them, the better. Live and let live! Just because one person’s sexual preference doesn’t match your own doesn’t make it wrong. We all have free will and can change our lives, in any way, at any time, including our sexual preferences.

  • Corina

    Corina

    April 24th, 2015 at 2:07 PM

    Also, these three examples are three examples of patterns but not the only patterns I’ve seen.

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