How To Know If You’re A Lesbian: 9 Signs It’s More Than Just Curiosity

In retrospect, if I had properly articulated my misplaced adoration for my English teacher, best friend, and older sister’s friends, a lot of my childhood would have made much more sense. As it was, I felt a little alone for periods of my childhood while I figured myself out, and while I continue to redefine my identity today. It’s hard to know if you’re a lesbian for many of us! If any of the above resonates with you, read on for some other signs.

  1. Your browser is full of fan fiction. Your browser will also be set to incognito, but that goes with the territory of misplaced shame and desire. Some people will not know what AO3 is, and that’s fine – this list probably isn’t for you. However, for the vast array of us who do, if you have a vested interest (possibly bordering on obsession) over fictional characters and all the ways in which they might exist outside of canon, it could be a sign that you’re not satisfied with the existing heteronormative narratives. You’re trying to find a community of like-minded people who are also finding a voice or representation for their identities. Do you also have a questionable Tumblr account still, in this, the year 2021, and a TikTok to boot? Social media can be a wonderful crutch for those early years of questioning your identity as it forms a safe space to experiment and ask questions without feeling perceived.
  2. You go to Pride every year as an ‘Ally’. While I hope that there are lots of genuine Allies who attend Pride to contribute to it as a safe space and celebration for queer people around the world, you may find that the defensive, intense way you attend could be coming from another place altogether. Your subconscious could be easing you in to how you will come to identify by starting out with acceptance. It’s a stage that many people miss out on.
  3. You sweat walking by Victoria’s Secret. While you wouldn’t necessarily know you’re a lesbian just because of this, it is a hilariously silly sign you might be. It’s not because you’re super attracted to naked mannequins or frilly bras, but you retain an internalized sense of shame about looking at other women. Maybe it’s feeling odd at sleepovers, or in changing rooms at school and not wanting to come across as predatory, but walking by bra shops always made me feel like I was doing something illegal.
  4. You had a plaid phase. Maybe it isn’t over, but everyone experiments with flannel, one way or another. Some go for the oversize skater grunge look, others pair it with a beanie, and a few people tie or crop it at the waist. It’s the perfect blend of comfort and masculine-leaning attire without drawing too much attention to yourself. It’s the entryway drug, essentially.
  5. Femininity = uncomfortable. It’s not like you hate being a woman, necessarily, but there is always a sense of incongruity when faced with super feminine outfits. Maybe it manifests in repressed ways, you know: “I’m not like other girls because I don’t like dresses.” We usually grow out of that, thankfully, but these things come in waves. We can all circle back to embrace or redefine aspects of our femininity or masculinity in ways that make us more comfortable. Lots of transgender and nonbinary individuals also experience similar questions, and it’s reassuring to see small steps towards inclusion being made in New Jersey.
  6. No real connection to men. This might go without saying for some, but for many bisexual and pansexual individuals, their journey does include men. I won’t sweepingly assert that this is always the case, but for lesbians, it might mean that they don’t really engage in friendships with cis-straight men while growing up. After coming out as a lesbian, I felt that I could understand them more, knowing that I didn’t have to be attracted to them.
  7. Uninterested in sex. Lots of women presume they’re asexual before they have sex with a woman. Or couldn’t orgasm. Many people experience a change in libido when they become more comfortable with themselves. We must be careful not to erase, or imply that Asexual identities are just a stepping stone, however.
  8. You cut your own hair. And you probably have tattoos, too. Lots of people who are closeted experiment with their appearance. It’s not that we don’t respect our bodies. We just know it’s ours to use up how we chose, rather than the male gaze. It’s liberating.
  9. Being with a woman feels different. Maybe you’re just experimenting in college. Or, opening a new dating app after a few glasses of wine. Or, maybe you’ve been mulling these questions for years. However, you get to it, having experiences with a man or a woman can often cement how you feel. You definitely don’t need to have had sex to know how you identify. But, if it feels markedly different with men and women, that’s probably as good a sign as any. You just know.

So there you are – some recollections of my own adolescence. I hope this helps someone who is struggling with how to identify to know if they’re a lesbian. A final rule of thumb, though: straight people don’t generally wonder if they’re gay…

Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.