by Michelle Kekana
I once dated a woman who knew at the age of four that she was gay. She knew this without being told. She knew this even though she grew up in rural Limpopo; in a space where no one is lesbian, where gender roles are clearly set out, rigidly defined, obeyed. She says at four she first rejected the pale yellow frilly dresses that her mom bought for her. She says by the time she was a teen she discovered a noun that describes her as a female sexually attracted to other females. By the time she went to university she had come out to her mother and the world.
That is one story, but there are thousands of other stories of women who discover who they are through other means. Another lesbian woman I know knew much later that she was gay. She was 33, a married mother of three kids. She had been heterosexual all her life. Her discovery of female attraction felt like a home-coming. Her interaction with females felt stronger, more natural. She took to the intimacy with women like a fish to water.
Both women are equally lesbian. They both display an attraction to females that they acted on. But in our community there is a mentality that says that all lesbians are born that way. That anyone who comes into homosexuality later in life is faking it, going through a phase, experimenting. There is no doubt that there are thousands of women who experiment sexually with other women for the sake of the thrill; that some women will sleep with women and then re-join the hetero normative life again. But while they are with women they are still lesbians. The short duration of their experimentation does not make their experiences less real.
For me it does not matter if someone feels like they are born lesbian or become lesbian later or choose to be lesbian for a while. We often talk about sexual fluidity and are comfortable with the concept until some lesbian leaves the community and goes back to being straight. When that happens we choose to act hurt and betrayed and we throw our theory of fluidity out the window, because the person is flowing fluidly out of our community and not into it. That is total hypocrisy. Sexual fluidity can flow whatever way.