THE BLOG

A Young Woman's Experience With Sexual Orientation and Mental Checklists

11/03/2015 11:46 GMT | Updated 10/05/2015 10:59 BST

Almost every time I meet a new person I'm forced to watch as their brow furrows and an expression of both shock and confusion washes over them after I tell them that the beautiful woman standing next to me is in fact my girlfriend.

I'm a woman, and she's a woman, and I'm completely in love with her. She's successful, pretty and extremely likeable - therefore people assume she's straight.

I feel both angry and disappointed in people every time I encounter this shock and confusion at my sexual orientation and successful relationship with another 'straight-looking' woman.

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I've had a think about these stereotypes, which still very much exist when it comes to determining a woman's sexuality, and what goes through a person's mind when deciding that I'm straight.

I take myself back to the many times when I've been stood in front of a new person and they're processing the fresh - and evidently shocking - information that the two women in front of them are, in fact, not straight! Shock! Horror!

They weren't expecting that, were they? But why wasn't this even an option in their minds?

Well, almost everyone assumes that a woman is straight once they've inspected them against a mental checklist of the women in question's attributes and exterior. This checklist is usually conducted without even realising.

With men the checklist is slightly more advanced. Let me explain; if a man fails the 'gay/straight' test (judged on the nature of the man's stance, their dress sense, mannerisms, voice etc.) and the man is in no way camp, he's still not assumed to be straight - there is still a possibility he could be gay.

However, with women the process seems to differ. After a similar mental checklist is conducted, and the woman fails all checks (so she's in no way 'dyke-y' or 'butch' or any other derogatory slang term for lesbian) they're almost always definitely STRAIGHT.

Which is why I continuously find myself in this frankly awkward situation; when the secret's out - and I'm found to have a girlfriend; when I've failed all of the prejudice-ridden, stereotypical mental checks, and the person is left feeling both baffled and cheated by their own mental checklist.

Unfortunately it took me a while to realise that I'd actually been failed by my very own mental checklist (yes, I am slightly over-simplifying my inner turmoil during prior to and during the discovery of my own sexuality), and therefore thought that I was undoubtedly straight.

Arguably the most incessant desire and eagerness to find out one another's sexual orientations is during adolescence, during a time when us human-beings are most confused and dosed up with hormones and testosterone. During my teenage years, with my very own checklist conducted and failed without my realising, I was no closer to working out why I felt at a loss, with an emptiness in my mind and a lump in my throat.

When I entered into my twenties I ended up falling in love with my best friend from school. My 'coming out' story was slightly easier than many as I'm lucky enough to have very understanding and caring parents, but I still held off telling them of the discovery of my sexuality for years and then my relationship with a woman for months and months due to fear of their disapproval and misunderstanding of my situation.

It's continued to be difficult having to constantly 'come out' to people at work, some of my friends, and my family.

I've realised that my own checklist has in fact caused me much misery and bafflement. A set of pre-historic rules; rules I've picked up from here, there and everywhere, have placed me into a box. Society's need to define a person and put them into a box determining their sexuality has affected, and is still affecting, LGBTQI people all over the world.

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Every LGBTQI person has been through some conflict in their lives, whether it inner conflict or of a more physical nature. So when you vocalise your assumptions of their sexuality - and especially when you've got it wrong - you're merely confirming to this person that you have a stone-age checklist, which you're not willing to revise. You've also put them into a very uncomfortable situation and, if they're not yet comfortable with their sexuality, which is likely, you have damaged them more than you know.

My point is, our mental checklists are very much past their expiry dates; they're growing mould in fact. I hope that one day very soon you'll notice and revise your prejudices and stereotypes and stop consciously and subconsciously pigeonholing people.

Oh, and one more thing. Ready for the curveball? I'm actually bisexual. Shocked? I hope not.

Illustrations by Weronika Kuc