I came out as a lesbian when I was 33. I came out as a butch when I was 38. Coming out as a lesbian was not such a big thing. Well, there was some drama, but not about the fact that I was a lesbian. It had more to do with the life I had been leading for 15 years and the drastic decisions I had to make to quit my routine and change my life. It involved a dramatic breakup, financial complications I had no idea of by then and learning that my best friends are my best friends for a reason. The time that followed was wonderful and sometimes hard. I was so happy to be out as a lesbian I could shout it out loud from the highest building in town. It felt I could just drop all pretense. I realize now the most important thing was that I could stop being a ‘woman’. I didn’t recognize the process I was to enter yet, but the relief I felt was obvious. My girlfriend was the perfect partner to come out with. She was intelligent, open-minded, communicative and a stimulating, motivating person. We were very different though in our identification process. She didn’t define herself as a lesbian, she just said she had fallen in love with me and I happened to be a woman. I think she saw herself more as a bisexual, but she didn’t like to label herself. We quickly settled together in the country. The only lesbian couple in a little village. A very nice, welcoming village. I loved my girlfriend, the people and the place we lived in, but still, after some years, I started to get restless. Our relationship had settled into a mostly cuddling stage, which resulted in me getting more uncertain about my body. The confidence I had felt at the beginning of our relationship had vanished. I got moody and I realized that my lesbian life was nothing different then my former life. I thought: ‘Is this it? is this thé lesbian life? I wanted to talk with other lesbian women, I wanted to be with other lesbian women, I knew I couldn’t settle for a life buried away in the country, but I didn’t want to end my relationship either. Finally I decided to join a lesbian talking group in a bigger city nearby and I started going out regularly to lesbian bars and party’s, with a friend. My girlfriend stimulated me in everything I did. She knew I was not happy and we talked a lot about our life. About what I wanted. We talked about breaking up, but I couldn’t choose. Not yet. We decided together on an open relationship, to see if that would work. I started a short affair with another woman. The only thing I gained from that was that I got my confidence back, since my confidence had everything to do with desire, being a passionate lover and giving pleasure.
In the summer of 2008 I went on my own to the international women’s camp on Femoe in Denmark. There I felt again what I had realized years before when I made love to a woman for the first time: this is it, this is where I belong. I heard the first time the word ‘butch’. They called mé a butch. I had no idea what they were talking about. But I recognized the other women who were like me. We hung out together, we had fun together, we played soccer and partied until the morning. I went home after a week as a changed person. It was hard for my girlfriend. I drifted away, had a lot of contact with my foreign friends and talked less with her. I dared to talk about my breast issue with my friends and on their advice, started to wear a binder. For the first time in my adult life I could look in the mirror and feel confident with what I saw. My appearance changed, I cut my hair more short and started wearing fitted men’s shirts.
After months of talking my girlfriend and I decided to separate. In a way, it was her decision to let me go. I wouldn’t have gone it if she had not been that unselfish. We still loved each other, but wanted other things in life and we both knew it. The fact that I had fallen in love with a woman and I wanted to live with a woman, meant I was labelled a lesbian. But this was simply not enough for me. I had so many questions: What was behind that word? What did it mean to be a lesbian? What did it mean to be a woman? Why did I feel more comfortable with my new appearance? The search for my identity meant I had to go my own way and find the answers. So I moved out.
On the first afternoon in a new city, with my cardboard boxes stacked up in my new place, I went to the Irish pub, ordered a single malt whisky and felt stupidly happy with the start of my new life.