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The first time I fell in love, my best friend had shown me a printed still from Sailor Moon, I stared at the picture wide-eyed as I went over all ten of the Sailor Soldiers. Each girl was more beautiful than the next and as my eyes travelled over the different hair shades, it stopped for more than a minute on two women – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, to my sixth-grade self, they looked like everything I wanted to be as an adult. Feminine, attractive and dripping with big lesbian woman energy (I’d think years later).
“Who are they?” I asked my best friend as I peered at them with interest.
“Oh, they’re Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. They’re lesbians.” she said, as if my eleven-year old self knew what the meaning of lesbians were.
“What does that mean?”
“It means when women like other women.”
“What? Really?? You can do that??”
I sounded mystified. It was an unheard concept to me – no one had ever told me growing up you could date women and that was an actual thing. I assumed everyone was like my parents.
Then, I settled on Tuxedo Kamen, a.k.a, Chiba Mamoru – Sailor Moon’s main squeeze. He looked like every Disney prince but even better with his beautiful midnight blue eyes, tanned skin and an ugly green sweater that would become the running joke in all the fanfictions I would read in secret years later when I was supposed to be studying for my finals.
He was lovely, he was the knight in shining armor, and he was the perfect man.
The only problem?
I didn’t know what to make of him and my mind kept going back to the image of Sailor Uranus’ hand wrapped around Sailor Neptune’s neck in the photo.
Was that love?
I’m in tenth grade when I start to understand that something about me is different. High school was a confusing time for me and everyone I knew – we kept so many secrets from each other and we pretended to be something we were not. It was a terrible time to discover you were maybe a lesbian woman.
Classmates magically had secret boyfriends overnight and I would be asked ad nauseam who I liked (it was always Tuxedo Kamen or some new anime man I discovered during my many YouTube binge watching sessions). People thought I was childish and when pestered if I had a crush on anyone – anyone at all, I vaguely admitted I liked a childhood friend (a boy I went to church with). Everything was fine, I was alright, and they left me alone.
It was only months later during a trip to India for my grandparents wedding anniversary, I would hear that my third favorite teen celebrity Lindsay Lohan was dating a lesbian woman and my life would change completely.
I don’t know how many women can claim that Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson were their queer awakening, but I would like to think that I was one of the few. I spent that whole summer secretly using my sister’s Wi-Fi connector to look up lesbians, especially queer women in pop culture, singers (K.D Lang, Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara), The L Word and this word – “bisexual.”
She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to.
My dreams began to morph into me imagining relationships with women who I belatedly realized I was attracted to. I didn’t know how to navigate it. I spent the next two years denying every lesbian woman-themed wet dream, everything I noticed about a woman that I found attractive. I shifted schools but would secretly pine about high school crushes through my Facebook account and years later I would develop a very embarrassing crush on a girl in my high school friend circle.
She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to in the future. A few months leading up to the finals when I was revising for my exams, I wrote her a poem filled with all of my feelings for her. I tore it into pieces later because I couldn’t bear to see it written down in front of me – could I be a lesbian woman?
I would stop going to church (I was a very religious growing up), I would fight with my parents and God. I would make small compromises but mostly I would hide because I knew that the country and the family I grew up in would never understand nor accept me.
Dating as a bisexual and possibly pansexual woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette.
I would only come to terms with my sexuality in my university years and then also, spend the rest of my college life having to answer homophobic questions from well-meaning friends (and not so well-meaning) in attempts to fit in. Every woman I felt a little attracted to or even suspected I was batting for another team – I would deny my feelings and pretend I wasn’t a lesbian woman.
It was lonely. Some days I didn’t know how to deal with my fluctuating mental health. When I was feeling particularly isolated, I would watch the few LGBTQIA+ movies I would find online copies of or lurk on AfterEllen.com in the Gulf section for leads on where I could meet more sapphic-adjacent people like me.
For all the people who hate dating apps and spend time deriding it – I get it but also, I’m grateful that because of those Godforsaken apps, I’ve had my share of good, bad and ugly experiences with men and women.
Dating as a bisexual, pansexual and possibly a lesbian woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. You don’t know what you’re getting each time you swipe right. I’ve had propositions by couples looking for a threesome (“We just want a unicorn!”), catfishes (“If you’re really a girl, send me a photo of your boobs.”), women looking to experiment (“I just want to have fun”) and to date.
My dating experience was abysmal, I barely got a chance to do anything due to having a strained relationship with my parents. We frequently fought because I was too much and if they questioned why I went out (the few times that I did) – they would need a running order of the evening and what I was planning on getting up to while out. The few men I did date – well, mostly just be in situationships with, ended up being emotionally unavailable and I hurt.
Men were very different from women; I had decided after spending three years in university with them. I didn’t particularly like them, but they were widely accepted, after all if I was caught with a man – I wouldn’t be immediately deported or jailed. But men were comfortable, easy – it was much harder to match with women on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Most of the women I ended up matching with, ended up becoming friends and I would simply pine in the stereotypical way that all us sapphic girls do when they couldn’t be honest about their crushes.
But these apps gave me an Invisibility Cloak and let me live my truth.
I learned to embrace who I am, I learnt to fall in love, fall in lust and take caution when I felt I was unsafe. It also taught me that despite the way things are here, I wasn’t alone. There were other women like me – queer, lesbian, bi and pan – other people who were trying their best to live their truth, survive in the land of opportunity till they could truly be the people they wanted to be.
After all, without the rain there’s no rainbow.
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