My contribution to this forum will be a series of interviews. Names will always be altered to protect the privacy of those interviewed. Today: the subject is a late twenty-something woman living in New York City.

theinquisitor: How do you identify sexually?
Janice: Gay.

I: How would you characterize your gender identification?
J: I am female. My body is that of a biological female’s. My persona, though, is different from what the conventional idea of what femininity is. I am not delicate or passive. I am pretty aggressive, especially around women, and I suppose more feminine around men.

I: How has your gender performance, which you just stated differs when around men and women, affected your relationships and sex life?
J: I came out when I was 23. Before that, my first boyfriend was when I was 19. Between 19 and 22, I dated a bunch of men, and slept with several of them. For the most part, men were never able to make me feel comfortable or confident sexually, or with my body. I didn’t connect with men emotionally. I never felt as though I was sexy. Despite attempting to “perform” as a typical female – meaning I tried to dress feminine, wear my hair down, and act more passive than I truly am – I, objectively, did not succeed because a) I couldn’t keep up with the fa├žade, and b) I could not carry myself with confidence, because I didn’t have it.

I: Why did you not feel “sexy” around men?
J: I was/am a bit of a tomboy. That’s not what most men consider sexy. That’s not what society in general considers sexy in regards to heterosexual women.

I: Were you sexually aroused by men despite the fact that you lacked comfort/confidence with them sexually/emotionally?
J: Yes.

I: Were you attracted to women while you were dating men?
J: Yes. I slept with a woman for the first time when I was 22. Something ‘clicked’ for me then. Sleeping with that particular woman showed me what sex could really be like. Up until then, I was having orgasms, not sex. With women, my aggressiveness that I perceived to be ‘un-sexy’ with men is attractive to women both on a sexual and emotional level.

I: Did you become more conscious of your of your gender identification/performance after you came out, and after you became sexually active with women?
J: No, I felt like coming out made me so much more comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been able to ignore a lot of the gender hierarchy within the lesbian community. I feel like I ‘came into my own’ in regards to my gender performance. I am able to act on my natural inclinations that are out of sort with the heterosexual expectations of women.

I: In retrospect, do you think you felt confined to a female identity that was not your own while you were dating men?
J: Yes. Sex was empty for me with men. There was no emotional component. I think that this was so because I was not comfortable with myself or my sexuality with men. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident because I didn’t feel attractive. I knew that I was not anything like the female ideal. So, I guess the answer is yes.

I: Again, in retrospect, if you had felt confident and comfortable with men, if being a tomboy was overwhelmingly considered ‘sexy,’ do you think you would still be with men, instead of women?
J: …maybe?...

[End interview]

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