On Learning How to Accept Women's Bodies (Including My Own) as a Gay Woman

by Jill Gutowitz
PHOTO:

Javier Díez/Stocksy

When I was nine years old, I dressed exclusively in Spider-Man clothing from the boys’ department. By 13, I had carefully constructed a convincing argument that Lindsay Lohan wasn’t “hot,” she was “cool.” At 15, while all my friends were drooling over boys and tweaking at the thought of sex—I was busy filling sketchbooks with pencil drawings of the Spice Girls. The signs were all there; I knew I was different, but I had no idea why.

When I was 22, I realized my attraction to women wasn’t just emotional but was also sexual. It ruined me; I questioned every female friendship I’ve ever had, every glance we exchanged, and what it all meant. Worst of all, I felt like a dirty cop. For a decade, I was a mole, the inside man, watching my friends change, exchanging secret sexcapades, and comparing progress in boob size. But I wasn’t on their side. No, I was a double agent. I felt creepy and dishonest, a deeply sad thing to feel in response to natural impulses. Unfortunately, that deep-seated angst doesn’t just evaporate, and today, I still struggle with it. Whether it’s a sexual partner, stranger, or celebrity—whenever I want to stare, touch, or admire a woman from a distance, I feel dirty. After years of suppressing my queerness, my Pavlovian response to the bare female body (even my own) is to look away.

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