Sacha Kridelka - black and white photo of a hand holding a phone with a scan of a photobooth picture of two girls kissin
Photo: courtesy of the author

I Thought I Was a Fake Lesbian

Even therapists tried to convince me I was straight.

This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.

I think I've always questioned my identity. As a child, I wondered what it would be like if I liked girls. I had crushes on girls around me, but I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to be like them or with them.


Over time, everything started to make sense. And when I met my first girlfriend at the age of 14, I realised I was a lesbian. Initially, when no one else knew about it, it felt completely natural to me, even though I was raised in a conservative family. For me, it was beautiful, genuine, and consensual, so I found it hard to imagine that it could bother the people around me or even a significant part of the population. 

I wasn't prepared for the lesbophobia I would face: the hurtful comments, my loved ones changing the way they looked at me, people thinking I should be grateful for being tolerated. As I grew up, I started thinking everything would be easier if I were straight.

At 15, when I broke up with my girlfriend and decided to give guys a chance. I wasn't sure what I wanted, but I thought that was what was expected from me. One night, I decided to sleep with a guy. I felt nothing. Really, nothing. No attraction, no pleasure, just a sense of going through the motions. 

When I talked about it with people, they said it was normal because first times are often terrible. I told them it wasn't my first time, I’d had been having sex with my girlfriend for months, and it was amazing. But they replied things like, "Come on, you know it's not the same!" Indeed, it wasn't, but not in the way they understood it. In doubt, I tried several times, but with the same results: I’d find myself staring at the ceiling, waiting for it to be over, then getting dressed and leaving.


After a few months, I ran into my ex at a party and learned my first lesbian lesson: It's not over until you get back together at least once. These experiences confirmed what I already knew. I was a lesbian. But that didn’t prevent other people’s reactions, from those who wished I was straight and those who thought I was bi. 

On the same day, people could accuse me of ogling girls in the locker room and wanting to hook up with their boyfriends. One day, a girl came charging at me outside a bar, cussing me out. “You damn dyke, you slept with my guy. You're just a fucking dumpster.” I’m not sure how many phobias were in this insult, but it made me realise people wouldn't let me forget my attempt at heterosexuality.

At 18, I started having mental health issues partly linked to the discrimination I was facing. At the time, I felt completely disconnected from the world I lived in. I was going through a rough patch in my relationship and didn't know who to talk to – I knew my family would push me to break up with my partner, and I felt like my friends wouldn't understand me. My girlfriend was the only person who really got me, she was my first love, and also the only lesbian I knew. 

I ended up struggling with severe depression for months, so I decided to see a hypnotherapist. The session went well until my sexuality came up. The therapist, who seemed well-intentioned, explained to me that I was going through a perfectly normal phase for a young girl and that my attraction to women was going to pass. Although my lesbian identity had often been questioned, this time, it really disturbed me.


Things got worse and worse. I went from thinking, "Maybe it would be easier if I were straight," to, "Maybe it would be easier if I were dead." I went to therapy and then to a psychiatrist to get a diagnosis. He analysed my symptoms and put into words absolutely everything I was feeling. I thought he was reading my mind and felt I could trust him. I understood only later that he was citing the symptoms of my pathology – which I'm not comfortable sharing – rather than really understanding me.

Over the sessions, we talked about my childhood, my relationship with my parents, and then my girlfriend. I explained to my psychiatrist that we'd started dating very young, that we'd been together for seven years, and that, despite the break-ups and difficulties, we were still very much in love. 

At first, my relationship seemed to surprise him, and he made a lot of strange assumptions: "She's a lot older than you, isn't she?" "Does she have mental health problems too?” I didn’t understand where he was going. 

One day, when we were back on the subject, he asked me out of the blue, "How do you feel about a man getting a hard-on for you?" I looked at him, completely shocked. He took my expression as an answer and continued, "That's what I thought. You see penetration as aggression. That's why you can't go out with men." I don't even remember what I said, I was so shocked. All I know is when I got home, I started asking myself whether he was telling the truth. If that psychiatrist was right about everything else, maybe he was right about that, too.


Over time, the idea kept growing in my head. I'd never had feelings for a guy before, but I started to force things. Maybe with this guy, it could work in another life? This actor's not bad, maybe I can imagine myself with him? 

At some point, I even told my girlfriend I would eventually end up in a straight relationship. She didn’t fall for it, though. “Look, if you want to try again with a guy one day, that's your choice,” she said. “But what makes you think it would be any different today?” In the end, I could only persuade myself that I was straight in theory but had never experienced it for real. 

Still, I couldn't get over what the psychiatrist had told me. I kept thinking there was something wrong with me, that I was a fake lesbian, a broken straight woman who'd invented a life for herself. I was putting so much effort into trying to conform to a sexuality that wasn't mine that I didn't know who I was anymore.

Fortunately, after a few sessions, the psychiatrist decided I didn't need to see him anymore and could resume my initial treatment with my therapist. 

Even though I didn't tell her about this experience, she realised from our conversations that I had trouble accepting myself. Appointment after appointment, she made me understand it's OK to be a lesbian, and it's also OK if things change one day. I don't have anything to prove to anyone. I was finally hearing what I needed to hear: I could be myself and trust my feelings. I realised these doubts didn't come from me in the first place; I'd just trusted the judgement of the wrong people at a time when I was particularly vulnerable, that's all.

The work with my psychologist and the discussions with my girlfriend helped me a lot, but it took years for these doubts to disappear completely. I started my love life in a very gentle way, but I went through years of intense confusion before I was able to find myself again and assert my lesbian identity.

I decided to look into why so many people had questioned my sexuality, and made this quest the subject of my thesis. Discovering the work of Sandra Boehringer, Robert Aldrich, Louise-Marie Libert and other historians helped me realise how lesbian and other queer identities have been erased from the history books, even at times when these communities were accepted and celebrated. In a sense, I discovered my heritage. And I can only hope healthcare professionals educate themselves about sexuality and gender, too. 

Today, I know I've always liked girls, even if society tried to convince me otherwise. I don't want to hide or change anymore. I'm proud of who I am and I can look forward to the future.