The Happy Trail

Lesbian until graduation?: Exploring the stigma against fluid sexuality

The stigma against women’s sexuality is staggering. Despite great strides that have been made toward visibility and acceptance for queer and sexually empowered women, gay women are often pegged as “fake” or are accused of betraying their fellow lesbians if they decide they like men, too.

Consider, for instance, a hypothetical freshman girl: she comes to school for the first time, unsure of her place in this tight-knit campus community. How will she be seen by others? The allure of labeling herself in order to feel more connected to her peers can be overwhelming, especially for someone struggling to define herself in a place  where solidarity is so highly venerated.

This young woman goes to a party and makes out with a girl for the first time; she is surprised to find that she likes it. As she explores this attraction, she may then feel pressured by lesbians, her friends and even men to define her sexuality concretely. Human attraction is not something that can be defined in terms of black and white, though.

At a recent Queers & Allies meeting, the topic of discussion centered on bisexuals and “LUGs” —“Lesbians Until Graduation.” The concept behind LUGs is that women “try out” being a lesbian in college, but once they graduate they abandon the community they had as a lesbian in favor of relationships with men.

As college students, many of our sex drives are higher than they have ever been. As a result, it is entirely natural that some people might find themselves attracted to people or genders that they would not have formerly considered.  It is also important to note that historically, women’s sexuality has been considered more fluid, meaning that their tastes and preferences change over time.

Like the old saying goes, “There is a time and a place for everything. That place is college.” College is one of the most formative times in people’s lives when it comes to their identity, and sexuality is an important aspect of many people’s identities. This is a place where people are challenged daily to learn new things about themselves; if one of those things that people discover is their sexuality, it should be celebrated, not judged.

Because so many emotions are often tied to sex, it may seem like a slap in the face if one of your former partners is no longer attracted to your gender. It may feel like your relationship was fake, or just part of a “phase” in that person’s life.

“Phases” should not be considered frivolous or unimportant, though. Our lives are made up of phases, all of which are integral to our sense of self. A woman who has a lesbian “phase” in college is not likely faking, she is engaging in relationships with people to whom she is attracted and is deciding for herself if these are the kinds of relationships she’d like to pursue in the future.

The most important thing for people exploring their sexuality to keep in mind is not to get too caught up in labels, but instead to make sure that they are practicing safe sex, being respectful of others by communicating openly and honestly, and being respectful of themselves by being honest and forgiving.

A LUG may find that in college, she is more attracted to women because of the difference in relationship dynamic, the excitement of trying something new or because of the solidarity she feels with other queer women. If she wants to discover first-hand what same-sex sex is like, she should be able to without feeling like she has to lie in order to find out.

Regardless of whether someone is testing the waters or embracing every lesbian stereotype they’ve heard, people should be able to live the lives that make them happy and be free to acknowledge when certain identities no longer serve them positively.

For readers interested in learning more about queer identity, Q&A meets Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. in the Student Diversity Center, located across the street from Diversions.