Girls who like girls
Are not boys
The impacts of puberty
Many girls feel some distress when their bodies begin to physically change at puberty, although this feeling will fade over time. By the age of 16 some of the worst physical impacts of going through puberty have passed. But your bones continue to strengthen and the brain continues to develop until the age of 25. Entering puberty can also bring pressures on girls from other people who may expect them to dress and look a different way.
Physical changes that happen at the time of puberty
Growing more body hair, specifically on legs, underarms, and around the genitals.
Depending on ethnicity and genetics, some women grow less hair than others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having body hair. In some cultures, women with body hair are told they are unclean, but this is not true. If this were true why aren’t men told their body hair is unclean?
Body shape changes
No two women’s bodies are the same. A lot of women’s hips widen during puberty. It also involves growing taller and bones growing stronger as well as an increase in weight. All of this is totally normal.
The development of breasts is one of the first elements of puberty girls experience. It’s very normal for them to grow at different rates, in fact most women’s breasts stay different sizes as adults. It can feel strange for our bodies to change in such an obvious way, and the world telling us our breasts are sexual things doesn’t help!
Having periods can take a few years to ‘settle’. Periods can range in colour, consistency, and amount. What’s ‘normal’ for one body will not be the same as ‘normal’ for another woman.
Because of the female hormones produced by the body there can be a range of both negative and positive intense feelings in one day. These can range from anger to questioning our own self-worth.
This can feel very unsettling and we understand that this can be scary because we have been through it too. Going through puberty doesn’t last forever. We recommend finding ways to express your feelings that work for you (e.g. doing art, sports, music, talking with friends).
People bully others because they are unhappy and feel insecure about themselves. Putting other people down makes them feel powerful. It’s normal to feel tempted to do this too, especially if you are struggling with low self esteem.
If someone is bullying you because they think or know you are a lesbian, tell a trusted adult and see our page on lesbian rights for more. Being a lesbian is a wonderful thing that is often misunderstood by heterosexual society. We are glad to be lesbians and glad that you are too.
Clothing and Appearance
Expectations and Pressures
There are extreme social pressures on teenage young women and adult women to look and dress in a certain way. Apart from advertising and the media, these pressures can come from parents, family and friends. You do not have to conform to these expectations and stereotypes, especially if they make you feel uncomfortable. Here are some examples of the type of clothing you might feel pressured to wear:
• the clothes are sexually revealing;
• tops, bras and dresses are very low cut or designed emphasise your breasts;
• the clothes are flimsy, thin, or see-through;
• the clothes are restrictive or impractical;
• the clothes are more expensive than ‘boys’/’mens clothes’.
Alternatives – Many young lesbians have found alternatives to this uncomfortable clothing
• wearing sports bras;
• wearing boxer shorts instead of tight uncomfortable pants;
• wearing loose shirts and jeans instead of tight restrictive ones;
• wearing doc martins and trainers instead of tight uncomfortable shoes.
The good news is that some loose clothing is in fashion now.
Whatever clothing you decide to wear, do not try and bind your breasts. Breast binding or flattening is very harmful – it can directly harm your breasts, shorten your breath and damage your lungs. It can cause your ribs to break and give you back pain.
Make-up, long hair, and shaving
You might feel pressure from wider society, and the women in your life, to wear makeup, have long hair, and remove your body hair. You don’t need to alter your appearance in any way. Makeup and razors are expensive, and the companies that make them do not have your best interest at heart. Unfortunately, a lot of women do not question why they feel the need to use makeup and remove their body hair, it’s just become a habit. They might encourage you to do it too, but you don’t need to do it just because they do. Your appearance is yours.
Your mental health can be affected by a number of negative experiences. Not all mental health resources are supportive of young lesbians, or lesbians in general. If you find you need mental health support because you are confused about your sexuality or what is happening to your body going through puberty, or you have experienced sexual abuse and assault there are some agencies that can provide support. For example, you can get support from lesbian therapists. Contact us if you feel you need this.
If you are worried about your mental health and feel you can’t cope, try this resource
https://www.mind.org.uk/need-urgent-help/using-this-tool. You may also be able to seek other help from MIND.
Experience of sexual abusE AND RAPE
There are Sexual Assault and Rape referral services (SARCs) in most cities. They can be found on the NHS website. But none of these services are single sex. They provide forensic nurse examiners and support workers. You can insist that you are examined by a female nurse and get support from a female worker. A forensic examination is undertaken in case you want to report the assault or rape to the police.
There are also Rape Crisis services, if you live in England or Wales. Some of these services are single sex and provide support to women and girls only. Other Rape Crisis centres include men in their services. You can find single sex services near you by calling the 24 hour Rape Crisis help line 0808500222.
If you live in Scotland none of the rape crisis services are single sex, they are all include men and male employees. There is a new single sex service for women and girls being set up in Edinburgh called Beira Place. It should be opening soon.
Confused about being lesbian?
Some of the things we have mentioned above can mess with your mental health, and prevent you from feeling good about your female body and being lesbian.
The most important part of maintaining good mental health is to have a positive relationship with yourself and liking yourself for who you are. Take a look at our selection of personal stories from young lesbian women. Lots of lesbians struggle with their mental health, and we want you to know that you’re not alone. You are part of an inspiring legacy of women who have been going against the grain and living for themselves for a long time!
If you need it, there are therapists who can reassure you it is totally fine to be a lesbian and help you with other mental health problems you may have. If this is the case contact us.
My story – From a 22 year old lesbian who managed to escape transition
“I grew up in a working-class household, and I often wonder that if my parents were middle-class and university educated, quite how many years of tomboyishness I would have enjoyed before being packed off to a gender identity clinic to be fixed in the name of progressiveness. If given the option in my teenage years, I would have swiftly taken myself there, had a mastectomy, taken hormones, and changed my legal sex. I wanted nothing more.
Being a lesbian, and a gender-non-conforming lesbian at that, in the current climate, is extremely hostile. The desire in many girls to distance themselves from the growing pressure to conform to a hyper-sexualised and porn-inspired idea of womanhood should not be treated with surgery and hormones – in fact, with nearly all of the girls who are enduring this being same sex attracted, I view it as gay eugenics and a form of conversion therapy. Encouraging lesbians into “heterosexuality” cannot be labelled as anything else.
The pressure to transition comes from many angles. One side of the issue is lesbian invisibility. You can’t know that it’s okay to feel the way you do, that there’s a community waiting for you, if you can’t see it. It’s hard to see a future for yourself that doesn’t lie with the other half of the problem – the questioning of whether or not you believe you are a man. It’s one thing to brush off the age-old question posed to butch lesbians of “do you just think you’re a man though?” from less savoury men on the street and in your life. It’s another to hear the questioning posed in a more insidious way by educated, clever, and articulate peers and teachers. The same people would ask me my “pronouns” every time we saw each other, expecting the answer to have changed.
I was lucky though, the summer before I left school I met, and became good friends, with a large group of lesbians of many ages. Because of this, I was able to see a future for myself as a lesbian, and have a community. I never bowed to the intense pressure “to become a man” because I understood that it is socially and biologically impossible. It is a lie told to lesbians and everyone around them. No-body can change sex, and nobody should try. And certainly, nobody should be allowed to threaten, harass and assault women who say this. I also never bowed to the pressure of heterosexual men claiming to be women, therefore “lesbians”, insisting on their right to join our spaces and to have sexual access to us. The bottom line is, we should be allowed to assert our exclusivity as a group of women who are sexually-attracted to other women.“
There is a lot of information available online for those who want to transition, but there is very little information available for those who no longer want to continue with their transition. There are now thousands of young women who in their early twenties realise they made a mistake in under going medical and surgical transition in their mid teens. The vast majority of whom are same sex attracted young women, that is lesbians.
Here is a link to a website whose “goal is to provide a space for female detransitioners to share their experiences as well as giving an alternative narrative to the common discussions on trans identity.” https://post-trans.com/
Download their PDF booklet about detransition.
Take a look at their survey on the experiences of detransitioned people. They found that:
“Detransitioners have important psychological needs in relation to gender dysphoria, comorbid conditions, feelings of regret, social/physical changes and internalized homophobic or sexist prejudices.”
“The support given to detransitioners appears to be very poor at the moment. Participants described strong difficulties with medical and mental health systems, as well as experiences of outright rejection from the LGBT+ community.”
“The study uncovers the importance of spaces where detransitioners can hear about other detransition experiences and exchange with each other.”