After spending nine years in a co-ed kindergarten and primary school, I faced the first crossroads in life. I had to choose which secondary school I was going to, and my mom couldn’t care less about it. I was never a straight-A student, but my grades were good enough for her not to worry about me. Knowing that I shouldn’t expect too much from a laissez-faire mother, I asked myself what I wanted to achieve in the coming years. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be in an environment with as few distractions to my studies as possible, as well as a school that provided a good academic environment. I picked a Catholic girls’ school that had several decades of history, but wasn’t too historical or elite-school like.
The flock of white dresses passing by overwhelmed me when I entered the school on that first day in September. Having spent nine years in a co-ed school, my brain was trained to filter out the boys in class – except the cute ones maybe. I found it stressful to memorize a doubled number of names (I never tried to remember the boys’ names in my class). I was uncomfortable with the changes at first, but after a month or so, I started enjoying the eye-opening experience.
I thought going to a girls’ school would save me from those chick-flick problems: girls wasting time talking about their crushes and neglecting their studies. I was wrong. Girls still gossipped about each other’s crushes: handsome looking tomboys. And even worse, girls fought with each other for the good catches. We had a terminology to categorize different types of lesbians:
- Tomboys (TBs), boyish girls. The popular ones were mostly on the school basketball team.
- TBGs, girly girls who went after the TBs.
- Pures, girls who did not dress in a way to show their preference.
I was shocked at first, but not soon after I found myself caught up in a bizarre love rectangle with my good friend, her crush, and her crush’s ex. So apparently I had become a TBG. The puppy love only lasted for three days (about which my friends still tease me), with lingering pain caused by a broken friendship. When I told my mom what happened, I saw a sign of relief on her face. It surprised me that the risk of me getting pregnant worried her more than me admitting that I was lesbian/bisexual.
That was my first and only experience of “dating” a girl (we only held hands though), and I was never again in a relationship with a girl. It was childish, but this most-remarkable part of my first year in the girls’ school enlightened me about what homosexuality is. From our peers we learned that sexual orientation is personal and a normal part of life. As some of our classmates realized they were only attracted to girls ever since they were in primary school, most us discovered that they were born this way, and there’s nothing wrong with it. No matter what her sexual orientation is, a girls’ school student is less likely to be influenced by biased opinions on homosexuality.*
Some of the girls became lesbians out of curiosity, or because of the lack of attractive males in their social circles, and they started dating guys after getting into universities. They were the LUGs: Lesbians Until Graduation. In retrospect, our experiences as LUGs removed the veil of guilt and shame of having a different sexual orientation than most people. We learned the importance of respecting one’s choice of who he/she wants to be with, regardless of the partner’s gender.
Of course, our school did not like the idea. Not soon after my graduation, I was told that the school became so homophobic that girls were not allowed to hold hands with each other – even if they were just friends.
*Research findings also suggest that exposure to and contact with homosexuals brought about more positive attitudes toward homosexuality. “Effects of social contact with homosexuals on heterosexual Turkish university students’ attitudes towards homosexuality.” Sakalli N, Uğurlu O. J Homosex. 2001;42(1):53-62.