flickr philippe leroyerThis year has been a big one for gays and lesbians. From several states permitting gay marriage to the setback of Proposition 8 in California, the landscape of homosexual relationships is changing.

Another recent evolution is an increased incidence in formerly straight women dating other women.

The phenomenon revisits an age-old debate: Is sexuality rigid and encoded in our DNA, or can it change over time? While research points to the latter, two women Lemondrop spoke with who left male mates for women believe otherwise.

She Has a Girlfriend Now
Two years ago, Debbie from Florida left her boyfriend of five years for a woman she had only met the week before. She says that she had experimented with other women via one-night stands during her last heterosexual relationship, but never pursued an all-out lesbian partnership.

"I met my now partner, and I realized I didn't want the straight life any longer," said Debbie, who had also been married to another man for 17 years. "Originally, I pushed it aside ... the 'straight' life was safer. When I met my current partner, I just went for it."

Click here to keep reading -- and hear from a man who was dumped for another woman.

Debbie, who is now in her 50s, says identifying as a lesbian was "almost like walking into a different world." The biggest challenges of her new lifestyle are "being accepted, being judged by others and trying to learn the difference between what a man expects and what a woman expects."

"The men in my generation wanted to be 'taken care of,'" Debbie explained. "You know -- do the laundry, raise the kids, cook supper, clean house. Women have a more 50/50 outlook on relationships. It isn't up to one partner to do certain things unless that's what they enjoy. Communication is more open, sex is more mutual and either one can initiate. And you can share so much. "gay pride parade getty images

Sex Ed
While there are no hard numbers to prove a trend, some experts claim more openness to same-sex relations in the media is paving the way for women to break ties with heterosexuality -- think Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson.

But LiLo aside, research conducted in the last half of the 20th century suggests that women are more open-minded to the same-sex relationships than men. Viewing sexuality as a continuum instead of a concrete thing began in 1948 with Alfred Kinsey's seven-point scale. Zero represented true-blue heterosexuality, six signaled homosexuality and the middle meant bisexuality. Many of the men and women Kinsey studied fell into that gray area in between.

Then in 2004, Northwestern University researchers found that both straight and gay females became sexually aroused when they viewed both heterosexual and lesbian porn. The males in the study only got turned on by women.

"We found that women's sexual desire is less rigidly directed toward a particular sex, as compared with men's, and it's more changeable over time," said J. Michael Bailey, PhD, the study's lead researcher.

Another Woman's Tale
Spring, 49, from California left her third husband after 10 years of marriage in 1999 so she could come out. She said she's always been attracted to women, but never acted on it.

"I have been out now for 10 years and have no desire to go back to dating men," she said. "I think that there is a 'different' type of connection, one that I could never get when dating men."

While the connection might be different, much of what goes on in a heterosexual relationship happens in lesbian ones, too.

"The same dynamics exist; issues around money, time spent, kids, dreams, career, family, not putting the toilet seat down."

A Man's Side of the Story
What's it like for the men whom these women leave? Robert Dorsey, 21, of Delaware, found out two years ago when he started dating a female friend of the same age. Things were going well until about six months in.

"She seemed a little more distant," Dorsey said. "She started hanging out a little more with different girls. I thought they were just friends."

When Dorsey confronted his girlfriend about why she spent so much time with other women instead of him, she told him, "I'm sorry. I think I really like girls. I can't date you anymore."

The young woman told Dorsey she had just realized her attraction and that it might be a phase. But two years later, she's still dating women exclusively.

"I took it hard at first," Dorsey recalled. "Then I just realized our relationship was more of a friendship."

Tell us: Have you ever been attracted to or dated another woman after only dating men?