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Future In-Laws, Appealing Coworkers, and Lesbians With Interests (?!)

Ima try to keep this snappy. I’m queer. I’m in an open marriage. I live in Utah. I’m only a year into this, so I have wobbly newborn queer legs and I suck at coming out, especially when it comes to the open relationship bit.

SO, there’s this girl I work with … we drunkenly confessed crushes on each other one night … my confession in all seriousness and hers potentially in a I’m-totally-straight-but-I-like-your-hair kind of way. I don’t know. I would really like to bring it up again and find out more. Is it worth it to possibly ruin a nice work relationship with her and jeopardize my job if she doesn’t take it well? Sexual orientation isn’t a protected class here (obvs:( ) and I don’t know how management would react to my queerness if it got around. Is there a less risky way to go about this?

So many questions. How do I go about bringing up my open relationship? Are there times when it is inappropriate? Like work? I’m tired of all the assumptions that we are straight and monogamous by default, but how do I politely correct them? Should I correct them? 

Oh, yikes. As much as I am in favor of you getting your extracurricular partner-sanctioned girl-on-girl groove on, there are just so many potential minefields here. Even if your company has no problem with you being queer — which is a difficult thing to test, aside from coming out at work and seeing whether you still have a job — they may very well have a policy against intra-office dating. And even if they don’t, what if you hook up with this girl for a little while and then break up and have to see her at work all the time? Or you confess your love, and she’s like “um, wow, no,” and then every time your eyes meet over the coffee maker you have to go and hide under your desk for an hour.

I really really hate to say you should stay in the closet, because I always think that coming out is the best thing you can do both in terms of increased queer visibility in the world and in terms of your own personal sanity and heart/vagina, but … I can’t in good conscience tell you to pursue a relationship if you’re (legitimately, it sounds like) worried it could get you fired. Unless you think the lady you’re crushing on is worth losing your job over — and since you’re only in the market for some on-the-side fun, she probably isn’t — I’m sorry, but I have to advise you to keep it in your pants. 

With those cautionary words firmly in mind, though, I’ll admit there may be some wiggle room here. Given that you had the chance to get drunk and confess your crush to her, you two must be hanging out away from the office occasionally (right? I mean, you weren’t getting faced while on the clock, were you?). So the next time you’re at the bar, I think it wouldn’t be the world’s worst idea to casually let something slip. If you’re talking about celebrity crushes, for instance, you might bring up how badly you’ve got the hots for Zoe Saldana — you might even mention that your husband wouldn’t mind if you and Zoe slipped away for a night of torrid, sweaty romance. The trick, if you can manage, is to keep it light and casual while giving her just enough information that she knows the door is open. If she doesn’t walk through it, though, it’s time to let the matter drop.

With people who aren’t your coworkers, I don’t think it’s ever inappropriate to correct their misconceptions about your marriage or your orientation. You can just matter-of-factly say “Actually, I’m into women too,” or “Actually, we’re not monogamous” — although you should definitely be prepared to answer some follow-up questions.

For a little over a year I’ve been dating a guy who is warm, supportive, sweet, open, kind, and so good in the sack it’s been kind of a revelation. 

He’s also bisexual, which I knew before I started dating him and I’m fine about. We even argue about how hot different guys are, which is pretty fun (though I think he likes Taylor Kitsch a little TOO much). And I’m really not the kind of person who wants a vanilla guy anyway.

The thing that’s getting to me though is this: is it fair for me to demand a monogamous relationship when I know there are things he wants sexually that I simply can’t give him (‘cause of not having a penis/being a woman). He has always had open relationships in the past which has allowed him to play both sides, and I feel like I should offer that to him because I want him to be happy and fulfilled. But when I think about him with someone else my heart just curls up and dies. I can’t bear the thought of sharing him with anyone, it utterly terrifies me even considering it. 

I should say that there is no pressure at all from him for an open relationship. When we talk about it, he says he knows that there is no one who can give him everything he wants, and that he’d rather have me than anyone else, male or female. But still, I feel like I’m denying him something. And when he is so incredibly supportive and open to doing anything I want to do, it feels like I’m being unfair and ungenerous.  

How do I reconcile my desire to be as open-minded and supportive to him as he is to me, with my apparent total inability to put aside jealousy and insecurity and allow him to find what he needs outside our relationship? Should I just accept that this is his choice to be with me, even if it might mean he NEVER gets to bang another dude? And why exactly DOES everyone find Taylor Kitsch so hot? Isn’t he kind of bland? 

I couldn’t remember what Taylor Kitsch looked like, so I Googled him, and in the five seconds since I looked at the image results I’ve forgotten what he looks like again. So, I’m gonna go ahead and agree with you: boyfriend is bland, and your dude has kind of boring taste in boys. But, whatever, it takes all kinds, and I’m sure you have some celeb crushes he can’t get down with either. I don’t think it makes you fundamentally incompatible as a couple.

More importantly, I don’t think you being monogamous is incompatible with your boyfriend being bisexual. You’ve got things all tangled up in your head, sweetheart. You’ve confused bisexuality with non-monogamy, and non-monogamy with being a cool and laid-back person, so no wonder you’re having a hell of a time. But there are plenty of monogamous bisexuals out there, just like there are polyamorous straight people, and folks in open relationships who are nevertheless rife with insecurity and suspicion. Being uninterested in having an open relationship isn’t a character flaw — it’s just the way you’re wired. It doesn’t make you “jealous” or “insecure.” I mean, maybe you are jealous or insecure, I don’t know your life. But a strong preference for your gentleman caller to refrain from fucking other people does not have any bearing on your jealousy/insecurity status.

Your boyfriend, it sounds like, is a bi dude who can take or leave monogamy, but is happy to give up Taylor Kitsch to be with you. It’s really no different than if he were a straight dude giving up banging other chicks because you’re more important to him — if he’s happy with your relationship, there’s no reason for you to be worried. Trust him when he says that he doesn’t want anyone else.

As far as your concern that you’re not giving him everything he wants in the sack: girl, get yourself a strap-on! No, it’s not exactly the same (if you ask me it’s a vast improvement — they come in all different colors!), but if you’re really worried that your boyfriend is wasting away for want of cock, well, is just a click away.

I’m a 32-year-old queer chick who’s in a relationship with a man I will likely marry in the next year or so. My history is this: from ages 18 – 28, I only dated women and trans guys. Then a few years ago, I started dating non-trans men almost exclusively. Having spent my 20s deeply entrenched in dyke culture in NYC, this was a big shift for me, identity-wise and community-wise. A year ago I met my current (non-trans) boyfriend and it was very clear from early on that it was just Right. He gets that I used to be a dyke and now identify as queer. It is Not A Problem.  

Now that we’re contemplating marriage, though, we’re stumped by how to reveal my dyke past & queer identity to his parents. Over the holidays, I started to feel closeted by them not knowing I used to date women. I noticed myself withholding little anecdotes from my past that would have marked me as queer. This did not feel good.

I don’t think my past is a big deal, but I’m afraid his parents will think it is. I don’t want his parents to be shocked and feel like I/we kept this from them if they find out through, say, a revealing toast at our wedding. Then again, I don’t want to make telling them into some big coming out production: “sit down, we have something to tell you.” Top 10 conversations I do NOT want to have with my boyfriend’s stepmother: “so is this just a phase? are you going to leave my stepson for a woman?” 

Maybe I’m just dreading having to come out AGAIN, after doing it over and over throughout my whole life. On some level I’m afraid that telling them will ruin their image of me as the perfect daughter-in-law. I guess I see my past as a deficit when I look at it through the eyes of my 60-something straight, unsuspecting future in-laws. That’s some internalized homophobia right there.

Can you help me think about how to approach this, or maybe just offer a new way of looking at it? I’m not sure what to do. 

It’s so much harder to come out when you’re in a hetero relationship, isn’t it? You can’t just drop the phrase “my girlfriend” or mention your female partner’s name and expect everyone to go “oh, okay,” and revise their mental file on you accordingly. So what do you disclose, and how much, and do you need to sit them down and talk to them while wearing your The Test Results Came Back face, and, and, and … Okay, chill out.

As is so often the case with me, I think that the easiest way of handling this may also be the best. All those little anecdotes you’re stifling because they would give away your queerness? Let ’em out. Mention your ex-girlfriends, your favorite memories from Pride, whatever you’ve been editing out for fear of being judged. Bring them up just as casually as you would with people who already know about your sordid, lady-lovin’ past. If you’re really lucky, his parents won’t want to make a big deal about it, so they’ll wait until you’re gone, then ask your dude: “So, when she said ‘girlfriend,’ did she mean…?” and he’ll say “Yep” and they’ll go “Oh, okay” and you never have to bother with “coming out” to them at all.

If you’re slightly less lucky, they might ask you to explain, which is when you act surprised that they don’t already know. “Oh, did I not mention that I sometimes date women? I guess I forgot to tell you because it’s so not a big deal.” Make it clear that this is not A Huge Revelation, just a new fact they’re learning about you, the same as if they didn’t know that you played volleyball in high school. Unless they are massively homophobic juiceboxes or just ridiculously socially inept, they should be able to take it in stride. It’s part of your past, not your present, and it has basically no bearing on your relationship with them.

Obviously, if they ARE homophobic juiceboxes, this approach will not work, so maybe check with your boyfriend before proceeding? In that eventuality, I guess just avoid the topic for as long as it takes you to convince your dude to Get Rid Of His Parents, Seriously, They Are Revolting.

I wrote this whole letter (under 300 words, natch) full of backstory, then deleted it because the details don’t really matter. Here’s my question: is it at all possible to find a queer chick who wants to talk about things other than being queer and do things other than queer-themed events? Yes, community is nice, laughing/crying/otherwise emoting over our respective experiences builds trust and shows intimacy and blah blah blah, and meeting someone for the first time at an event sponsored by the local LGBT center makes the whole thing safer and less awkward. But is that really all dykes do and talk about?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have other interests and characteristics, and we can only get so far into conversation if the starting point is, “omg, you’re gay? Like, ME TOO!” when we’re sitting next to each other in the community center waiting for But I’m a Cheerleader to start. Talking about the movie brings on a recitation of all the other Films With Lesbians that she’s seen, and … well, sometimes I like films without lesbians. Like Harry Potter. But did you know that the woman who plays Petunia Dursley is a lesbian, and the woman who plays Madam Maxine played a lesbian in a scene that was cut from Love, Actually? And by this point my friendly smile has turned into a terrifying rictus as my mind races, trying to figure out a way to escape that doesn’t involve climbing over the women on the other side of me, who are deep into discussing whether they like Amy or Emily better. 

To wit: whither all the other chicks with actual interests beyond the part of their psyche that likes licking carpet? Surely I’m not the only one … I hope.

I am trying very very hard not to roll my eyes here, but your level of scorn for every lesbian you’ve ever met in your life is frankly just a little off-putting. Are you sure there’s not a teeny bit of confirmation bias going on here? Like you meet a cool dyke, and you start talking, and then as soon as she says anything about lesbian culture you roll your eyes and go “ugh, not another one” and write her off as a friend/source of makeouts? Because it kind of sounds like that’s what you’re doing, and if that is the case then you need to chill a little.

Off the top of my head, my queer friends and I are likely to talk about: poetry, horror movies, politics, Doctor Who, future travel plans, career plans, books, the ballet, our families, our cats … okay, fine, mostly we just talk about horror movies and Doctor Who, but that other stuff comes up occasionally. I understand some people also talk about sports. Lesbians, in general, are very much like normal human beings in our enthusiasm for a variety of topics and endeavors. So why is everyone you meet stuck on this one track? Probably because you’re meeting them at queer-themed events, and the only thing they know you have in common is being homos. It’s kind of like you’re exclusively meeting women at the dog park, and you’re writing to me going “Why are chicks so obsessed with their dogs?!”

Branching out from the safety of common ground can be intimidating when you’ve just met someone, so cut your potential paramours some slack — you may have to take the lead in bringing up other topics, and it might not happen until you’re getting to know each other a little better. Waiting for a movie to start isn’t the greatest opportunity for in-depth conversation; if the lesbian cinema aficionado next to you seems cute and smart, maybe you should ask her out for coffee, and ask her about herself. You might find that she has a lot if interesting things to say.

Finally, please never say “licking carpet” again. Carpets are gross and have cat hair in them. Thanks ever so much.

Previously: First Loves, Breakup Guilt, and Rainbows Painted With Watercolors.

Lindsay Miller knows everything (and is now on Twitter!). Do you have a question for her? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock


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