I feel like, abruptly and without warning, my sexuality has changed from a basically heterosexual girl (with some twinges of attraction towards women), to a homosexual girl (with some twinges towards men). The 'Are you a lesbian?' videos and articles I've Googled have mentioned that some people are not born gay, but these seem to be uniformly written by born-gay folks. I'm really uncomfortable with this change and its abruptness, and have a few questions. Is sexuality changing a thing?
Xena was a childhood hero of mine, but I've always had crushes on boys (like, my vagina hummed for a week after I got into this boy in college), and primarily fantasized about blowjobs, and that seems pretty much cut-and-dry boy-attraction. I've never really been with anyone, and some of that has to do with body issues (being quite chubby). The only kisses I've had *were* drunken kisses with women in college, but there was never a fountain of glitter that spelled U R GAY afterwards or anything. Part of that kissing was because women always seemed like an option in a way where men generally didn't—meaning, I just never felt like a boy could be into me, and kissing my friends drunkenly seemed like a way to be kissed. There was no person or thing that prompted the change—I just noticed I couldn't stop ogling my (50-year-old) boss's tits. Frankly, this is what makes me the most uncomfortable: I keep looking at women, and I feel like it is sexual attraction (heart-beat, focus on the t-'n-a), and almost wholly objectifying, primarily directed towards very conventional-looking heterosexual-seeming women. (Meaning that I don't ogle the barista with asymmetrical haircuts as much as I do the pilate ladies in pink shorts).
Is this normal? Does it go away? It's different from the way I've looked at men—my crushes and admiration felt so total-body, and I never felt like I was looking past the person when ogling the abs. And it never felt so ... so weird, as it does now. I would think, 'Oh, he's cute!' or 'Yum!', but now, this attraction seems nonverbal: ZOMG BEWBZ. The women I've conferred with have said that mostly, sexual attraction is pretty much down to 'Oh he's cute!', and it feels bizarre to me that I could go from being attracted to one sort of person in a certain way, to being attracted to a different sort of person in a wholly different way. I go through these couple-hour waves where I feel like my old self, where I don't really focus on women's bodies at all. Never for whole days. Eventually, the focusing always comes back. I feel like I've been transformed into a lesbian misogynist. How do I change that? By the way, this change wasn't brought on by a person or over the course of months. One day I couldn't stop looking at my boss's tits, the next I couldn't stop looking at anyone's tits. It's been going on for at least a month now. Does that sound like a phase? Is it just some sort of obsessive thought?
Oh my lesbian God, I love the image of a glitter fountain announcing your homosexuality to the world the first time you kiss a lady. It's almost sort of Biblical, isn't it? THIS IS MY DAUGHTER, WHO IS A TOTAL GAY-ASS LESBO.
In real life, of course, that sort of immediate and dramatic physical-emotional-spiritual reaction you're fantasizing about doesn't necessarily show up the first time you kiss someone of your preferred gender—or the second or the seventeenth times, either. Someday you'll kiss someone (maybe a first kiss, maybe three months or five years into your relationship) and you'll feel the glitter fountain going off in your heart and you'll know for sure that you've ended up in the right place, but you can't wait around for it to tell you which way to go. The glitter fountain only shows up after you get there.
So here's the deal: Some people know they're queer from the moment they know they're anything. Some people start out feeling pretty straight, and at some point something changes deep inside and they end up gay as the day is long. (Hello!) Some people go back and forth their whole lives. Some people enjoy queer relationships for a time but ultimately return to the straight world. (I will not describe this as a “phase,” because I'm not interested in trivializing anyone's lusts and loves, even if they are short-lived.) Some people are a joyful swirled ice cream cone of all of the above.
I can't tell you which of those kinds of people you're going to end up being. All I can say is that, if right now you are more attracted to women than you are to men, you should pursue sexual relationships with women. Looking at people you find sexy doesn't make you a misogynist, I promise! As long as you're not ignoring what the women around you have to say because you're so busy staring at their tits, I think it's fair to say we're dealing with nothing but pure, wholesome, 100-percent feminism-compliant lust. That deep, intense, beyond-words drive you're feeling – that's your heart/vagina talking, and that bitch will only get louder if you don't listen to her. Let her drive for a while. Ask out a lady (not your boss) and see where it gets you.
I don't mean to dismiss your legitimate anxieties: I know it's scary to do that when you have no idea how long this period of lady-lovin' might last. What if you get involved with someone great, but then it turns out you're not gay after all, and you have to break her heart? Obviously that would be really sad for a while, for both of you. But even if we took your ambivalent orientation off the table, the chances are good that your first few romantic relationships will end in one kind of sadness or another. It sucks, but it's natural and it's expected. Don't avoid getting together with someone awesome because you're afraid you might one day break up—that would be like never applying for a job because you're afraid you might one day be fired. Think of all the paychecks and hot gay love you'd be missing out on in the meantime!
Maybe what you're feeling will go away; maybe it won't. Until you find out one way or another, there's no harm in seeing where it leads you. But when you're trying to pick up girls at the coffeeshop, remember to look them in the eyes, not the tits.
I have a coming out question. I am queer (androsexual, really), kinky, and somewhere between bi-gender and genderfluid. I'm also a PhD student in psychology, which is probably a moderately liberal discipline (it is less liberal than you might think). People tend to read me as a straight woman, usually writing off any other cues as being due to me being a liberal feminist from a liberal city. And other than occasionally screwing with people's heads, I let them read me that way.
Here's the thing: I'm really concerned about the potential impact of 'coming out' on my career. I am very ambitious and I want a tenured professorship at a top university. Even though universities tend to be more liberal than other employers, I still think coming out is a huge risk career-wise; I really do not want to be pigeonholed. My identities are also kind of complicated and tangled up in each other. I don't exactly want to have to explain to people that "yes, I'm attracted to men, but only if they are sexually submissive and can treat me like another man in the bedroom." That is just all kinds of personal and something I don't think is at all appropriate to share at work.
However, I also feel like a giant hypocrite pretending to be a really outspoken straight ally when I'm not straight. I don't feel like I need to be out as kinky, except occasionally when I want to educate people that they shouldn't assume that all men are sexually dominant and all women are sexually submissive (*blegh*). And my gender identity is so private that I'm really only out about it to one friend and my therapist. (My therapist is awesome, but if anything she's *too* supportive and doesn't want to give me advice on this—she just tells me to do what seems right for me.) But I feel kind of deceptive not being out about being queer. Part of me really wants to be a role model for queer college kids in my classes and in the university in general. Part of me feels like I owe it to the queer community to be visible—especially because I'm queer and very subject to bisexual erasure and rejection from the queer community. However, I'm not sure if there is a way to be visibly queer without making some kind of proclamation or providing serious fodder for the rumor mill. I'm not currently in any kind of relationship that I could just bring up in conversations, like "oh, my gf and I love that place," and mentioning attractions to women seems to be something even straight girls do these days.
Adding some complications to all this: all of my friends where I currently live are pretty much also work colleagues since they are grad students. There is a serious dearth of people-my-own-age around who aren't affiliated with the university, so I don't even feel like I can be out to my friends here, because that would essentially be the same as being out at work.
I guess my question comes down to: Am I terrible role model if I'm not out? Am I doing a disservice to the queer community by being closeted rather than by being visible? Is it okay if I keep my personal life and sexual/gender identities private and play the part of a straight ally? Any advice /thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
I think that almost anytime someone comes out as queer, it's a service to the queer community. In some ways, we're playing a numbers game here: every newly declared queer contributes something to the glorious tapestry of Things Queer Folks Can Be And Do, and moves us a tiny step closer to dismantling hurtful stereotypes and winning over the hearts and minds of the people. Being out in academia could provide you with awesome opportunities to challenge your colleagues' preconceptions and maybe offer much-needed mentorship to queer and gender-variant students—wouldn't that be rad?
However, it doesn't necessarily follow that not coming out does the community a disservice. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You can't fight for The Cause if you can't eat. Coming out is absolutely never an imperative, and if you think it might compromise your employment prospects, your physical or emotional safety, or any other non-negotiable priority in your life, by all means stay closeted until and unless you feel comfortable emerging. You don't need to feel like a hypocrite while you're in there, either, unless you're doing something to threaten the safety of other queers, like fighting against their rights or outing people against their will.
There are drawbacks to being closeted, as you're no doubt already aware: it can be harder to meet potential queer partners, and even if you do meet someone, many people aren't comfortable being in a closeted relationship. But of course, some people will be fine with it—possibly more than some, depending on how hot/ funny/ awesome in bed you are—and there's a good chance that, as a grad student, you don't have time to date anyway. If you're willing to sacrifice some romantic and sexy possibilities for the sake of your comfort and your career, that's a totally valid choice.
You'll never be a queer role model until you're out as queer, but you can be a role model for straight people by treating fellow queers the way you wish all straight people would treat you. If you're fine with those trade-offs, I don't see anything wrong with keeping your orientation and gender to yourself and being an awesome, vocal, supportive straight ally for as long as it feels right.
I'm a queer woman in her late 20s who is in a long-term relationship with a man. We have so much fun together, we are well attracted to each other, we are each other's rock, we constantly enrich each other. In short, I hit the jackpot, and I am really lucky to have found a relationship which is so fulfilling.
I tend more towards women, and when I was younger I always assumed that my life partner would be female. Well, that's obviously not what happened! But like many women in this kind of situation, I still struggle with my queer identity vis-à-vis my hetero relationship. There's a balancing act between upholding my non-straightness, and claiming a minority status while enjoying the privileges of a 'straight lifestyle', etc etc.
My partner gets it—he has dated both genders himself, and our relationship is pretty non-heteronormative. But in the last while, I've been feeling huge amounts of what I can only describe as "lesbian jealousy." Like, I read about queer culture, or hear friends talk about dating women, and I wish SO MUCH that was me. Like, so intensely. That I could be an unabashed dyke, date women, etc. And then I feel bad, because I really do have a great relationship. Argh. Am I an asshole for feeling this way ... and what do I do about it?
No, you're not an asshole! It's always hard to watch people living it up in a way that you used to enjoy, even if you don't regret the choices that brought you to where you are now. (There's even an acronym for it.) Plus, let's face it: being a dyke is pretty awesome. Who wouldn't be jealous? And while your boy-girl relationship does give you access to a lot of social capital (and maybe legal benefits, depending on where you live) that you wouldn't get if your partner were a lady, it absolutely does not negate your queer identity—or your right to be part of queer community.
Ask yourself, as specifically as possible: When you wrestle with your “lesbian jealousy,” what are you really jealous of? If it's just the girl-sex, well, I can't really help you there. But any monogamous relationship is necessarily going to reduce the number and type of people you get to bone, and it doesn't sound like that's the main thing bothering you.
If what you miss is having lots of queer friends, going to queer events, listening to queer music, eating at queer restaurants, reading queer books, and just generally being a big awesome visible participant in the queer community, I have great news for you: You can still do all those things! There's no reason to resign your membership in a culture you love just because you ended up with a male partner. I know that queer and bisexual people in straight-looking relationships often feel pressure (from both the gay and straight sides of the line) to disappear into the mainstream—because it's easier, because you don't have to offer explanations everywhere you go, because it makes everyone else so much more comfortable. But since when was it your responsibility to make everyone else comfortable?
That kind of pressure, that kind of insistence that you must choose a side a stick to it, is exactly why biphobia and bi-erasure are such serious problems in the queer community. And you're queer, so it's your community. You have as much of a stake in this issue as anyone else. Don't let people erase you. Don't let them tell you you don't belong. Make awesome matching bisexual pride t-shirts for you and your boyfriend, and wear them to the next Dykes on Bikes rally/ drag show /queer knitting circle you attend. You may not be sleeping with women anymore, but you're still the same person you've always been, and no one can take that away from you.