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#298: I’m bisexual! Right? Maybe? Yes?

Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Maybe you’re only Mostly Gay.

Dear Readers, I promise a work or friendship or health or family question tomorrow, I swear, but this came in over the weekend and I think we can answer it pretty quickly and keep this week’s theme going.

Ahoy, Captain!

I’m another wayward really insecure dude with a lady problem. But I think it might be a moderately different kind of lady problem than you usually deal with. I hope! (Ed. note: SRSLY)

My parents always taught me at home that expressing any kind of attraction to a woman was wrong, because women are too pure for that- but they were so busy losing their shit over the idea of hetero sex, they didn’t even imagine other kinds. I was proudly out as gay since the end of high school. I had several boyfriends in college, some of which I was reallyy serious about. I know I like men. A lot.

I think it is obvious where I am going with this- I then fell HARD for a female friend, in the last semester of college, and it was requited. I can’t even describe how much I like this girl, Captain … I kind of want to pull a Tom Cruise and shout on national television about how much I love her. I totally get that I sound like an idiot. But she’s amazing and I am hella proud just to be her friend, let alone date her.

But then I moved across the country after graduation- you know how long distance stinks even with the best relationships? It gets kind of worse when you are also confused about your sexuality, and it is a lot easier to convince yourself that yes, you’re into her THAT way, when she’s around. I know I am young and probably dumb, but I can’t imagine loving anyone else this much, but I am such a mess about my sexuality that I feel like I should just let her go rather than risk not being right for her.

And I know a lot of this is dumb and crazy, thank you jerkbrain and your jerk panic attacks. But Captain, how do I tell my asshole brain where it can go shove it’s asshole ideas, so I can enjoy the relationship with this person that I have right now? And why is the media this determined to tell me that bisexual men do not exist, when I think I may be one?

Yours,
Self Sabotaging Idiot

Dear Self-Sabotage:

Hi!

a) Bisexuals exist.

b) Maybe you are one.

c) What does this lady have to say about potentially getting dumped due to distance and your confusion about your sexuality? Or were you just going to do it “for her own good” without talking it through with her?*

d) Maybe try to enjoy your relationship for as long as it works for both people in it and let things unfold? You don’t have to decide everything forever right now. You don’t have to choose just one way to love or one “identity” to fill out ticky boxes on ticky box forms.

e) You already know what I’m going to say about therapy, right? If you’re so insecure about this that it’s interfering with your own happiness, it might be time to sort this out at length with a trusted pro.

f) On that subject, your parents didn’t know everything about everything. One more reason for therapy.

Love and unicorns,

Captain Awkward

*People who are in love with you tend to frown upon this as a reason for getting rid of them.

Tag: OVERTHINKING IT

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63 comments
  1. Denzi said:

    Dear LW, I am a bisexual lady married to a straight dude. I think the Captain’s advice is right on, and I want to add a couple of things. Your girlfriend does know that you like/have dated/have had pantsactivities with men, right? Right? Because if she doesn’t, you’re lying about a really big part of yourself. But if she does, you have an awesome Ally girlfriend who will hopefully be sympathetic about the confusion you are having!

    Please remember that just because you are with this lady does not mean you are never allowed to have a crush on/look at a dude ever again! In fact, my husband and I have a good time comparing which women we find attractive. Some of the fun for me is having my husband affirm that he knows that I like ladies and that I haven’t magically become straight just because I signed my name on a legal document about our relationship. Some of this is because telling my husband about crushes makes it one more thing we’re working on as a team rather than an obstacle in our relationship.

    Plus “working on” dealing with a crush when you’re dating someone else can be defined however you two want! A few definitions that we use: “getting over this girl that would be bad for one of us,” “making awesome fantasy material to make our two person sex life better,” “building the baseline for maybe having a threesome or a poly-something.” You have a big say in which definitions of “working on it” you and your girlfriend use.

    Finally, remember that you are allowed to label yourself in whatever way is comfortable to you. If “bisexual” feels uncomfortable right now, “mostly gay” or “gay with one exception” or whatever you come up with that feels right are perfectly fine labels!

    Best of luck, LW!

    • I don’t know that I’d call it lying? I mean, if she has asked whether he’s dated/been into other dudes, and he has said no, that’s one thing; but not volunteering information out of the blue about the specifics of his prior relationships mostly falls under “not currently relevant” to me.

      For what it’s worth, though, it’s VERY relevant to the conversation that may be happening in the near future regarding his confusion and possibility of breaking-uppage, so if it’s not something they’ve discussed before – no time like the present. Because yes, LW, please don’t just break up with her “for her own good,” that’s ew.

      • mintylime said:

        As a health thing, I think it’s important to mention that you’ve been with dudes and/or ladies before getting the fucking on, regardless of your gender/sexuality, and to talk about your STD status.

        For one, last I knew, “are you a dude who has had sex with another dude” AND “have you had sex with a dude who has had sex with another dude” are both still pre-blood-donation questions and both are an automatic disqualifier for donating. I still have my letter from the early 90s that says “never donate again” because of that, though I hear that it’s now a 1? 5? year DQ instead of a permanent ban.

        For two, I mean, sexual health is kind of important. It’s Awkward! to talk about, but … important.

        Slightly more on topic, I agree with all the calls to not feel trapped by labels. I’m a bisexual heteroromantic female-bodied genderqueer, and happily married to a bisexual dude (as of last night!). As FeministHulk would say: SMASH SEXUAL ORIENTATION BINARY!

        • Leah Jaclyn said:

          I really think the only question that is pertinent to your partner is, “where you safe when you had previous sex, and have you been tested recently?

          • DarthTrina said:

            That may be true in the personal sense, but mintylime is correct regarding blood donations. The questionnaire in the United States is still required (AFAIK) to ban women who have had sex with men who have sex with men from donating blood for 12 months after the last time the woman had sex with the MSM.

            It is not fair; the law has a long way to go to catch up to the current state of science (although that’s an entirely off-topic digression).

          • Sarah G. said:

            (scanning up and down comments, leaving one in this spot instead of further down)

            Your definition of “safe” may be a lot different than your partner’s definition of “safe.” That’s why explicit conversations are better than the “oh just quickly reassure me that I’m not going to get gonosyphilherpeAIDS and stuff it in NOW” conversations.

            Case in point – I know a girl who thinks that her genital herpes are No Big Deal and she says she’s “safe.” She doesn’t tell others about her condition unless they ask. You can get that shit despite a condom. I won’t have sex with anyone who’s been with her, so my sex questionnaire includes “have you slept with X?”

            I also think that yes, if you are going to be in a relationship (as opposed to one night stand) with someone, whether they are queer should DEFINITELY be discussed. Relationships are more than sex. They are about identities, and identities comingling in certain ways, and the last thing anyone wants to be broadsided with is something major about someone else that may seriously affect the relationship. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m queer” or “my last serious relation involved lots of buttsex” (and lots of gay guys never engage in buttsex). It’s not something that needs to be hidden or is too private or is none of your partner’s business, and I’m kinda getting shades of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from some of the other commenters on this one. I have personally, for example, always found it safer to tell my partners that I have an abuse history, so if I suddenly freak out they know where it’s coming from. Disclosure is GOOD. Disclosure is SAFE. If someone decides they don’t want to be with you because of something you disclose before sex, at least you’ve saved yourself further heartbreak down the road.

            And yes, with the homophobia comments below. It’s not fair blood donations etc. etc. Very true. But we are talking about relationships between two people here. And I still maintain it’s better to find out your prospective partner is a bigot right off than much later. (Plus, yes, I’d ask any male partner who’s stuck it in someone’s ass to get tested. Lots of straight men love anal sex, and anal sex is risky – girl’s asses carry diseases, too. I don’t want to decide it would be too politically unsafe to ask and then discover I’d contracted hepatitis. This, like AIDS, is more than a gay thing.)

          • JenniferP said:

            Sarah, Fat, I’m cooling you both (and everyone else) out on this particular discussion thread. The opinions you’ve both expressed will stand for people to read. Fat, I’m 100% behind you on the idea of not forcing disclosure. I have delicious O+ blood and used to be a regular donor until that question knocked me out of the running. Sarah, I’d probably want to know if a partner I was considering entering a long-term relationship was bi or gay, even if it’s only in a TELL ME ALL ABOUT THAT way, but let’s not tell the LW that he HAS to do anything. If this lady is his close friend chances are she knows the deal anyway and they can work it out between them over time. If she doesn’t know, it’s probably a good idea to discuss that as far as how the relationship should work OVERALL but it’s just one of many things we disclose or don’t disclose about ourselves in the beginning of love. Tying it to the idea of “safety” and making it an issue of “You have to tell her…for her SAFETY” does put it in a homophobic frame, so let’s not.

            I have to go to my Real Job now so can’t moderate for a bit, appreciate everyone’s good will and desire to keep things respectful and constructive.

          • No, Sarah G. Disclosure SHOULD BE safe. SHOULD BE does not always equal IS. In an ideal world, of course everyone would feel perfectly safe and comfortable coming out in a relationship. But coming out cannot EVER be something one person OWES or is OBLIGATED TO do for another. Just because you find it better to come out about something, doesn’t mean it’s always for the best.

            How the hell is it anything like DADT to say that there may be circumstances in existence in which it is not safe to come out to someone you’re dating? That’s pretty insulting, actually.

        • Safer sex is definitely a conversation partners engaging in sexual practices need to have, yes, and it’s still not necessary to discuss the genital configuration of past partners in order to do so. Not that it can’t/shouldn’t/etc. be discussed! Just that if they had that talk and it went “Have you been tested lately?” and he said “Yup, I’m clean,” he’s been honest.

          My main issue was the implication that he was “lying” if he has not explicitly discussed his past sexual history as being with dudes, specifically.

          Congrats on your marriage, btw! Hooray for smashing sexual orientation binaries!

        • Talking about sexual health and STIs, yes. But no one is required to disclose that they’re queer. One does not require the other. HIV is still out there, and believe me I know that, but there are a lot of different risk factors for it that people don’t even think about that have nothing to do with being queer. AIDS is not a gay disease. Fuck that attitude. There are many reasons one might not want to disclose one’s orientation, and that is absolutely one’s right. Coming out can be dangerous, still.

          And that blood donation requirement remains pure bigotry.

          • And that blood donation requirement remains pure bigotry.

            Hear hear (or here here? I never know which way it’s spelled). Anyway, I couldn’t agree more!

        • By the way, do you also demand to know if people have ever used IV drugs, had sex with someone who has, are sex workers or have had sex with someone who has, or, indeed, since the infection rate is climbing in many (especially low-income) POC communities, if they’ve had sex with a black woman?

          It isn’t a matter of what sorts of people you’ve had sex with, it’s a matter of how safe you’ve been and how often you get tested. I get tested for a broad panel of STIs every year, at my yearly checkup. I’m pretty serious about safer sex procedures, but getting tested is the right thing to do. And it means I have it on hand to show to new partners if they want to check. I’ve never had anything other than the cold sore virus I’ve had since I was 5 (which always shows up, and my doctor always makes sure I knew about it already, and which I’m always careful about, thanks). I’ve had quite a few partners, too.

          Look, I came out in the mid-90s. I volunteered at an AIDS support organization. I worked on an awful lot of Quilt panels. I attended my share of funerals. I am very aware of the danger of AIDS. But insisting that men who have sex with men are a special class of people who absolutely have to disclose this, because they’re just soooooo high risk, automatically, no other factors considered, is just flat ignorant. And, frankly, kinda homophobic.

          • JenniferP said:

            DUDE YES.

            Let this be the last word on the topic of testing, disclosure, etc.

          • mintylime said:

            Oh crumbs, went away for a few hours, came back to WOAH. So, Captain, you’re welcome to moderate this one away, but I just wanted to note:

            – I agree 100% that the ban on gay men donating is ridiculous and homophobic and would like to see it DIAF.
            – I am aware of the IV drug questions, but they weren’t relevant to this particular letter, so I didn’t mention them.
            – I do not at all think that HIV is a gay disease or that gays are more likely to have STDs or anything like that AT ALL, but … if someone’s uncomfortable disclosing to me about their STD status and prior partners, this is a sign to me that we’re not comfortable/close enough to be fucking. That’s my decision to make, and other people’s can be different.

            I’m a chronic compulsive explainer, but I’ll stop responding here.

          • I have no problem with people having preferences and/or deal-breakers for their own relationships.

        • Yes, the little known “have you had sex with a man who has had sex with another man, even once, since 1983?” question for the womenfolk. Since I married a bi guy, I’ve essentially morphed that temporary ban into a lifetime one (unless I abstain from sexing the husband for a very long time, I suppose…)

  2. May I suggest that you don’t need to really rigidly define who you’re attracted to at all? I mean, if you fancy men usually, and women sometimes, and hey, maybe people of other genders as well, you can just be “A person who is attracted to different genders, usually men but not always” at the moment, and that can kind of fluctuate as time goes on. I know it’s a pain sometimes not being able to label ones sexuality in a neat/persistent way, since it makes it a bit difficult to find a social group that shares the same sex/dating/socialising issues, but it’s a good place to start, sometimes.

    Don’t go leaving your best-friend-girlfriend just because she doesn’t fit your pattern; If she knows you as well as you hope, she’ll already know that you’re usually andro-attracted, and probably doesn’t think it’s an issue. Talking it out is probably the best way forward, really.

    • NessieMonster said:

      another word I’ve seen used by people who mainly have sex with people of the same sex but occasionally have encounters with those of the opposite sex is ‘homoflexible’. Just giving options, use whichever term(s) help you get the best handle on yourself without feeling like it’s the be-all-and-end-all of it. I’m sure we talked about labels here before, but maybe it was on Cliff Pervocraqcy’s pages?

      Good luck, LW, in not letting your jerkbrain take over. I don’t have anything much else to add to the Captain’s awesome points c and d.

  3. KC said:

    Bisexual 20-year-old woman speaking here – LW, you may be bi. You may not be. You may be pan, you may be gay with one exception, you may be biromantic, you may be a unicorn, you may just want to say you’re queer and have that be it! Explore your sexuality without guilt, and settle with whatever label fits you and makes you happy. No one can or should tell you what your sexuality is, and it’s not always as easy as slapping a label on it and being done with it. Be open and honest with your girlfriend as well – you don’t have to tell her everything, but you may want to let her know that this is kind of confusing for you.

    If you’d like to read up on the experiences of other people who have run into confusion regarding their sexuality or who originally thought they were strictly one identity only to fall in love with someone who didn’t match that, I’d suggest reading Erika Moen’s comics. DAR! is a lovely auto-biographical comic that talks a lot about her falling in love with her husband and being confused/getting crap from people about her identity. She’s bad-ass and I cannot recommend her enough to people exploring and learning to embrace their sexuality for the awesome, bizarre, complicated piece of themselves that it is. Here’s her Tumblr: http://erikamoen.tumblr.com/ and here’s DAR!: http://www.darcomic.com/

  4. MusicSheep said:

    Labels sometimes suck. I realize that some people find that labels help them find their own identity and they feel as though a label describes who they are and helps them talk about themselves to other people. That’s great.

    I am not one of those people. And it sounds like you aren’t either.

    Labels suck when a person comes along who doesn’t feel like a label describes them. Labels suck when they get stuck on people and make them feel as though they have to live up to them even when doing so would not make them happy.

    You are IN LOVE. That’s super awesome. Not everyone gets to feel the way you are feeling, and no one gets to feel it all the time. Go shout it from the rooftops and act like a doofus. And if someone asks you about your sexuality, you can say “I’m very much in love with my girlfriend.” Or you can elaborate. You don’t have to explain yourself and you never have to make a commitment to the kind of person you may or may not be attracted to in the future.

    In my opinion, people should be allowed to fall in love with anyone at any time no matter what genitals or pronouns are involved and no matter who they might have found attractive prior. Love shouldn’t get questioned. It’s too precious.

  5. DarthTrina said:

    I found reading Hanne Blank’s history, Straight, helped me reduce any fretting over my attraction to multiple genders and discomfort with various labels. The labels are all societal constructs, and fairly recent ones at that. Love who you love.

    The book doesn’t directly answer your second question about why the media ignores bisexuals, men in particular, but I think you can extrapolate the answer from the history.

    One last thought: even if you are more attracted to men than women, the numbers game means that you might be more likely to end up with a woman partner. More women are attracted to men than men are attracted to men.

  6. Britt said:

    LW, the Captain’s advice is fantastic as usual, so just taking a second to say that you sound very sweet and cool and I think you have as good a chance at being happy with your girl as anyone does in that situation. Be honest, talk to her about how you’re feeling, and just take things as they come.

    Also, for what it’s worth, one of my favorite people in the world (an ex-boyfriend of mine) is a bisexual male and he is smart, funny, a great friend and a great lover (we’re no longer together for reasons of bad timing and some incompatibility that isn’t either of our faults). Awesome, happy, functional bisexual men exist! Not in media, unfortunately, but they exist. Best of luck to you!

  7. I know it’s fallen out of fashion since I was a young queer, but there is this thing called the Kinsey Scale that was developed specifically because this keeps happening in real life. At one end of the scale is (0) “completely heterosexual, no exceptions ever,” at the other end is (6) “completely homosexual, no exceptions ever,” dead center is “50/50 bisexual”. But the thing is, there are more gradations than that. There’s “mostly monosexual with occasional exceptions,” “generally monosexual with significant exceptions,” and whatever else falls in between. Then, too, the Kinsey Scale isn’t just one number. You can have different numbers for your attraction, your fantasy, who you have sex with, who you get romantically involved with, whatever. So you’re not a 6, you’re a 5, or whatever. Nobody can come take away your gay card for it, LW. You still get to call yourself gay, still get to identify as gay. I know lots of gay guys who have that one exception, or those two exceptions, or who have randomly fucked women on a whim because hey, why not try something new. It doesn’t have to threaten your identity.

    You also have the option of identifying as “queer,” which lets you partake of that very gay identity while not being quite so specific. This is what I’ve done, although unlike you I’m pretty much a 50/50 bi woman. (In my history, I’ve slept with about twice as many men as women, but had serious relationships with twice as many women as men. Guys are easy and fun, women are for serious. I’m engaged to a woman now.) Calling myself “queer” lets me identify with the queer community while not denying that I like men, too. I know an opposite-sex couple, both members of which identify as queer. The man is pretty femme, and consistently reads as gay to pretty much everyone, and he’s cool with that, and he likes more men than he does women, but he’s really in love with her, and they make good partners. She likes women, herself, quite a lot, but she’s really in love with him. Neither of them has to let go of their queer identity just because they love each other and are partners.

    I know there’s a strong anti-bi trend in the young queer communities right now, which frankly pisses me off, but you don’t have to bow to that. You can be all kinds of into this woman and still identify as gay or queer or whatever you like. Go you!

  8. Alyssa said:

    LW – I am a lady with an awesome bisexual boyfriend. Said boyfriend is attracted mostly to males, feels much more comfortable with sexual feelings/attraction to males, is rarely attracted to females, and has experienced a lot of confusion and pain and identity crisis over the many years we’ve known each other and been together as friends and partners due to all of the above.

    I love him to bits, and have only ever wanted for him to be happy and feel comfortable in his own skin and with his feelings and choices. It’s been hard sometimes, but that’s because stuff is sometimes hard, not necessarily because of this Huge Identity Crisis Thing he’s had going on. If he’d broken up with me because of those feelings, I would have been heartbroken and also very annoyed and would’ve told him, “fabulous boyfriend, I love you and don’t be dumb and I’m here if you ever want to not let your jerkbrain/something as silly as a label get in the way of your happiness.” If he had broken up with me for that reason without telling me the freason and then, say, in 15 hypothetical years I found out what the reason was? I would be PISSED. In a totally empathetic, compassionate way of course.

    Anyway, having a bisexual boyfriend is awesome, and not just because of the opportunities for anal play! Your girlfriend either already feels this way (maybe not about the anal play, but who knows) or deserves the chance to decide how she feels.

    Best of luck!

  9. I feel like I should just let her go rather than risk not being right for her.

    LW, I think it makes sense to talk to your girlfriend, if you haven’t already, about these feelings. This is the sort of thing that’s good to discuss with a partner, and even if it’s a scary conversation it’s also an important one. Don’t make the decision for her whether or not this risk you’re worried about is worth it; that’s not fair to her at all.

    I’m a queer dude in a long-distance relationship with a man who lives on the other side of the US from me. I am his first non-straight relationship, and we did talk a bit, in the time between us talking about our mutual attraction and his first visit out here, about exactly how he felt about Sex With Dudes and how we’d navigate things if he hit some sort of mental block about it, or turned out to be less into it than he expected. Things worked out really well, it turns out, but it was good for both of us to be really clear about how much of the relationship was going to be new territory and how we would handle it. And it’s probably still something we’ll continue to negotiate.

    Distance does make things harder! I am very much an in-person communicator; I don’t like the phone much at all and even emails, while easier, still mean I can’t send my body language and eye contact to my boyfriend (or read his). So my jerkbrain has a lot more space to imagine that things are Going Horribly or he’s Losing Interest or something like that. I can know that things are going well between us but without being able to grab him for snuggling when my jerkbrain acts up, it’s harder to believe it, sometimes. I’m working on this but I can certainly sympathize.

    I guess I’m curious about what, in particular, is harder about this for you – you mention that it’s easier to convince yourself that you’re attracted to her when she’s around; when she isn’t around, do you find yourself being attracted to/thinking sexual thoughts about men more than you think about her when you aren’t spending time with her? Is the thought of sexual activity with her (either that you have had or might potentially have) less exciting when she’s not around than when she is?

    A lot of commenters above have great things to say about your identity – if you are really invested in being gay, that’s ok – you can be gay with a fabulous exception in your girlfriend! If you think bisexual or queer work, yay! Those are great things to be too! But it’s also completely ok if you aren’t sure how you identify right now, or if your identity feels like a big swirling mass of confusing feelings, or shifts from one day to the next.
    I thought I was only attracted to men until I hit college and started crushing hard on some female friends, and then started meeting and being attracted to trans and genderqueer folks, and now I find myself in a relationship with a fabulous genderqueer person and the distant boyfriend. I consider myself queer and am attracted to various genders (and generally joke that I am just attracted to EVERYONE which is not quite accurate but feels that way sometimes), but after all these changes I am pretty sure I’m attracted to men just a little more than to non-men, although this still fluctuates a bit!

    I feel very long-winded but my point is:
    * This is a good thing to discuss with the object of your affections and if she’s as awesome as you say she will probably be willing to talk through your worries and it might strengthen your relationship
    * It’s ok if you are uncertain of your sexuality right now, for a good while, or forever.
    * Enjoy your relationship with your special lady! =)

    • V said:

      LW here. Distance makes things harder for some of the reasons you mention, I think – I prefer in-person communication, so emails and instant messages remove some amount of my comfort and mean that I am more prone to being ineffective and imagining that everything is going wrong.

      It is more “reassure” than “convince”, I think – being around her and clearly feeling that we are enjoying each other’s company means that I have less room to fixate on or fret about my hangups. (At the risk of oversharing, although I think this is very mild, I have a bit of a block against thinking much sexually about another real person when I am not sure that they are around and would approve, so distance and jerkbrain conspire well there.)

      Thank you for this comment! It was a great help to read.

    • Chloe said:

      LW, I definitely agree that you should talk to your girlfriend. I recently had a relationship end out of the blue (to me) because my partner had come to the realization that we want different things out of life, and rather than discuss this with me, he chose to end it. I had almost no warning, and I was baffled by this (seemingly) random turn of events. Even if you do end up coming to the conclusion that the two of you would be better off together, you’ll both feel better about if you discuss your feelings prior to making any decisions about your relationship.

  10. scamel from the rocks said:

    LW, I don’t know if this is helpful to you, but there is a thing (a thing of dubious provenance, but an idea that has helped me) called sexual orientation OCD. Now, I don’t have OCD, nor am I diagnosing you with it, nor am I at all sure that this thing ought to be called OCD at all, but what this thing (rightly or wrongly called) entails is obsessive worries that you are wrong about your sexual orientation and that you are REALLY a sexual orientation that you do not prefer or that prevents you from being with your Romantic Person of choice. This is different from someone who is closeted and worrying about outing her/himself, or straight and homophobic, because it happens to people who are otherwise fine with their orientation, but can’t stop worrying that they have somehow mistaken it.

    I am a bi lady, and although I have known I was bi for a very long time, I have also constantly worried that I was somehow making up my attraction to one gender or lying to myself. Yes, some of this may have to do with ingrained bi-phobia, but I suspect, for me personally, a lot of it just has to do with obsessive self-doubt in general. No matter what I do, my jerkbrain tends to believe that I am screwing it up or doing it the wrong way or for the wrong reasons, and that definitely applies to romantic and sexual things.

    This might not be your situation at all, but in case it is, it has helped me to say to myself “self, perhaps you are right. Perhaps you are lying to yourself and you are really only straight/gay. But would you really, really like to kiss this lady/gentleman you are seeing right now? [The answer is always YES.] If so, then I think we should go with that, whether or not you are a Big Phony, because as far as she/he cares, she/he would probably like to kiss you back.”

    Anyway, good luck with your long-distance relationship! You sound like a neat person, and your girlfriend sounds like a neat person too!

    • V said:

      LW here. Thank you very much for making this comment – this sounds very close to how I feel about my situation. (I was going to add another three sentences of prevarication, but I think that would serve to underline my point.) Obsessive self doubt was not my major in college, but it should have been. I may have to consider saying something like that to myself in the future.

      Thank you.

  11. Dr. Confused said:

    My husband came out as gay in his teens (in the 80s, when coming out was even more risky than it is now) and dated only men for several years. Then he fell in love with a woman. Then they broke up, then he dated another woman, and then he dated and married me. It was somewhat confusing for him and for the people around him. For a long time, he identified as bi, and now he considers himself straight.

    Sexuality is not straightforward. Some people are just plain straight or gay and stay that way their whole lives, and they are lucky because that is the simplest thing to figure out. But there are many people who are bi, or sometimes bi, or even gay for years and then straight, or straight for years and then bi, then back to straight, except for that one lover.

    So in addition to not always being binary, remember that sexuality is not always static. You love someone, just go with it, and work on the labels in the background only if it’s important to you to have one.

  12. I’ve known very few bisexual people who knew they were bisexual very early on – it seems a common experience to be attracted to one gender, then fall head over heels in love with someone of a different gender. Personally, my teenage crushes were mixed, but I still thought I was a lesbian, because of this sense that you must be one way or another, and I knew for certain that I wouldn’t have chosen to be attracted to women, in the homophobic world I occupied at the time.

    But as others have said, labels don’t matter. Some people also feel that they have fluid sexuality, that shifts over time. Others have described having “person centred” sexuality. Anna describes herself as Hannah-sexual, because regardless of what went before, her entire sexuality feels geared up to her girlfriend Hannah.

    What might help is some long distance relationship tips. Skype Skype Skype. When I was away from my sweetheart, we had Skype on as much as we could – I don’t mean we sat facing each other, but we watched the same movies and television with the webcam on so we could laugh together, smile or roll eyes at one another or type physical contact, e.g. *squeezes your hand* or *strokes your hair* etc.. Sometimes one person would be asleep and the other would be working, but the webcam made us feel together.

    I’d also recommend, if you are at all inclined that way, exploring sexual things through written conversations. A lot of nuances around that stuff are jolly difficult to say out loud, but (again, if you’re that way inclined – this is impossible for some people) in text, things can be allowed to run wild a little. That stuff can help you work out your own desires as well as your lady love’s, can be a good gauge of compatibility *and* can get you into the habit of expressing yourselves in a way that makes the speaking out loud bit a lot easier when you’re in the same room.

    • Labels may not be that important, but identity is, for many people. I’d like to not denigrate that, or confuse the two.

      • I think that’s a very important point. Although I think the LW’s experience is a common one, I don’t mean to suggest that for bisexual/ pansexual people who experience this surprise of falling in love with someone of a gender they’d not previously been interested in, that it’s not jarring, confusing and sometimes very tricky to reconcile. I was well into my twenties before I began to relax and trust my own sexuality because of this kind of muddle. I didn’t mean to suggest these concerns aren’t a big deal.

        • While that’s very true, it’s not quite what I meant, although it’s in the vicinity. There’s been a lot of talk of “labels” in this thread, without a lot of acknowledgement of identity. I don’t know about the LW, but my identity as part of the LGB(T)* community is very, very important to me, and the words I use for myself reflect that. They aren’t labels, which is often a term used very dismissively, to indicate that the words used aren’t important, and is often used for descriptions imposed on us by other, but descriptions of how I identify myself. Identity is important to many people, and it’s important to recognize that. The words we choose for our identities have meaning and context and connotation, and there are reasons to choose one over another. That’s not just “labels”. There’s an attitude that labels don’t define you, and that’s certainly true, but identity is a part of how you define yourself.

          It’s not just you doing it, there’s a lot of it all through this thread. I figured it was better to respond to one comment than to all of them, and your comment is about the point where I got frustrated enough to respond. I didn’t mean to single you out, and maybe I ought to have made an entirely separate comment to more effectively communicate that I was talking about the thread as a whole. Sorry about that.

        • Totally forgot that asterisk. So:

          *Trans people are often excluded from active participation in LGB communities, or often do not wish to participate if they are straight, and ignored by the communities’ activism, and I prefer to denote that in my initialism. Also, I am a cis woman, and when I’m talking about my identity, it’s particularly important to me to not appropriate trans identities. Putting the T in parentheses is not an attempt to exclude Trans people from the community, because I am very much in solidarity with them, but to both acknowledge the problems LGB communities present for them, and to show respect for them.

  13. As far as how to tell your asshole brain where it can shove its asshole ideas, cognitive behavioral therapy is AWESOME for this kind of stuff. If you can’t/don’t want to find an actual therapist, Mood Gym has separate online modules that teach those same skills. The emphasis there is on depression, but the skills transfer to pretty much anything where your brain is being a jerk.

    • Jo said:

      On this note, for any and all one of the best free online CBT info packs I’ve ever come across is found here http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/ under ‘resources’

      Not an interractive webpage like Mood Gym or Beating The Blues, but for some people low tech may be better. And certainly in the UK (and probably Australia, given the origin of that website) if you go for some CBT your therapist will probably be supporting you through using worksheets like the ones on CCI.

  14. liyyspoon said:

    Hi LW!

    I am in a relationship with a wonderful man who identifies as ‘heteroflexible’ – he is primarily attracted to women, and only really romantically interested in women, but is sexually attracted to guys sometimes.

    He was terrified about telling me this, and it was something he thought might mean we needed to break up at some point, but in talking to me he found that wasn’t the case.

    I hope that you’ll talk to your partner too LW, and see that maybe that way you can find your way together. Also, we now have an open relationship, so that he can see guys when he wants to and doesn’t have to ‘lose’ that part of himself. Is this something that you and your partner could maybe try? Obviously only if both of you are comfortable.

  15. Esti said:

    LW, I think you’ve gotten a lot of good advice and commiseration and affirmation here about bisexuality/queerness/fluid sexuality, etc. I second the Captain’s suggestion of therapy, not because there’s something wrong with you but because if you’re feeling unsure about some part of your life therapy is generally a good way to sort through those things.

    But in addition to all of the good advice above, I want to throw out something a little different based on this line in your letter:

    “it is a lot easier to convince yourself that yes, you’re into her THAT way, when she’s around.”

    Bisexuality and fluid sexuality TOTALLY EXIST and if your doubts about your sexuality are the product of the media or jerkbrain feelings or whatever else, then by all means work through that and keep dating your awesome girlfriend and maybe do a little couch yelling. And I may be focusing on wording here that you didn’t intend. But if you need to “convince yourself” that you’re into your girlfriend THAT way, even when she’s around, then… maybe you’re not?

    Your girlfriend sounds awesome, and I think most of us have had the experience of confusing “this person is fantastic and I really enjoy spending time with them” with “I am attracted to this person and want to date them.” Maybe that’s not the case here! Maybe you are really into this girl in an “I am attracted to you and want to continue dating you” way! But it is also okay if you realize at some point that your feelings for this girl are more of the “you’re so unbelievably great, and I love you a lot, but I’m not *in* love (or in pantsfeelings) with you” variety.

    I hope this doesn’t just inject *more* doubt into what you’re already feeling, but I wanted to throw out there that it’s also TOTALLY COOL if you spend some time working through this and realize that you love this girl to bits but not in a wanting to date way.

    • V said:

      Hi, LW here. I do think “convince” was a bad choice of word – “reassure” maybe? Basically, being around her is great and reinforces the makeoutfeelings, being in a different country is a good way to have me doing the backstroke in my sea of neuroses. But your point is well taken, and thank you for that reassurance.

      • Vir Modestus said:

        “doing the backstroke in my sea of neuroses.”

        This is a wonderful phrase. And damn, sometimes that shore is a long ways away, init?

  16. stark said:

    Apart from the moving across the country bit, your letter almost exactly describes my situation about 13 years ago. We ended up getting married and my wife and I had our 10th anniversary just a few weeks ago. I definitely considered not telling my wife how I felt about her because I was gay or breaking up at various times along the way for the same reason. I’m really glad I didn’t.

    I won’t tell you that your sexuality won’t create issues in your relationship, because it might. Mine has. But every relationship has issues, and as long as you’re both interested in finding a solution, there will be solutions to be found. Counseling (couples and individual) has definitely helped us get through some of the tougher spots.

    I also really really agree with what Dr Confused and others have said about sexuality being fluid. For me at least, even more than coming to terms with being bisexual, it’s been hardest to come to terms with the idea that my sexuality now isn’t what it was when I was 25 or maybe what it will be when I’m 35. It’s ranged anywhere from 50/50 bisexual to 100% gay to gay-except-my-wife and many in between. I guess I’d just echo what others have said that labels only matter if you make them matter.

    • V said:

      LW here. Thank you very much for saying this. I think the hard part here is not so much the labeling as the convincing myself I am not doomed to failure, so it is comforting to hear that this kind of situation has worked out well for others.

  17. Emma said:

    LW, I’m a bi woman and I agree with what people have said upthread – your sexual identity needs be a comprehensively descriptive, real-time updating newsfeed. I’ve had sex with straight women, and it’s never bothered me that they didn’t then turn around and decide to come out with some big identity change about it. I wouldn’t describe them as closeted or dishonest (just awesome friends), and I think I would feel the same way about a man who didn’t identify as being attracted to women (i.e. you).

    I can see that your feelings are much more personally significant than a random attraction, and it would make sense to me if this letter ended with you deciding you were bi, but I don’t think you need to be in a hurry to do that. I think it’s much more honest and true to your courageous step of coming out to just be up front about your desires and pursue the relationships you want to pursue. Having a convenient label is the cherry on top.

    It seems like a lot of bi people feel the same way, so as a practical step, maybe you would feel good meeting and hanging out with bi people even if you don’t identify as one? I think we are pretty blase about having our attractions be kind of unreadable and confusing to people, because when we’re in any kind of monogamous relationship people assume we’re straight or gay.

    • Emma said:

      Wow, I mean *doesn’t need to be*!

  18. V said:

    Hello, LW here.

    Thank you very much, Captain, for your advice, and thank you to the army of commenters! This is a lot of awesome and helpful stuff for me to chew over.

    Since this came up a few times, yes, my girlfriend is aware of my romantic and sexual history, and we have discussed most of the issues I am talking about.

    I am definitely going to try therapy as soon as possible: it was something I had been considering in any case, and this was a good kick in that direction.

    Thank you all again.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for this and good luck! ENJOY YOURSELF AND BEING IN LOVE.

      🙂

  19. From atop a comfortable throne of straight privilege, I think that being happy with your love/sex life is more important than the terminology (as long as you broadly grasp what other people mean by particular terms — e.g., “bisexual” is often used for “has been interested in at least one man and has been interested in at least one woman”, and that’s you whether you call yourself bi or not — and develop a vocabulary to efficiently convey the information you want/need to convey to those to whom you want/need to convey it).

    As for the first part: it wasn’t my parents’ doing, but I was a feminist-style Nice Guy™ when I was young and callow. I’ve gotten past, well, two of those things.

  20. I said something about this in response to a particular comment, but really I meant it for the whole thread, because it’s a tendency I’m seeing here. So, making a more general statement.

    Labels are not identities. Labels don’t define you, but identities are part of how you define yourself, and that’s important to a lot of people (like, say, me). You can use labels descriptively in order to communicate something about yourself to others — for example, I describe (label) my spiritual practice as Hellenic-Eclectic Solitary Wicca — without that being my identity — which is a dedicate of Hekate and a Maenad. I describe my orientation as bisexual, but identify as queer and identify with dykes.

    I think talking too much about labels ignores the struggle with identity many people experience in these situations. I think it’s an important distinction to make, and to respect.

    (And also because I have a whole rant about labels: People label other people, because categorizing is a very common human behavior pattern, and is actually very useful in general. People like to have quick shorthand descriptions. These are not necessarily showing a lack of understanding of complexities. Labels are not (necessarily) boxes people put you into, either, and even when they are, you don’t have to be constrained by the boxes in their heads. What labels are, are little paper tags or stickers that people can use to quickly identify you to themselves or someone else. Think about labels on, I dunno, peanut butter jars. You go to the store, you glance at the massive selection, and you can generally quickly locate your favorite brand by glancing around for that familiar label. If you look more closely, a more detailed description exists on the label, too, like the ingredient list. But the ingredient list also just describes things about the peanut butter. It’s not what the peanut butter is. What the peanut butter is, is the taste of it, the feel of it in your mouth, the energy its calories give you. The label is just what’s slapped on it so you can find it easily, and find out some general things about it. /rant)

    • mintylime said:

      As someone who struggles a lot to find a label for myself when describing my relationship identity to other people so that they can get (in that shorthand way) a sense of what that identity is, thank you. This is one of the best analogies for labels I’ve ever heard.

      Do you mind if I use it with others?

      (… because it’s like poly, but I don’t do multiple romantic relationships, it’s like an open relationship, but we don’t sleep with strangers, it’s like swinging, but we don’t sleep with strangers AND I will shut you down cold if you suggest that either of us is obligated to sleep with you because your partner is sleeping with one/both of us … complicated by the fact that Mister Mintylime is poly, even though I’m not … I have no idea what ‘brand name’ label can accurately convey this reliably.)

      • Erl said:

        Married with sex-friends?

        Not that I deign to solve your problems in three or four words, but that seems to capture it pretty well.

      • By all means! I very much want the idea to spread! Personally, I don’t entirely understand how “label” in this sense came to mean anything else. This is precisely the literal meaning of the word. How did the figurative meaning get so far away? I’ve also been known, as an object lesson, to actually go buy paper labels at an office supply store — the stick-on kind or the hanging-tag kind, either one — and physically demonstrate that a label is not a box, and you can stick lots of labels on somebody and not change who they are or limit them.

        I might use something like NMNOS (Non-Monogamous, Not Otherwise Specified), but then I’m a smartass. Or just “an unusual flavor of non-monogamous” or something. Another option might be to find a label for your relationship with your partner — “non-monogamous with our own rules” — and not for yourself. I think Dan Savage uses the very vague phrase “a degree of openness” to cover a lot of things.

        I do tend to use “non-monogamy” as a generalized term for poly + open relationships + swinging + everything else, as it seems to cover all of it without having any more specific connotations.

        I do know a lot of people who use “open relationship” but don’t sleep with strangers, either. I think you may be encountering a different set of localized connotations than I am. (Doesn’t make yours wrong, and of course you’ll want to use whatever term is most likely to get the idea across clearly to the people you encounter most often, so this is just a comment on the phenomenon.)

        You might want to come at it like this: What is the single most important point you want to get across? That’s where you’ll find your main term. Then pick one to three modifiers to cover the next few most important points, and string them together. You don’t need to describe everything, just the general outlines. If people want to know more detail, they’ll ask, and then you can explain.

        • mintylime said:

          I too had thought ‘open relationship’ would cover it, and was boggled the first time someone reacted to that negatively because he thought it meant I’d sleep with strangers. Very o_0 As a former psych student, “Non-Monogamy Not Otherwise Specified” cracks me up, though I generally prefer to define in terms of what I am, rather than what I’m not.

          I’m finding some thoughts percolating about maybe why the labels thing, but I’m not quite awake yet, they’re pretty nebulous so far, and it’s kinda drifting off topic maybe?

    • This is a lot like what I think whenever someone complains about the existence of labels. Labels are useful! Labels are important! As long as we recognize that a person is allowed to be things that seem to go contrary to the label (particularly if it’s a label they didn’t choose to apply to themselves).

  21. Erl said:

    Yo, LW, do you know who else had this sexuality experience? John Maynard Keynes. He was gay, gay, gay as a very gay set of British balls (probably for croquet or cricket or something) and then one night he went to the Russian ballet, stone cold fell in love with a ballerina, dated & married her, and lived happily ever after.

    Now, I don’t know your political persuasion or what you think of Keynesian theory, but he directed the entire wartime economy of the British Empire: the biggest Hitler-kicking, tea-drinking, blitz-surviving, awkwardly commie-collaborating, globe-spanningest Empire to ever get over its geopolitical daddy issues had its entire economy run by a guy who was in the same place you are.

    I hope that makes you feel as awesome as I made it sound.

    • NessieMonster said:

      Ooo, cool bit of history! Thanks Erl 🙂

      • Erl said:

        Thanks, NessieMonster. Say, I knew a NessieMonster once—you didn’t go to CTY, did you?

  22. Nan said:

    So, Lw, allow me to introduce you to some guy’s scale of 1-7. In short, one end is entirely Strait. The other end is entirely Homosexual. Numbers 2-6 are varying degrees. The guy (whose name I forget) that proposed this said most people fall into numbers 2-6. Meaning, a lot of people can be straight with one or two exceptions, or gay with one or two exceptions, or other varying degrees. And that’s A-OK. The thing about today’s society is we’re so into this idea that we *have* to stick a label onto ourselves, and if the label changes, the identity changes, the world’s view of us changes. But the thing is, before all the label and world view changes and shit happen, we’re still us, the same people we always were, or slightly different but still us.

    I’ve been in the discover you like a gender for the first time thing (both ways, actually. I liked girls first. I was *floored* when I first liked a guy. I also realized then that the girls I liked I may have actually liked and not felt what every other girl felt towards them. And the next girl crush left me convinced I wasn’t as straight as I thought I was in my new found straightness.)

    I’ve found, overall, it’s hard to live without the labels, but sometimes, the best thing to do is just be. I’m just Nan. And as I learn more about myself, I can affix labels for other people to view me with. But, that’s as I get comfortable. Until then, when somebody asks me about myself and stuff, it’s OK for me to answer that I’m just Nan. It’s the same for you.

    Don’t throw away a potentially amazing relationship because you’re afraid it may not work out. In that case, you’re making it definitely not work out and don’t know when either of you may find someone for yourselves that can make you nearly as happy as the other. If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t, but let time tell that. If you’re both happy right now -short of sexuality confused- then stay with that happiness.

  23. LW, you might want to watch the British miniseries Bob and Rose if you can find it. It’s about a gay man who falls for a woman, and it is amazing. It’s also based on a true story. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0295071/

    Watching the series won’t answer your questions or anything, but it might help you feel less alone, and sometimes that’s enough. 🙂

  24. danagb said:

    Hi. I wrote a question in and I was directed to ask it here, in a shorter form.

    I’m a 19 year old bisexual lady and I’m also depressed and have an anxiety disorder. I’ve been seeking help for my issues lately and I’ve made a lot of good progress towards liking myself and not being afraid of other people’s judgement. The problem I’m having is that my sexuality has become a place where all of the negative stuff I’ve uprooted from other parts of my psyche comes home to roost. My therapist is straight, so I don’t feel like I can discuss this with her, and my parents are very supportive but really uninformed and conservative Christians to boot, and their view is that I’m in a phase and will eventually settle down with a man and have lots of babies. My only bisexual friends have been in a relationship together since they were 14 and Do Not Get It. Most of the people in my life either don’t believe in bisexuality or have a negative view of it, which is not helped by my general sluttiness. I’ve actually stopped talking to my brother and many of my former friends since I came out, so I really don’t have anyone to talk about this with.

    Basically I’m having 2 issues with my sexuality. One is that I’m afraid because of the societal discourse around bisexuality that people will think I’m faking and look down on me for it. I’ve experienced this on lesbian-focused websites and at LGBT meetings at my university. I combat this by dressing and acting extremely gay. I feel badly everytime I feel attracted to a man, because I’m giving in to what the patriarchy wants me to want. The more “feminist” choice is to sleep with a woman, and if I sleep with a man then I’m a terrible queer and don’t deserve to be included in the umbrella. I’m aware of how silly this thinking is, so i also feel guilty for thinking this way while being unable to stop.

    The other is that I fulfill all of stereotypes of a “bad” bisexual: I’m a partier, I’m promiscuous, I like threesomes, I’m curious about polyamoury, I’ve experimented with BDSM, I’ve cheated on a few boyfriends with multiple women. I’ve actually lost count of my number of partners, but it’s somewhere between 25 and 40. I know none if this (aside from the cheating) makes me a bad person, but I can’t help feeling guilty that I’m not a stereotype-smashing super-feminist. On top of this, I’ve only ever had longer term relationships with men, though I’ve slept with about an equal number of women. I got dumped by my manipulative Darth Vader ex about a year ago and he used these and other insecurites against me, especially saying that he’d tamed a lesbian and that I must be straight now since I was dating him. Thankfully I’ve gotten over most of that baggage and it pisses me off that this is one thing where I still feel his influence.

    I would really like some advice or some links to bi-positive sites so I can stop hating myself. Has anyone else here conquered internalized biphobia?

    • Ella said:

      Totally understandable; I know those feels, bro. Some things to remember:

      1) Being a partier or poly or kinky or cheating are different aspects of your personality. They are not caused by your bisexuality, nor do they make you bisexual.
      2) Feminism that doesn’t accept bisexual or straight women isn’t true feminism. Feminism supports all people who identify as female, no exceptions.
      3) If it helps, saying “screw the patriarchy, I love who I love and I have sex with who I have sex with” helps, a lot.

      What I would do is a) find some sex positive sites – The Pervocracy, Fuck Yeah, Sex Education, and Fuck Yeah, Sex Positivity are pretty good – b) find some bi-positive sites like BisexualFTW or the Bisexual Resource Center or the American Institute for bisexuality, and c) find other bisexual people (online communities are awesome!).

  25. Wynne said:

    LW, people have already said this a thousand times, but as someone with a happily married bisexual uncle (albeit one who did not come out of the closet until after he was married), bisexual guys exist. And their feelings of attraction for one gender doesn’t invalidate their feelings of attraction for the other, even if they are 5 times more likely to fall in love with a member of one gender rather than another. Fuck societal labels, love who you love.

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