I think I’m bisexual. The problem is I’m not sure and I’m interested in finding out, but I’m in a committed yet rocky relationship with a man in the gay-unfriendly Midwest. I made an online dating account today to seek out other queer women in my area. There are like 5 of them. I feel simultaneously guilty about making the account, disappointed that my alternative prospects are so few, and frustrated about my relationship but not sure I should end it.
One problem is that I’m uncertain about my sexuality. When I was 12 I decided I was gay. I came out to my (male) best friend in middle school and later my mom. But later I had sexual feelings for boys. In college I have fucked men happily and continue to have satisfying but infrequent sex with my partner. I thought I was straight, though I’ve always had the occasional sexy dream about a woman. But I’ve had a lot in the last couple of years. It’s actually weird how often it happens. I never had this many dreams about men.
Now I think about women more. I fantasize about a romance of my own. However, I’m still afraid my attraction isn’t real. It really sucked to think I was gay for years only to have to admit I was attracted to men after all. I’m also afraid to break up with my boyfriend of four years, who shares an apartment with me, only to change my mind (although I’ve drafted a totally separate letter to you before about whether I should keep trying to save the relationship…). If I were in an urban area, I might be able to try out a chaste date or two to see if flirting with real women is something I’m into. But I’m not, and I don’t foresee being in a gay-friendlier city until I move away for a new job — probably with my boyfriend.
On problems with my boyfriend, a quick summary: lots of walking on eggshells on both sides. We both amplify the other’s anxiety. Just yesterday we fought about this and I told him if nothing changes, we need to break up when I get a job after grad school next year. For the record, he knows I’m bi but we are not in an open relationship. We tried counseling and the therapist was a bad match. I think Carolyn Hax would ask if I’m sacrificing too much to keep the peace and generally I would say yes. But things have also improved in the last few months. It seems clear that I should break up with him, but how do I kick him out when I’m not sure about any of this?
– Am I Even Fucking Gay???
Dear Am I Even Gay:
Your next relationship(s…) might be with men and might be with women. The one you’re in sounds to me like it has run its course, and you don’t have to have a definitive answer to the question of your sexuality to end it. You can say “Boyfriend, I care very much about you, and I appreciate how hard you’ve been working to make things better between us, but I have come to the end of wanting to work on our relationship and I think we should end things.”
Of course, if your relationship with your boyfriend is making you happy and you want to make a life with him, I am confident that nothing I can say could convince you to leave. And I can’t lie: Breakups where nobody did anything really wrong and you really care for the other person feel awful for a while. You cry, you divide up the books, you worry about money (and feel guilty for making them have to worry about money), you have a crappy six months of missing them and wondering if you’ve made a big mistake, certain songs and films become unbearable (and yet you play them on repeat), and the world around you is suddenly filled with more happy couples than you ever knew existed, holding hands and sipping hot chocolate and grooming each other like monkeys every goddamn place you look.
Then one day it gets better. The loneliness turns into solitude. You forgive your ex for not being what you needed, and you forgive yourself for both leaving and for how long you stayed. You reach out to people who have been important to you, family, old friends, former mentors, and realize that you are surrounded by many kinds of love. You start saying yes to new things, that concert, that art show, that volunteer gig, that cup of coffee, that academic presentation, that new friendship, that sweet cat or dog at the animal shelter, that new scene. You fall back in love with yourself and with your life.
While you’re figuring out your next steps, I think it would be good for you to find some other LGBTQ people to connect with socially. The Midwest is a big place, and while Fox News blares from lots of channels in lots of diners and lots of people stay quiet rather than starting political arguments, there are pockets of support. Does your school have a LGBTQ group? Can you google “LGBTQ groups/ services” near you? What is the coolest coffee shop or art space on campus or in your town? You’re not cruising for dates right now, especially if you are still in a monogamous relationship with your boyfriend, but go and look for new acquaintances and friends. Look for a breathing space and for common cause. If you’re attracted to both men and women, you can identify as bisexual no matter what your relationships look like and no matter what your experiences have been.
In addition to looking for queer-identified spaces and groups, I think it would be good for you to find some social outlets that are just yours. Join a sports team or club, or volunteer somewhere, socialize with your fellow grad students (including ones outside your immediate program of study). Go to some things alone. Encourage your boyfriend to do the same thing, if he doesn’t already. It’s easy when you are a couple (especially when you’re absorbed by the problems of being in a couple) to get wrapped up in each other and let the rest of the world recede.
Winter Is Coming, and it’s very tempting to know that you’ll have some safe, warm, sexy arms to land in before cutting the cord, or at least have some more dating prospects than you do right now. But as long as the space marked “relationship” has this high-maintenance houseplant clinging to life in it, nothing else can bloom there. I can’t help but wondering: Who will you be when you are no longer walking on eggshells around the problem of this particular man? What will you desire? What adventure are your dreams and your dating-site investigations trying to send you on? Only you can decide whether to accept. If I’m allowed to Gandalf at you for a moment, I just want to say: You don’t have to know everything about who you are and how it will all turn out in order to begin.
Thank you, kind Pledge Drive donors! You’re gonna make me cry in a good way, especially with your kind words. Today’s spontaneous Internet Thank Yous include my giant cache of online resources for learning about filmmaking, a video of pug puppies with tiny feet drifting off to sleep, and a reminder that The Bad Advisor is hilarious.