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Mountain out of a molehill: is this great crush-guy gay?
November 1, 2012 3:41 PM   Subscribe

This Question Makes Me Feel Silly: I like him, think he likes me. . .but I honestly can't tell whether or not he's gay. Need advice on how best to handle clearing this up.

As I said, this question makes me feel silly. I'm adult enough to know that the only real answer is honest communication, but am looking for some advice and feedback about methods.

Me: Mid-twenties lady, gainfully employed, in a "single and figuring myself out" period, history of troublesome relationships (romantic and friendships) and anxiety/depression but doing very well right now.

Him: Mid-twenties but slightly older, gainfully employed, great and hilarious in all ways.

We: Met through my work, although we don't work together. See each other at least once a week. Interact a lot through social media and texting. When we see each other, much laughing and feeling-of-best-selves-around-each-other ensues.

The problem: I can tell very well that he is interested in getting to know me, likes to be around me, etc. That's not in question. What is in question is the tenor of interest, more precisely whether he is even interested in women.

When I first met him I assumed he was gay (mostly, I'm ashamed to say, because of his very stylish clothing), then came away from our first conversation thinking "wow, it really felt like that gay guy was hitting on me". It's not just the clothing, though: he also obviously has a history of LGBT activism and is involved in the gay community in some ongoing way. (That much gleaned from Facebook.)

Stupid methods like asking my friends if he sets off their gaydar and snooping through his Facebook have been unrewarding (karmically enough for being so stupid) -- absolutely NO evidence of ANY sexual orientation is to be found on his web presence, and friends end up splitting 50-50. I have also done the thing where I drop hints/talk about my OWN relationship history, and it does seem that he feels awkward when I mention having exes or crushes on dudes or whatever.

I've been continuing on under the assumption that this will work itself out in time, but as my attraction to him grows more intense and we grow closer, this begins to feel more urgent. Obviously the only way out is through and I've got to have some kind of come-to-Jesus conversation here.

I'm aware that a) whatever his orientation is, there are WAY more than two possibilities here. He could be gay, straight and interested, straight but not interested romantically, bisexual, asexual, or any number of things! and b) that whatever his orientation is, he is a person who is clearly a bit more on the reserved side when it comes to personal information.

I usually trust my perception of people, but sometimes I come away from talking to him thinking "HOO BOY he is so into me" and sometimes "I love my new friend who is obviously gay!".

I'm also aware that the question is not "what his sexual orientation" but rather "does he want to date me or not", but I worry that if I make a move I will be hideously embarrassed because he will have thought it was obvious that he was gay and it will make our friendship (/our work connections) awkward.

Like I said, this question makes me feel silly. I want to somehow get some clarity and honesty in this regard, in a way that is appropriate to the somewhat-sensitive nature of the question and also to the genuine respect and affection I have for him as a new friend.

So far what I've come up with is "get drunk and shout ARE YOU GAY OR WHAT BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE YOU." :-)

(Yep, astute MeFites will have noticed the "history of anxiety/depression" and "troubled relationships", leading to the conclusion that I like many anxious people am attracted to unavailability because it's "safe". You'd be right! But I am working very hard to get past that and, in fact, this feels more real and he feels more available than anything/one has in a long time. It feels really good. But it's part of why I feel I need to tread really lightly on this, for his sake but also for my own.)

Throwaway e-mail: no.relational@gmail.com

Thank you, wise MeFites!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
So far what I've come up with is "get drunk and shout ARE YOU GAY OR WHAT BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE YOU." :-)

And just how exactly do you think that will make him feel if he's straight?

I don't see one single reason in your question to not say "Hey, would you be interested in going on a date with me sometime?" I mean, if he IS gay, or just not into it, what's he going to do? Never speak to you again? If he says no, just smile and don't act all weird and it will be fine. FINE.

And say "a DATE." Not "going out." That's ambiguous.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:42 PM on November 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


You could ask him on a date.
posted by b33j at 3:45 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ask him on a date.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:46 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


...I worry that if I make a move I will be hideously embarrassed because he will have thought it was obvious that he was gay and it will make our friendship (/our work connections) awkward.

If this is an unfounded anxiety-fear, ignore it because it is getting you nowhere fast. Do you have any solid evidence that he will respond to "hey, wanna go on a date to movies/a bar/whatever" with anything but "yes," "no" or "no, I'm gay" then you're not really risking anything. A good friend will continue to be a good friend after declining a date so long as you don't make it weird. And trust yourself to not make it weird.
posted by griphus at 3:49 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, you're probably gonna read a bunch of responses telling you to ask him out, and think "No no I can't do that, these people just don't understand the situation!" That'll be your anxiety talking. Trust me, we understand just fine, and you WILL be ok if you ask him out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:51 PM on November 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


Agreeing with ask him out, and then you'll know. It's the only way to know. I get flirty feedback from my gay male friends often -- it was WAY more easy to misread before I knew their preference too, FWIW.
posted by houndsoflove at 3:54 PM on November 1, 2012


Oh, I asked a longtime crush/friend on a date, and he was lovely - said he didn't think it would work out. Yes, turns out he was gay, and I never felt uncomfortable about the rejection. I'm glad I asked because I'd tried subtlety (ie, snuggling up to him during group board games) and he didn't realise that that was an invitation.
posted by b33j at 3:55 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I once asked a guy out who was just so hunky and nice, and he told me, in the nicest possible way that I was very nice, but he was gay, actually. So we had a nice coffee, I admired his jumper (his mum knitted it for him) and we walked back to campus. We weren't massive friends before that, but our friendly interactions didn't stop either. So don't worry! If he is a nice person, the whole thing will be fine, either way.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:59 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ask him out on a date. Use the word 'date' so your intention is clear.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on November 1, 2012


None of the decent gay guys that I know would be rude or mean about this and none of them would be like AWKWARD FOREVER OMG OMG OMG.

I've talked about this with my best friend (a gay guy who sets off no one's gaydar) a few times and we decided that "I'm not into your gender" is one of the least awkward ways to turn someone down and remain friends. (As long as you're out in that context; he might not want to be out at work).

Instead of asking if he's gay OR if he wants to date you (which is dismissive of bisexuality and might be uncomfortable for him if he doesn't want to be out for whatever reason) you can ask him on a date.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:06 PM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Do you really think that someone with a ton of gay friends, who can name the date of the Stonewall riots and give a short biography of Angie Xtravaganza, is going to be offended if you ask if he's gay? I usually ask "So, weird question, but do you like boys or girls.....?" and then answer ANY reply with "Ok, I thought so, but I just wanted to make sure!"

Instead of that, you should insert "OH RAD do to want to bang, then?" if he's straight.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:08 PM on November 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


One possibility that you haven't considered is that he likes you but doesn't ask out people in the workplace. Personally, I don't date anybody related to my work (regardless of how attractive they are to me) - which means clients, vendors, co-workers, anyone - since it has too much potential to blow up in my face, and I don't need all my co-workers knowing my kinks thanks to ex-lovers who gossip too much, you know what I mean?

If this possibility is in fact the case, the key to success would lie not in deciphering his sexual orientation but rather in convincing him of your discretion and tact.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 4:16 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is also possible he's bisexual, as you note, or that he likes you plenty as a friend but doesn't feel the zing.

So I'd tell him you will be his friend no matter what but would like to move ahead with a romantic relationship if he's interested. Because it doesn't sound to me as if you just want to fool around. This doesn't put him on the spot about his preferences but it does allow him to tell you if his perspective on your relationship is incompatible with yours.
posted by bearwife at 4:19 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have also done the thing where I drop hints/talk about my OWN relationship history, and it does seem that he feels awkward when I mention having exes or crushes on dudes or whatever.

I'd actually be more concerned he thinks you're in the friend zone.

I think it is important that you use the word date at this point, if a work related friend asked me out and was ambiguous, I'd stay neutral until I had obvious overtures to the contrary. So I'd definitely use the word "date."

I keep relationships and hookups and love life off my Facebook, and I have a lot of gay friends so it is nothing for me to have check-ins or pictures at LGBT events, charities or gay bars. At one point, my parents thought I had made a "switch," as they called it, and contacted me about it. There's no equivalent to straight bars, events or communities, we live in a default straight world, so I wouldn't look at his involvement in the gay community as a sign that he's gay, only that at the very least he's gay friendly.
posted by geoff. at 4:25 PM on November 1, 2012


I worry that if I make a move I will be hideously embarrassed because he will have thought it was obvious that he was gay and it will make our friendship (/our work connections) awkward.

Even if he is gay, do you think that he would be the type of person who would appreciate it if you made assumptions about his sexuality based on his personality, opinions, and his clothing, and how well those things match up with a stereotypically gay personality, set of opinions, or wardrobe?

If so, I'd be surprised. Most people, gay or straight, don't appreciate being stereotyped, because it is a sign of a more enlightened perspective to realize that "gay" or is not a monolithic thing where everyone in that group acts, thinks, or looks a certain way. I think whether he is gay or a straight supporter of gay rights or somewhere else on the spectrum of sexuality, he would appreciate that you did not assume you knew who he likes to have sex with if he did not tell you directly.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:31 PM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, remember that he might be out to friends or Facebook but not at work. Hence asking him on a date instead of asking his orientation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2012


Compliment him ("have I told you that you have beautiful eyes?") and ask him out for a date. Urban straight guys who are fit and dress well take it for granted they'll be mistaken for gay from time to time. Urban gay guys who are fit and dress well take it for granted that they'll sometimes be hit on by women. You'll never know which he is unless you ask.
posted by Blue Meanie at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


he also obviously has a history of LGBT activism and is involved in the gay community in some ongoing way. (That much gleaned from Facebook.)

This is strong evidence that he's the sort of guy who is very unlikely to be offended by being asked out by another man, whether or not he happens to be attracted to men.

So go ahead and ask him out already! Then report back, please; we're cheering you on!
posted by 168 at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So far what I've come up with is "get drunk and shout ARE YOU GAY OR WHAT BECAUSE I REALLY LIKE YOU." :-)

And just how exactly do you think that will make him feel if he's straight?

If he's not homophobic, shouldn't make him feel anything, because there's nothing wrong with being mistaken for being gay because there's nothing wrong with being gay!

I like Juliet Banana's approach. It's pretty neutral and inoffensive and if he is into girls you can easily transition to asking him on a date.
posted by kylej at 4:53 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he's not homophobic, shouldn't make him feel anything, because there's nothing wrong with being mistaken for being gay because there's nothing wrong with being gay!

Effeminate straight men, no matter how non-homophobic they are, really dislike the fact that they are constantly read as gay by straight women. I know a couple of guys like this and it really gets to them, because it makes them feel they have to choose between presenting how they want to present and being attractive to women.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:13 PM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the better way to do this is to ask him out. If he says no because he's not into your gender, that's about the least awkward rejection ever. He won't be offended by your failure to discern his sexual orientation, if that is the case.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:16 PM on November 1, 2012


"So, just hypothetically speaking, am I your type?"
posted by amtho at 6:20 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


"So, what was the last person you dated like?"
posted by stoneweaver at 6:43 PM on November 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Stoneweaver has it.
posted by whoaali at 7:15 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Came here to say what Stoneweaver said.
posted by davejay at 7:17 PM on November 1, 2012


As someone involved in the queer community whose sexuality is not immediately obvious (as if anyone's really is), I'm sure he's used to being asked whether or not he's queer. That's a conversation that gets progressively less awkward the more times you have it, and even if he isn't exactly gay or straight, he probably has a pretty good answer down pat.

Stoneweaver's question is a good way of starting the conversation, but also doesn't necessarily give you an answer to the question you're really interested in, which is not about his history, but about his future, and whether or not ladies are among the kinds of people he's attracted to.
posted by dizziest at 7:43 PM on November 1, 2012


try this:

"hey I really like you, we should totally hang out sometime. it could be just for fun, or it could be for a date - you choose!"

gets the idea across that you dig him, and that you're still going to be his friend if he doesn't feel the same way back
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:59 PM on November 1, 2012


I'm a vote for asking him for a date directly, rather than prying into his romantic history.

Due to the ambiguity of the vibes you're getting, you're best off being as direct as possible.

"Will you go on a date with me?" is best because it's a specific question about the immediate future, whereas "would you be interested..." is more wishy-washy, and could be read as hypothetical. Ask for something concrete. You can preface it with a lampshade of "this might be awkward for a couple minutes, but I think you're great and awesomely grounded and if I'm out of line, I'll be ready to apologize and laugh about it in five minutes, but...."

And then ask about his future actions, not his preferences or past actions.

I had a huge crush on a guy friend for about 3 years, and nearly threw myself at him, but we never dated. It worked out for the best, since we really were incompatible in deeper ways. (Our friendship took a hiatus for a couple years due to those incompatibilities [not my crush], but we patched things up eventually.)

Be prepared for the possibility that he likes women, but doesn't think you are a good life-partner match for him. And ask him out anyway.

Good luck!
posted by itesser at 9:39 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the old school way was to sneak up on the guy when he's busy doing something else and just suddenly blurt out "OH MY GOD WHAT IS POOR LIZA GOING TO DO?"

Either he answers a) "Liza who?" which means he is straight for b) "OH MY GOD YES THE POOR THING IS SUCH A MESS" or the equivalent, in which case, well, obviously...

The more serious modern way to do this is to say, "Would you like to go on a date?"
posted by La Cieca at 10:48 PM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I worry that if I make a move I will be hideously embarrassed because he will have thought it was obvious that he was gay and it will make our friendship (/our work connections) awkward.

"I'm sorry, but I'm gay" is like the world's best get out of a date free card. If he has to say, "I'm not attracted to you" then that's awkward. If he says yes and you go out and there's no chemistry but you still have to see each other at work, that's awkward. If he says "I'm in an open relationship and my main partner needs to interview you before we can date", that's really fucking awkward. So many more things to worry about, rather than stressing over the idea that you might have an obvious, immediate, fault-free incompatibility. Just ask him out already.
posted by anaelith at 11:36 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't know if anyone already said this, but....

If he's not himself sure about his orientation, that could be at issue here.

He might date you in this case, and who knows how that might turn out?

Or, he could be bi!

I've dated all over that spectrum (let's say I had a "type" back in the day. turned out just fine, no awful broken hearts for me:))

As long as you have your eyes open, ask the guy out and go for it!!
posted by jbenben at 11:45 PM on November 1, 2012


My method for this, even when I knew someone liked to fuck boys was to buy a nosegay and say, "I just have to get this off my chest, I have the biggest crush on you."

In every instance, the person I told LOVED it and for the most part are still friends today. It's not weird. Usually the replay was, "If only I liked vagina." Then we'd hug and get cocktails.

I'm so glad that everything we fought for over the years has made you young folks so loving and accepting of each other.

Your friend sounds awesome! Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:39 AM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also agree on just asking him out. I have about as many gay/queer friends as I have straight ones, and have for years, so LBGT issues are very important to me, and when I was on Facebook, was definitely very vocal in my advocacy. I tend to wear a lot of bright colors, and don't wear neutrals/navy/khaki often. I write poetry and hate sports. I also hate the whole public voyeurism that is Facebook relationship status, so I never mentioned my relationships on FB when I was on that site.

Point being, your description of your friend could very well describe me, and I'm as straight as they come.

Ask him out on a date. If he's any kind of good human being and he's not interested for whatever reason - his orientation, that he doesn't reciprocate your feelings, that he's monogamous and already committed to someone else, that he's mourning a recent breakup - he won't let your crush on him stop y'all from being friends.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:51 AM on November 2, 2012


Bi guys are not an urban legend.
posted by modernserf at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ask him if he has a significant other. He should elaborate from there.
posted by sybarite09 at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"So, what was the last person you dated like?"

Not recommended.

(1) As others have pointed out, this breaks down if he's bi. Or if he's gay, but newly out of the closet, and dated women before coming out. Or in lots of other fringe cases — but those two, "bisexual" and "just came out," are so damn common that it would be dumb to ignore them.

(2) It isn't as discreet as you think it is. If someone who I wasn't already involved with was just like "So, tell me about your exes" out of the blue, I'd assume they were Up To Something: either fishing for info on my sexual orientation, or trying clumsily to work out if I was single, or looking to confirm some rumor they'd heard about me, or playing some other sort of weird game. Probably my response would be "Hang on, what's the real question?"

Look: there's nothing shameful about being gay, right? And as a gay-rights activist, regardless of his own orientation, he must recognize that, right? If you treat his sexual orientation as a big awkward secret that needs to be tiptoed around, I suspect he'll find that irritating as hell. You want to know if he fucks men? Ask. You want to know if he'll date you? Ask that instead.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hypotheticals aren't useful. You're wanting to know if he's interested in a sexual relationship with you specifically, not which gender(s) he normally prefers. Ask him on a date-date.
posted by RainyJay at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2012


La Cieca's approach really made me laugh. Not sure it's the best appoach, though. Ask him on a date.
posted by Dolley at 12:31 PM on November 2, 2012


"I was wondering: am I someone you would consider going on a date with?"
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:31 PM on July 16, 2013


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