How do I tell a guy I'm dating that I'm really a lesbian?
May 30, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Lesbian-dating-a-man-filter. When should I tell a guy that I'm dating that I've only ever dated girls before? And how? And does it even matter?

We've been on a couple of dates, and there has been some - but not much - physical activity. We've basically held hands and kissed. We have great conversations and share a lot of interests, we always have a great time hanging out.

I want to sleep with him but I can't help feeling like there's no future in it because he's not a girl, and while I find him attractive, it's not as intense as my girl-crushes. I guess I'm kind of worried it'll come to crunch-time and I will not be able to go through with it.

And I haven't told him that I've only ever dated girls before (though I did sleep with a boy a couple of times in high school). I don't know how to do it, or when or even if it's a good idea to tell him.

He also split up with his long-term girlfriend (4 years) about four months ago, so I don't want his first "next girl" to be ... um... a dud.

If ages are relevant, I'm 26, he's 32. Any ideas?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think being open about it from the start is the wisest. Unless you know that this is just a curiosity hook-up, in which case you should spare him the drama. In disclosing your past, you give him an excellent opportunity to say and do some things that really might put your mind at ease. Or conversely, he may say or do things that give you important signals that it's not going anywhere you want to go.

Think of it this way -- four months out of a relationship, he's probably in a rather exploratory time in his life too.
posted by hermitosis at 9:52 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]

Yes, this definitely matters. Turn the situation around on yourself. Would you want someone you're dating to suddenly drop an "I'm straight" bomb on you? I think you have to tell him as soon as possible and let him know if you plan on being bisexual or if you're just bicurious. And what's someone who identifies as a lesbian doing dating a guy anyway? I think you're setting yourself and him up for a lot of trouble.
posted by snugglebunny at 10:05 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Distinction: I would say that if you're dating a guy, you're not a lesbian, you're bi.
I wouldn't sweat it all too much. If you like him, you like him: If you don't, then... well, you don't. Just be up front with him that up until now you've only dated girls.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:07 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Researchers have suggested that female sexuality is relatively fluid, and that there isn't really a rigid distinction between bisexuality and lesbianism.

So, that you currently identify as a lesbian doesn't mean that you're incapable of having a romantic/physical relationship with a man. While men's sexual preferences appear to get fixed sometime before birth or in childhood, women's can adjust throughout life to accommodate the gender of whomever they're feeling particularly close to.

It's still not a bad idea at all to talk to your guy about your concerns, wants, and needs. Talking about intimate subjects builds intimacy itself, and can make you both feel closer and more secure.
posted by brain at 10:17 AM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you have to feel that there's a future in it before you sleep with him? I always thought that sleeping with someone helped determine whether the relationship had a future.

I also suggest that you either make it clear that you're not looking for anything serious with him or disclose to him that you identify as a lesbian. 'Cuz if he's looking to get emotionally invested that's kinda a big deal.

Don't be invested in your sexual performance. It's not going to ruin his life if he sleeps with a "dud". Don't be too rough, if you're not sure what to do ask him how he likes it, generally the same type of communication and careful exploration you'd use with a female partner.

And if you like it and want more, well, you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice.

Summary: Have a glass of wine, chill, get down to it, feel free to stop the action if you're not into it, if it gets serious tell him you're a man-virgin.
posted by kathrineg at 10:24 AM on May 30, 2009

I am a straight dude who has dated multiple bisexual women and one full-blown closeted lesbian. Be up-front with him and see where it goes. This is not a big deal and you don't have to give a speech, but if you'd like to, I wrote you one:

"Hey, just to be totally open with you, I've only dated women in the past and you're the first man I've dated. I really like you and I have a great time hanging out with you. But this is very new for me, so I hope you can be patient with me while I figure out how this boy-girl thing works."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:26 AM on May 30, 2009 [15 favorites]

Oh and you don't have to identify as bisexual just because you've slept with a guy. How you identify is up to you.

Although, to be honest, you will lose some lesbian street-cred by getting romantic with a guy. If that sort of thing matters to you.
posted by kathrineg at 10:27 AM on May 30, 2009 [7 favorites]

I've been that dude.

On one hand, he'd probably rather hear it from you than, say, from one of your friends drunkenly/accidentally outing you at a party. In my case, I honestly wasn't bothered by the revelation, but she'd been lying a lot to try to cover things up, and that hurt a bit.

On the other hand, maybe it's not even a big deal. You like him and want to sleep with him! Hooray! You can't judge a relationship by the intensity of the starting "crush." Things often go worse the faster you fall.

On preview, katherineg's got an important point. I hope your friends are nicer to you about it than my ex's friends were to her. Words like "traitor" got thrown around a lot.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:34 AM on May 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I've been you. And when I was 26, no less. And what I discovered, in my experience, is that I was way overthinking the issue, and far more concerned about it being an issue than the guy was.

So I'd really recommend a casual approach. If you're thinking about getting all naked and horizontal with this guy, there's probably going to be -- and maybe ought to be -- one of those handy dandy conversations about previous sexual behavior, risk taking, STDs, et cetera. In this conversation, you can easily mention that your most recent partners have all been female. You'll probably get some questions, and you can make it as large, or as small, an issue as you'd like.

You mentioned fears about the awkwardness of actually sleeping with the guy, and worries about being a 'dud'. Let go of this. In my experience, and this is regardless of gender, things tend to work themselves out just fine when both people are excited and into it. Enthusiasm alone will always be worth more than a perfect technique. Add a little communication into it, and you're golden. So just make sure that you wait 'til you're all excited for it, okay?
posted by amelioration at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2009

Seconding, thirding and n-thing: be upfront on this, which might not (or might, depending on him) be a big deal.
Bonus: he's the first man that tickled your interest. Huge ego boost! Downside: speaking as an etero man, now he's got 200% of the competition on you, which might lead to a little bit of insecurity on his side regarding your relationship.

Many men have fantasies about girl-girl-boy threesomes. Just a thought to keep in the back of the head. See above paragraph on competition for downsides and why he's not likely going to ask to 'bring a friend'. YMMV.

Best of luck!
posted by _dario at 10:55 AM on May 30, 2009

Definitely tell him, though "I'm a lesbian" might not be the best way to do it. Maybe "you're the first boy I've likrd in a long while / since high school," which might even be flattering. But if he's a bigot, which he probably isn't, it's better to know now.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2009

Likrd = Liked. Sorry.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2009

Just tell him. It doesn't matter. I've had a couple of flings with lesbians. They couldn't wait to tell me. It's like "Oh, that's nice. Where do you want to go for dinner?" And I knew it anyway. Guys can tell. He probably already knows you're a lesbian.
posted by Zambrano at 11:44 AM on May 30, 2009

I've been where you are as well. We're still together. Nthing talk to him about it before anything happens, and it might also be helpful to acknowledge that maybe it'll just be awkward (or awkward the first time/first few) and that doesn't need to be a bad experience, especially if you can talk to each other about it.

It kind of sounds, as other commenters have pointed out, that the question of identity is also floating around - you know, "Am I 'bi' now, or what?" For me, personally, it was a very difficult question, even though at the time, I felt like it shouldn't seem like such a big deal. In retrospect, I wish I'd accepted that it was not easy for me. Dating a guy threw off a lot of ideas I had about myself and it also cut me off from a sense of being part of a queer community, and I think this is a common emotion, no matter how strongly one believes (if indeed one does) that sexuality doesn't determine identity.

Eventually, I made my peace with it. It helped to have more conversations about it with my friends, and learn, for example, that one of them was in a lesbian support group, and at one point all of them were dating guys! It didn't change anything basic in them, and they didn't have to use any words they didn't want to. They could feel however they wanted about whomever they wanted. This didn't make it any less awkward to re-think who they were, though. But whether or not you stay with this guy, I bet this will be an interesting moment in your life, one that offers you some insights into yourself and your surroundings and how you want to live.
posted by thesmallmachine at 12:11 PM on May 30, 2009

If it helps, you're not the first person to experience this unusual situation. It's best just to be as upfront and honest with your partner.

Good luck!
posted by lyndhurst at 12:12 PM on May 30, 2009

snugglebunny: "And what's someone who identifies as a lesbian doing dating a guy anyway? I think you're setting yourself and him up for a lot of trouble."

Um snugglebunny, are you serious? I didn't realize that once you checked the "gay" box you weren't allowed to date anyone of the opposite sex. The OP didn't sign some form saying "I'm a lesbian and can never touch a guy again." Sheesh! Although we tend to like to label sexuality (and gender) in nice, neat, check-able boxes, the plain truth is that it's *not* that easy.

OP, this is understandably throwing you through a loop, partly because it's messing with your own self-identity. That's normal. And you're scared because you haven't been with a guy in a while. That's also normal. But don't *ever* let anyone tell you you "shouldn't" be doing something just because it doesn't fit with their idea of how you should be.
posted by radioamy at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Instead of saying you are a lesbian, call yourself a Kinsey 5...who might become a 4 with him.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:24 PM on May 30, 2009

I am a straight guy and and, once upon a time, I was dating a girl who identified as a lesbian. not bi, a lesbian. it was a good relationship. we lasted for five years and we're still very close friends.

and she came out of it with what katherineg called her "lesbian street cred" intact. in my experience (which is, admittedly, limited), that kind of thinking about gender and sexuality is not so much the way things are done anymore. it's interesting, for example, that this issue didn't make it into your question at all. and I like what thesmalmachine and radioamy have to say, so I'll leave it at that.

and when you said you didn't want to be a 'dud,' I didn't think you had sexual performance in mind; I thought you meant you didn't want a relationship to go bad on this guy so soon after the last one.
posted by spindle at 12:35 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

As long as you also mention that you're really into him, he won't care.

In fact he probably won't care anyway. Considering how much lesbian porn guys watch, he might very well be more into you because of it.
posted by Ookseer at 12:51 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Telling him "I'm really a lesbian" (your words) would be equivalent to telling him, "I'm not attracted to you." If you're attracted to him and want to date him, you're not a lesbian. You're bisexual. How do you tell him this? How about: "I'm bisexual."

How do you tell him you've only dated girls in the past? How about: "I've only dated girls in the past." Or "I'm bisexual, but I tend to prefer girls/women." You don't need to justify this preference. Either he'll have a problem with it or he won't. Either way, you'll both be better off moving forward with openness and honesty.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:54 PM on May 30, 2009

I'd tell him, because in that situation, I'd like to know. I would steer the conversation to past relationships or lesbians in general, or something where it's not TOTALLY out of the blue. Then I'd say something along the lines of "I've been wanting to mention that I'm usually only attracted to / date women - in fact, I haven't slept with a man since high school." That's true, and if he has questions, he'll presumably ask them. You could also explicitly give him permission to ask you any question or bring it up further.

I think telling him sooner is better. It's likely that it won't matter to him, and it'll only get weirder if you wait. On that off chance that it does matter to him, he's quite likely not someone you want to date anyway. Plus, once he knows, you'll be able to casually mention an ex or coming out during [whenever] without censoring yourself. You'll also be able to express any nervousness about having sex with him.

I think the not-censoring yourself is one of the most important reasons to tell him, actually. I have a couple major mental health issues (both past and current), and it's important to me that my significant other and [most of my] close friends know at least a little about them. I don't like being put in a position with someone who I'm close to where I have something I want to say, but have to censor myself because it would awkwardly reveal something they don't know about me.

(Not very relevant to my response, but I'm also woman who identifies as queer and is currently dating a man (also for the first time since high school, and for me, the first time since coming out). However, my queerness was a non-issue in this relationship since we've been friends for a long time and he already knew that I'm attracted to women most of the time. )
posted by insectosaurus at 1:25 PM on May 30, 2009

Tell him soonish, as casually and matter-of-factly as O.C. said. If he's the kind of guy you find attractive, he's probably the kind of guy who can roll with it. I'd be more worried about the 4-years-4-months thing, that he'd have some sort of rebound-issue (either wanting to get emotionally serious much faster than you, or absolutely not being up for a serious relationship without making it explicit...or thinking he is next week and realizing he's not next month).

That said, if you do tell him (say, this week) and then realize 3-4 weeks from now that this boy-girl thing works for you (and this relationship is, or could be, significantly more than a novelty-exploratory-fling) then you might want to make that explicitly (but casually-matter-of-factly) known to him. Boys don't always (often don't) pick up on that kind of thing (a girl changing the way she sees/thinks-about/feels-about a relationship) without it being made explicit.
posted by K.P. at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2009

I hope your friends are nicer to you about it than my ex's friends were to her. Words like "traitor" got thrown around a lot.

This and then some. And I got physically threatened and a lot of angry diatribes from several of her friends and ex's when I was in a similar situation to your man-friend, OP.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:15 PM on May 30, 2009

And my suggestion in the case of 'friends' getting violent or throwing the word "traitor" around is: Get New Friends.
You can cross that bridge when you come to it, though.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

I would say lay the facts out for him, but let him be the judge. Don't say things like "I'm afraid that I'll be a dud" or "I think I might break your heart." Just tell him that you've only ever dated girls, and that dating a dude is a new thing for you.

And if you're not looking for a committed relationship, just tell him! I don't think that really has much to do with the gender/sexuality thing. It's more a matter of knowing what you're looking for in him, and communicating that clearly.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:01 PM on May 30, 2009

and when you said you didn't want to be a 'dud,' I didn't think you had sexual performance in mind; I thought you meant you didn't want a relationship to go bad on this guy so soon after the last one

Read this the same and found it to be pleasantly descriptive of the OP's empathy for this guy.

As far as 'telling' him:

"Sweetie there is something we have to talk about. I was convinced I was a lesbian. That is until we met. Now I don't know and need you to help me here. Will you?"
posted by notreally at 3:07 PM on May 30, 2009

I wholeheartedly agree with radioamy and spindle here. Sexuality is very fluid, and I don't think it's worth spending so much worrying about labels. I've personally been here, and I've been there in terms of relationships, and when you start thinking too much about what to call yourself and what box you fit into, you can get a little lost.

You have dated women primarily, and now you are attracted to a man. In my personal opinion that makes you no less a lesbian (coming from a lesbian who has been in love with men). Being gay is not just about sex; it's about identity as a PERSON.

I would be honest with him and let him know that you are venturing into new territory because you are attracted to him. And hopefully he will be flattered mostly, and only slightly freaked out. I disagree with notreally though, and would not 'ask him to help you' as there's nothing for him to directly to help you with, and that feels slightly manipulative to me. You just need to listen to yourself and pay attention to how this experience makes you feel. Don't overthink it; don't worry about labels; just be honest with him and HAVE FUN.
posted by anthropoid at 4:34 PM on May 30, 2009

I am in agreement with pretty much everyone else here. Do tell him, sooner rather than later. Don't use the phrase "I am a lesbian" because that's like telling him "this thing between us is a diversion at best."

Unless the guy's really hinky about your romantic history (and you'd probably know already), he should be cool with this. If he's not, well, you'd want to know that.

I don't want his first "next girl" to be ... um... a dud. Don't worry about that. Please. There are a thousand reasons that he could find any girl—even an unswervingly heterosexual one—to be a dud. Or you him. If I were in your shoes, I'd be more worried about being the rebound girlfriend, or him working out issues on you that he should have worked out with his ex, or him being desperate for affection. That sort of thing.
posted by adamrice at 4:41 PM on May 30, 2009

Confess that you're feeling awkward, but that you just wanted to be upfront so that he didn't hear it from someone else. I think there's a lot to be said for admitting nervousness, instead of barreling through trying to pretend that there's nothing wrong and leaving the other person confused by mixed signals.

Blurting out "I'm a lesbian" with no context would be confusing, but explaining that you've really only dated women and identify as a lesbian is fine. Please don't feel like you have to misrepresent your identity or play it cute to preserve his ego. Yuck.

You will get some questions, though, so you may as well be prepared with some Queer 101. He'll probably ask you why you wouldn't call yourself bi. He'll likely wonder how you feel about sex with a man, whether you've had sex with a man before, whether you're interested in having sex with him. He may re-read you two taking it slow as you not being attracted enough to him.

One little possible downside is that a certain subset of guys become utterly fascinated, and angle for a threesome until it becomes a sort of insulting fetishization.
posted by desuetude at 7:39 PM on May 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, dunkadunc, where were you twelve years ago? Some lessons I had to learn the hard way.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2009

I think it would be unfair not to be up front about this -- or at least about what you're looking for. It sucks to be interested in someone, think they're interested back, and then find out that you were just a lark, or an experiment, or something like that all along.
posted by paultopia at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2009

The key to success here is accepting that you have the resources to deal with this. Go with the flow. In terms of the sex, just let it happen. You are too early in to worry too much about it.

BTW, you likely care more than you are willing to acknowledge or you wouldn't be asking. Be ready to accept really liking him.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:27 PM on May 30, 2009

From second hand experience, sticking with "lesbian" rather than "bisexual," "bicurious," "queer," or a label-free "only hooked up with girls before" would definitely send me the message to me that this was not very serious or romantic.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:59 PM on May 30, 2009

One little possible downside is that a certain subset of guys become utterly fascinated, and angle for a threesome until it becomes a sort of insulting fetishization.

Finding that out sooner rather than later would not be a bad thing.
posted by rodgerd at 4:00 AM on May 31, 2009

Talk to him and be honest. It's damn fine advice, lots of people have used it, and it'll work here. He may even be fine with the possibility that you'll "just" be a rebounder.
posted by chairface at 9:04 PM on June 1, 2009

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