I thought I was a lesbian.
December 13, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

I've felt like I was most likely gay my entire life, and after years of trying to "train" myself to be sexually interested in men I realized I was just meant to be with women... or so I thought. I met an amazing guy a few months later, and now I'm having trouble choosing between being with him or sticking to women.

The problem isn't with him - he's a great guy, we're compatible, the sex is good, etc. I'm head over heels with him. I feel like we're a perfect fit and he's everything I've been looking for.

However, dating men has always felt "wrong" for me and this is no exception. Usually I have feelings for men but am completely turned off by their bodies. With this guy, his body is fine but I can't get over the fact that I have next to no experience dating women... it feels sort of like going against something my brain has been telling me is right my entire life.

I wake up thinking, "I'm so happy!... but oh... it's with a guy. I always thought I'd wake up next to a woman." I can't get around it; it just feels weird/strange to be with a guy. But I really, really want to get past that and give this a shot.

I also really don't want to hurt this guy. He's known my preference from the start but he's gone from optimistic it'll work out to pessimistic as more time passes and my mind isn't made up. We aren't official because it bothers me getting into something long-term with another man when I haven't had the chance to explore my sexuality. But we still act like a couple.

It's gotten to the point where I feel jealous, etc of other people who are dating women... just because I never really got the chance to. I feel like even though I'm happy I would be happier with a woman. I've felt this way with every single guy I've dated. However it did eventually improve with one of the guys which makes me think that if I really worked at this and gave it a shot, it would be fine.

I'm not suddenly into men... it's just this guy.

I just don't know if I want to take the time to see where this goes. I'm only getting older and I'm afraid that if I give this guy a shot and it becomes something great, I'll be in the same situation a couple of years down the road... either regretting not listening to myself and dating women and then having to deal with being older AND inexperienced, or facing some big commitment like marriage and being bothered that I never explored that side of myself. I feel like if I'd had more time to be "out" this would be a non-issue.

I know it's time to make a decision to let him go or put my all into making things work, because he's getting more and more down about the situation andyeah... it's not fair to him. But I feel frozen. I don't want to make a mistake and I can't figure out what the right decision is.

What's the best thing to do here? Has anyone been in a similiar situation?
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How old are you?

How much (if any) experience do you have with women?

If you woke up tomorrow suddenly, inexplicably, and painlessly single, is there someone you'd ask out before noon? Or is your attraction to women more or less theoretical at the moment?

How do you feel about polyamory? How does the boy feel about it?

(I don't have answers here - I'm depressingly monosexual, myself. But I have quite a few friends who have played this game, with varying degrees of success.)
posted by restless_nomad at 4:22 PM on December 13, 2010

I do not have personal experience with this, and I can be a bit of a romantic, so take my advice with a grain of salt. However, it seems wrong to me to get hung up on loving a gender versus loving a person. You don't have to identify as gay or straight and remain solely in that label. (Well, okay, some people would prefer that we did, but let's ignore that.) Falling for a guy does not make you any less of who you feel you are. It's a person in love with another person.

And even if you are happy with this guy for many years (oh no! the horror!) it still doesn't preclude dating women -- have you told this fellow about your concerns and desires? They don't have to be incompatible.
posted by jess at 4:25 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

You know, as a bisexual person myself, I find this kind of dilemma very confusing. Perhaps you are also a bisexual person (or a pansexual or an omnisexual person) and that is why neither "training" yourself to be gay or straight has been effective.

I bet you wouldn't be happier with "a woman" than with this guy, though there may well be some women in the world with whom you'd be happier than with this guy, and some men in the world with whom you'd be happier than with this guy, and some people with non-binary gender identifications with whom you'd be happier than with this guy. Or maybe not. Maybe this guy is the one person in the whole 6.5 billion human population with which you'd be most happy.

The thing is that looking over the shoulder of the person you're with to some imaginary "next" or "other" person is a great recipe for unhappiness in relationships.

Short answer: when you're bisexual (because I can only speak for my own self-identification and experience, can't address the pansexual or omnisexual experience) it's often really about the individual person, not about what their gender identification is, and trying to talk yourself out of what is your authentic sexual orientation only makes you and everyone around you unhappy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2010 [30 favorites]

I have indeed been in your shoes. However, I don't put very much stock into the whole "sexual identity" thing (label, whatever). My preferrences don't appear to be related to gender so much as to individual factors and traits.

If you're happy with this guy, I suggest giving it a go and trying to release the idea that you *must* identify with a particular orientation in order to be happy. You can, if it helps, identify as queer and still have an opposite sex partner. If someone asks my sexual orientation now, I still identify as queer (I hate the word "bisexual" for some reason), even though I'm currently partnered to a guy. I think that identification is more honest than saying I'm straight.
posted by dchrssyr at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2010

Oh, and while I'm at it, I believe the author of the now-defunct DAR comic went through something similar, so you might enjoy those archives.
posted by jess at 4:27 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

or what Sidhedevil said.
posted by dchrssyr at 4:29 PM on December 13, 2010

i've been "overall more lesbian but i love this guy" for a few guys. i'm now married to a man. the importance for me in knowing that this is good and right and as it should be, is that i dated a number of women before settling into my life long commitment.

i found that i just avoided labels. people hate the word bisexual and there's a lot of baggage with it and if you say you're gay, but you still get the dick, people think you're a tourist or something. not that it matters what people think - but i found using labels actually cut off some of my dating pool because of preconceived notions. i eventually settled on "fine, if you must have a label, i'm queer."

in my armchair opinion, not knowing you or him or your ages or how long you've been together but not together - let this guy go. stop keeping him on the back burner. you aren't going to answer this if you keep him around and it's pretty cruel to him too, even if he knows the score. just be single and open to experiences. go on some dates with girls. have some sex. get all gooshy in your emotions. figure out if it's everything you thought it'd be.

having said that - there is also no magical cut off point "oops, i'm too old to be a lesbian now!" - i know women in their 50s who lived their lives as straight women until one day in the art supply store and now they're with the love of their life and out and proud. there is no reason you need all the answers right this second. every relationship doesn't have to be "this is the last relationship i'll ever have." some relationships come along so we can learn something about ourselves and others.
posted by nadawi at 4:29 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

If you break up with him, you owe it to yourself to actively (read: perhaps with more deperation and with less "cool" than you would like) seek out a real, tangible, lesbian sexual relationship. No waiting for the perfect woman, no "meet cute", no "it was meant to be" - you need to go shopping around (probably online, but you can also join a bunch of lesbian social clubs and go to bars) and make a rational decision without waiting for any "woo woo" feelings. That might mean a ONS. But you need to make it happen, even if you have to force it.

I can understand where you're coming from, because I have the same "bisexual dilemma" in which you wonder if you're just "settling for straight" because it's easier, more common, it "just happens" without effort, etc. The solution is to agressive create opportunities for yourself.
posted by Nixy at 4:32 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

i don't disagree with Nixy, but if you are going that route - please be upfront with your conquests. i've for some reason been the girl that all my female friends try out their gayness on and some play act it so hard trying to see if it fits that they forget there is a real, feeling, falling in love person on the other side.
posted by nadawi at 4:34 PM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Your happiness is more important than your label. Date him and see how it goes. You won't be tainted with "the straight".
posted by chairface at 4:37 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

people hate the word bisexual

I hate that people hate that particular word so much that they will do anything to avoid thinking about the idea that they might like to fuck people regardless of their gender.

I would love it if there were another word that was generally used instead of "bisexual", and would be happy to self-identify by that word, but until someone comes up with it, it seems like the most accurate self-identification for me (as someone who's only had relationships with people with binary gender identifications) so I am waving that flag high in the hope that it will be helpful to people by reminding them that there are other people who roll that way.

And color me another woman who is surprised that she married a man. And surprised that she's in a monogamous relationship at all. Sometimes your life turns out differently than you expect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:38 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have the same "bisexual dilemma" in which you wonder if you're just "settling for straight" because it's easier, more common, it "just happens" without effort, etc.

See, I have never encountered this so much, but I have also lived in very LGBQ-centric environments pretty much my whole adult life, so I think it has always been easier for me to find and initiate relationships with women than with men. Relationships don't really "just happen" to people of any gender without effort, do they?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:43 PM on December 13, 2010

And color me someone who is bitter that all you awesome queer women keep marrying men.

But seriously, to some extent it's a numbers game. If you are attracted to 8 out of every 10 women you meet, odds are only one or two of those five will be attracted to you even in theory - that's leaving out compatibility in general. If you're attracted to one out of every 10 guys, odds are very much in your favor that the one guy you like is into girls. So if you can go that way, you probably will, just because you've got a much larger potential pool of mates to pick from.

So, you know, go with it, if it's making you happy. Particularly if you don't live somewhere with a decent-sized population to find some nice girl in. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.

Really, this isn't a different question than any of the other "I met my partner young and kinda feel like I should have more experience before settling down" questions. The labels are annoying, and there are some logistical concerns, but otherwise, everyone feels this way at some point.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:47 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

i've lived in anti-LGBTQ environments for most of my upbringing. and relationships, especially straight relationships "just happen" a lot, actually - like, you're in a group of friends, everyone has paired up and that just leaves you and this other guy and so you guys pair up because it's easier. this sort of thing happens in church and small towns a lot. there's a pecking order and people just sort of fall into relationships out of habit or something and then before you know it enough time has passed and they've announced their engagement, then got married, then had a couple kids. and sometimes 10, 20, 40 years on they've grown up and realized they didn't have to do everything by the script.

i had the same bisexual dilemma fear - am i dating guys because it's easier/expected/reinforced from birth? i had to go through a "learning why guys are attractive" phase and then for a long time after i wondered if i had just succeeded in fooling myself. the more experience i got, the smaller these concerns became.
posted by nadawi at 4:50 PM on December 13, 2010

I should have mentioned what nadawi brought up-but yes, I absolutely agree that you should be open and honest and try not to lead anyone on. Contrary to popular belief, there do exist other women in the lesbian/bi community who will be okay with that or looking for the same thing.

Relationships don't really "just happen" to people of any gender without effort, do they?

What I mean by that is that your chances of encountering straight male partners are higher than your chances of encountering bi/lesbian partners when out and about in daily life. It's just a numbers thing. Also, many times a man may pursue you or ask you out without your having to alter your habits or go looking for it as such.

Ultimately, OP, only you can decide if you break up or not- and I'm not advocating one or the other- but I think you should be aware that straight dating and lesbian dating are two different games, and if you're not willing to go the extra mile to meet more women to date, it's important that you ask yourself why that is.
posted by Nixy at 4:52 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

What I mean by that is that your chances of encountering straight male partners are higher than your chances of encountering bi/lesbian partners when out and about in daily life. It's just a numbers thing.

Ah! Light dawns on Marble Head. Thank you for explaining that so patiently, Nixy (and nadawi, and restless_nomad). Yes, of course. Now I feel silly, because your point should have been obvious to me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:14 PM on December 13, 2010

Sounds like you need to get out there and date women.

If you "feel like we're a perfect fit and he's everything I've been looking for" but "it just feels weird/strange to be with a guy" then nothing in the world will turn him into a woman. You can still be with him and explore what it is like to be with a woman, but you need to have that conversation with him before you do.

So the problem isn't "should I dump him and date girls or not" it is that very common "I need to communicate what I need and work it out" problem.
posted by munchingzombie at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2010

agreeing with restless_nomad: have you considered polyamory? or even just being in an open relationship with this guy? it seems like you're a perfect candidate for more of a casual dating-around type of thing.

personally, i don't think you have to choose what kind of genitals your future partner will have in advance.
posted by woodvine at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2010

It's pretty easy for me to say, because I'm straight and married to someone of the opposite sex, but you fall in love with a person, not a gender. The gender might make it more likely you fall in love, but you still need the person there.

Your situation is, perhaps, similar to the person who asks "I always figured my partner would be a college grad, maybe PhD, and the love of my life dropped out of high school. Can I be happy with him/her?". To which the answer can only be "Beats me. Can you?".
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:23 PM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Having been "The Boy" to a woman who had, at that time, some sexual identity confusion, I'll simply observe that if your internal compass is even slightly more important to you than your relationship with The Boy, you owe it to him, if not to yourself, to get out of the gene swapping pool until you figure the hell out for which team, Pink or Blue, you're personally batting. Holding yourself out as possible mate material to a person who loves you, and wants to pair bond, regardless of their physical sex, in order to postpone your own decision point, even if it seems to you that it is only because of your own lack of maturity/experience/conviction/etc., is incredibly cruel.

And yes, this comment resonates across more than 40 years, in bitter memory.
posted by paulsc at 5:36 PM on December 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Don't sweat it--it will work itself out. You haven't been dating that long. Your heart will let you know.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:44 PM on December 13, 2010

All relationships are about deciding you'd rather be with a particular person than play the field. The fact that your particular person in this case is a man and the field is mostly women is irrelevant. If you need to have sex with women to get the experience, dump this sucker and do it; if you're happy with the dude and want to keep it going for now, commit to it (for now - no one's talking about a life-long commitment).
posted by J. Wilson at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I came in to recommend DAR and see that someone already has. She's a woman who ended up married to a guy and identifies as queer. Highly recommend!
posted by heyforfour at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2010

This may not be a popular suggestion, I'm not sure ... but have you considered asking your boy if he would be interested in a threesome with you and another girl?

I suggest this because it potentially allows you to explore your attractions to women in a safer space in terms of your relationship. He gets to participate with you, so he doesn't have to drive himself frantic with worry that you're experiencing something he can't share. You don't have to break up with him to see how you feel about being with another woman.

Others on this thread have also suggested simply being nonmonagamous for a while until you figure yourself out, which is a possibility, too. But pursuing this together might feel less threatening on both sides.
posted by kyrademon at 5:58 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder if sexual orientation isn't a red herring here. You wake up happy, are reminded about the person next to you and then you are less happy. This doesn't seem like a relationship that is working out.
posted by gjc at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2010

Hi there, Autumn. Another bi-chick, married to a man, here. And because I met him at eighteen, I never had the chance to be with a woman either.

But I've also never been with a black guy. Or someone who was uncircumcised. Or someone who was really tall. Or a guy who likes strap-on sex. Or someone with gray hair. Hell, I've kissed four people over the course of my entire life. The list of types of people I've found attractive over that time, and have not been with, goes on and on.

Do I sometimes feel, I don't know, wistful about the whole thing? Sure. It's hard to make a choice and then look back and see the other choices you've missed out on and not feel a bit of healthy regret, especially when the stuff you're missing out on is really cute girls.

For me, though, it's been worth it--because, though my partner isn't, like, tall dark and handsome (or short, curvy, and butch), he's awesome, fun, understands me like no one else. We laugh together and cook together and sing dorky songs together at night when we can't sleep. This is like best friend kind of love, with good sex, too, so why would I risk giving it up? It doesn't seem worth it to me.

I've struggled, though--and this is a struggle that predates him by about eight years--with what I am, what to call myself, whether I was a dyke, and what that meant, or bi, and what that meant. Because I didn't feel gay. But I also didn't feel like the girls I knew who kissed other girls at bars so that boys could watch. For me, coming to terms with it started with posting this question to metafilter. I researched a bit into bi-erasure, and realized that I knew certain things about my sexuality in a soul-deep way that I couldn't deny (no matter what some people said about my being a poseur!). And I realized that I'm bi. I. Am. Bi. And, Christ, does it feel good to say that, to own it. To, you know, make my identity my identity.

It's a process, though--a deeply personal one, a long journey. I don't know that any of us are going to be able to give you any quick answers, and I think you'll know the answers that are right for you when you hear them. But I do want to say this: it's okay if you're bi, or queer, if you prefer that term. Really. It doesn't invalidate any of your feelings about wanting to be with women sometimes, or wanting to be with this man, now. And that's what's great about those labels and that identity. Does that mean it's easy, that you won't get judged by meanies or icky-peeps? No, of course not. But what matters most is that you find a way of talking about yourself and your feelings that you are comfortable with.

Best of luck to you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:07 PM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

Sometimes when someone gay wants to be all, I'm the gayest ever, they say they're a Kinsey 6. (1 being straight and 6 being gay.) Maybe you're not middle of the road bi, at 3 1/2, but maybe you're at 5. The whole scale of sexuality may be easier than the labels for you.

And yeah, find out if you can date this guy and not be exclusive. If you've only been dating for a bit, maybe letting both of you play the field for a bit would help.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:49 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came out to myself while in a long-term relationship with a man... it was kindof a terrible relationship, really, but it was valuable to me at the time, and I stayed with him for 2-3 years throughout and after the period when I realised I might really prefer to be with a woman.

At the time, I felt that I would have more regret if I ended the relationship and later decided that I wished I hadn't, than if I continued the relationship and later realised it should have ended earlier. Four years after breaking up with him, I am definitely a lesbian and I do think that I could have left that hetero relationship years earlier, but I'm not unhappy about how it all went. I did love him, and I'm glad that I waited for things to come to their natural end instead of breaking it off because I thought I might be gay (even though, as it turns out, I was right).

But as you can see above, plenty of people would advise you very differently. Try to think a few years ahead: what would you regret missing most?

Also, though, check out Sexual Fluidity, by Lisa Diamond. It's a study of changing attractions over time in young American women, and it's really interesting... especially since it includes a lot of anecdotes from women in a variety of attraction-shift situations.
posted by equivocator at 8:22 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are uneasy about being with a guy not this guy specifically. Just keep in mind that no matter what your sexual preference, most people will experience a grass-is-greener scenario be it a different sex, race, attractiveness, creed, tax bracket as their current mate. Do you want to be with this person or do you long to sow some wild oats? In my opinion, until you stop thinking about vagina vs penis you're forever going to be beating yourself up over your sex life. Find someone (or many someones) who make you happy and forget about forcing yourself into your perceived proper behavior.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:28 PM on December 13, 2010

I could have written something close to this post a few years ago. I was in a 3-year relationship, considered myself 'mostly lesbian' but somehow kept dating men because I got emotionally close to them and felt flattered that they were attracted.

I went through the same pattern of waking up next to someone and thinking "well, I love this person and we're compatible and I could be pretty happy with them long-term, but something is just off". That is worth listening to.

I ended up breaking a (short) engagement because once actually faced with a long-term commitment (that I fully thought I wanted, going in), I realized I could not let myself never know if sex or relationships were better with women, as I always deep-down suspected. I'm not saying your experience is identical, but it sounds like you have some of the same doubts.

How long you've been dating this guy? If it's still new, give yourself some benchmark to break it off if you still have doubts. It just gets harder to convince yourself to leave (and to upset your boyfriend) as time goes on. Age doesn't necessarily matter, but the longer you wait after having those feelings, the harder it is to "get started" being a lesbian - I did at 23 and I still felt like an impostor a lot of times. (FWIW, I'm now very happily with a woman, so I admit some confirmation bias - but my doubts turned out to be the right thing for me).

Memail me if you want to ask about anything else - like I said, our experiences sound very similar.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

It happens. I have a friend who had been gay all her life until she met a particular guy, and now she's having to go through the weird "reverse coming-out" experience with her friends and family.

How does your guy feel about you messing around with women on the side? A lot of guys are into the idea... my own husband says that if I want to mess around with other women, it's not cheating as long as he gets to watch. :D
posted by Jacqueline at 9:04 PM on December 13, 2010

I don't think you'll ever be happy with this guy if you don't resolve your doubt, and I worry you'll resent him due to your lost opportunity to know.
posted by OrangeDrink at 12:25 AM on December 14, 2010

It's possible that you're just getting cold feet... but I was the girl on the other side of things once, as were a few of the other women here. Sometimes a gender isn't right for you, and you figure it out... and that's fine.
posted by honeydew at 12:48 AM on December 14, 2010

Also, re the threesome comments: if you decide to get involved with a girl, do it on your own first. Some people are into both men and women but definitely not threesomes.
posted by honeydew at 12:51 AM on December 14, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone... I still have a lot of thinking to do but this has helped.

To answer a few questions: My guy is okay with me sleeping with women, and I've had experiences in that area already. The itch is for dating/romantic situations.

I've been on a few dates etc with women and I was trying in that area, but a self-esteem issue caused me to think I'd never have any luck, so I started dating men again. Unfortunately it was only after getting involved with this guy that I realized I actually wasn't doing that bad.

I'm leaning towards staying with the guy and trying to work things out, because at this point I just can't stand hurting him. He feels like we have something special and he doesn't understand how I can say I'm happy and then throw him away just like that, and I don't want him to feel disposable like that.

I'm still afraid because we've both only done long-term relationships (2-6 years), so I feel like in staying with him I'm making a decision to postpone dealing with my feelings indefinitely... but I also don't want to hurt anyone and there is a chance I could be happy.
posted by Autumn at 1:01 AM on December 14, 2010

Avoiding hurting him is a terrible reason not to dump him. You have to decide if you like him enough to want to be in a relationship with him. Honestly, it sounds to me like you don't -- the desire not to hurt him is mentioned in the original question and the follow-up. If this is your only reason to stay with him, you're just postponing hurting him and will hurt him more eventually.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:08 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's clear from your question that your curiosity is nagging you to the point of relationship distraction. That coupled with the cruelty of staying with someone just because you can't stand hurting him (which, though it seems selfless on its face is actually selfish--you're doing something that hurts him more in the long run in order to spare yourself the guilt you'll feel by doing the right thing sooner) makes it clear that you have some thinking/sorting/exploring to do before you commit yourself to anyone.

Although this kind of decision is wrenching because you're worried about making a "mistake," try to remember that there aren't really "mistakes" and "perfect decisions," but rather just choices free of inherent value* and we deal with the consequences and outcomes as they come. Whatever the outcome is here, you will deal with it, be fine and move on. Not to minimize that process--it may be difficult, painful, and hard work, but it's still nothing you can't recover and rebuild from.

As someone else noted, the issue at hand probably is not your "sexual orientation," per se but rather the thing that is blocking you both consciously and unconsciously from taking action on something that you strongly feel is part of who you are.

*(Some choices do have inherent value, obviously--when you're choosing to hurt someone for convenience or your own benefit, that's hurtful. When you lie, steal, harm, etc. You catch my drift.)
posted by Rudy Gerner at 9:33 AM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

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