i need help with my own homophobia, and i'm queer.
February 8, 2011 4:16 PM   Subscribe

i'm a queer with some serious internalized homophobia. how can i move forward without my insecurities hurting me more? (nsfw?)

i'm in a wonderful, committed relationship filled with a lot of love and friendship and support. everything i'm about to share with you i have shared with my partner and i have been loved, held, and supported, just where i am. even with that being the case, my own mind is still hurting me.

we are two cisgendered women. we were friends for years before we hooked up and had a slow and steady (and then exponential) build up of emotions and love for each other. a few years ago, we planned to see each other a month in advance and were emailing, chatting, texting, you name it, all of the time. we met up, hooked up, and then she got scared and disappeared for a few months before she showed up again. 9 months later i found out that for the first time ever, she had sex/slept with a cisgendered (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender) man, the week before we met up. what she explains now is that she was on one track, falling for me, and on another experiencing being single and dating for the first time in a long time. they met during a week-long work event, she was always curious if she would ever want to date cisgendered (as opposed to transgender) men, she thought he was attractive, kind, etc., and went for it.

we've worked on a lot trust issues related to this (i felt a great deal of betrayal), and i've moved mostly beyond those issues through a lot of good conversations.

what i'm realizing more and more, though, is that i am still having issues with the fact that she slept with a cisgenered man. if it were another queer, my response would be different. i freak out that i can never give her, sexually, what he did, etc. even though she wants to be with me. i get it, she chooses me.

i am incredibly ashamed and embarassed (because my mind tells me that it should not matter, because i don't think heterosexual sex is paramount, etc.). but it's the truth. every single time i see a movie now, i wonder if she is thinking of him when the protaganists are being sexual, etc. i have been "out" for more than 1/2 my life now, but i don't know what to do.

similar experiences, analogies, thoughts about how to stop bad brain patterns, would be really welcomed.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bisexual people are just as capable of monogamy as gay or straight people. (If your partner even is bisexual, which who knows--maybe she was just bi-curious for a second?)

If you and your partner choose to be monogamous, that means you're each choosing to be with each other instead of billions of other humans in the world. Does it make that much difference if it's 7 billion other people your partner isn't having sex with rather than 3.5 billion?

I'm not so sure that your response is about internalized homophobia so much as it is about biphobia. And to be honest, even as a bi woman myself, I can see where lesbians might get that, because our whole society is structured around the idea that having sex with men is the end-all and be-all of life. (Thus, the gay men's community tends to circulate the conventional wisdom that bi men are "really gay" and the lesbian community tends to circulate the conventional wisdom that bi women are "really straight" and meanwhile the TV and radio and movies promulgate a vision of sex that is all about looking for male attention and pleasing your man and so on and so forth.)

Cock is not magic. Your partner chooses to be with you, not any of the 3.5 billion men in the world or any of the 3.5 billion other women in the world.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:34 PM on February 8, 2011 [9 favorites]

I think you are WAY too hung up on labels.

(I say this to you has someone who had a few very serious relationships with people who happened to be transgendered before finally meeting my husband. The coating was never really important, it's who the person is inside that counts!)

Seems to me there is something else going on here. The responsible thing for me to do is point out that you might want to see a therapist or psychologist who specializes in the areas you feel you are most hung-up on. I'm not sure the internet is the place for you to find an answer, just maybe relevant avenues of relief you might explore.

As to your penchant for labeling folks based on gender and identity...

FWIW, I realized long ago that gender and sexuality do not follow a linear scale, but instead relate more precisely to a 3-D type model, where all sorts of combinations and permutations are possible.
posted by jbenben at 4:37 PM on February 8, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm a woman, married to a man, and I'm not convinced this is really about orientation. I would feel a ton of betrayal and anxiety if my husband were to sleep with another woman because he was curious about (taller, big-busted, blonde) women. When we watched movies, I would wonder whether he was more attracted to the actress than to me. It's an ordinary insecurity that is shared by many people, gay or straight or bi. This is what you need to deal with, maybe through therapy.

Be honest with your partner, too. She needs to know you're feeling anxiety; if you don't say anything, she might perceive that you're withdrawing, and then your insecurities will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I find "tell me I'm beautiful" or "come here and hold me" helps a lot. Tell her you know your fears are irrational, and they're not her fault (assuming you've forgiven her for the cheating), but right now you need a hug and a kind word. Then refocus your energy so your relationship isn't consumed by a need for constant reassurance.

I've had success "stopping bad brain patterns" by becoming more engaged in my life, through exercise, volunteering, travel, or whatever. Become the best you that you can be, and these insecurities will take a back seat. Best wishes.
posted by desjardins at 4:49 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you really sure this is really even a gender issue? It sounds to me a lot more like feelings of infidelity than anything else. You don't say you wonder whether she's thinking of cisgendered men generally, but you specifically use the word "him," which I find significant. In light of that, I don't think you need a therapist, but perhaps just a deep long think about what it is that really upsets you about this incident. If that's what's going on, it's understandable, normal, and probably something you can work through.

I also get the need to use labels to communicate, but to think about the problem, it's probably getting in the way. You seem more concerned about what might be happening in light of the label you attach to the other person in the relationship and losing sight of the simple fact that this is another person who desires you.
posted by Hylas at 4:54 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't have any help on the main questions, but I will say that beating yourself up for feeling one way (jealous) just leads to more shame and pain. Either on your own or with a good therapist, probe the jealousy - feel it, look at its roots in your life, understand that you feel it and Why. For me, sitting with a feeling, especially a negative feelings deeply rooted in experience, was tremendously freeing and led to being much cooler with myself, and therefore others.
posted by ldthomps at 5:06 PM on February 8, 2011

Bisexual people, including myself, can be just as monogamous as anybody else. You've got to relax your rigid sexuality and gender definitions a little bit - cis and transgender are on a sort of sliding scale depending on one's social upbringing, in my experience, similar to sexuality's multifaceted aspects. By seeing your girlfriend through this framework you have for yourself, you're making unnecessary stress.

She said to you that she was curious about what it would be like, right? So, if anything, you should be happy that she got the curiosity out of her system before you got back together. Now she knows and has made her choice (you) with all the facts that she feels she needs.

There are lots of people in the world who have had homosexual relationships and then ended up in long term heterosexual ones. Would you feel just as troubled if you were a straight man and she had had sex with a woman for the first time before ending up happily with you? Perhaps you're afraid that the societal pressures towards heterosexuality as preferable will get to your partner over time. If she has shown herself to be resilient to this falsehood, you need to restore your trust in her somehow.

I also think you need to accept your own negative feelings as part of who you are. Everything doesn't have to be sunshine and daisies all the time! We're allowed to have worries and doubts. The important thing is to acknowledge them. So, you worry about your partner craving a penis now and again - well, if she does, there are ways to work around that desire monogamously. I'm sure she worries about your happiness too - that should show you how dedicated she is to your relationship.
posted by Mizu at 5:10 PM on February 8, 2011

i freak out that i can never give her, sexually, what he did, etc....

You also can't give her what a trans man could have given her, or another woman, or a high-quality vibrator could give her. There will always be someone who can do something sexually for her better than you can, and as long as you keep a laser-like focus on how you are deficient compared to these imaginary people, you will continue to make yourself crazy.

As you said - she chose you. She has stayed with you. She is not with an andromorph because a man-shaped person cannot give her what she wants right now, which is you. The distinction between sleeping with a trans-man and a cis-man in this instance is irrelevant. Stop worrying about the relationship she had in the past and focus on the one you have now - the one which you are more likely to not have for very long if you keep picking at this scab.
posted by MShades at 5:30 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I do wonder whether you're explaining this anxiety to yourself as internalized homophobia because you already have a sturdy framework in place for talking about/working through those kinds of issues, as opposed to the more nebulous and personal issue of her love for you. Like are you really worried she doesn't love vag enough, or are you worried she doesn't love you enough? Doesn't have to be either one or the other, of course, but if it's the former one can have nice safe theoretical conversations about how to overcome society's biases. Bit easier to confront framed that way, perhaps. Not to say that's not a real issue, and it may well be at play here. It's just that I recognize the tactic from my own array of defense mechanisms, kept handy next to me on the battlements for lo these many years. If they get past Let's Move This Onto An Analytical Plane I unleash the boiling oil.
posted by Diablevert at 7:13 PM on February 8, 2011

> what i'm realizing more and more, though, is that i am still having issues with the fact that she slept with a cisgenered man. if it were another queer, my response would be different.

Why? You're upset primarily because your girlfriend just isn't queer enough and you want help with that? The only way to change that is to change your head. Sex is sex; the plumbing is practically irrelevant.

Judging by your language, I get the impression that your sexuality is the primary metric by which you formed your identity. Please explore the notion that being human is sooooooo much more than the expression of sexuality. Yes, it's important to be encompassing and compassionate about gender and sexuality and to be aware of the effects of language... but it's also important not to err on the side of being totally hung up on who's fucking who and with what and why and what it's called and what the label is and what their motivations were and how to discuss it and dissect it and slice it and dice it into something utterly devoid of human expression and then define yourself by that! At the end of your life, what you've been will be so much more important that who you've done.

Let it go. It doesn't matter. Seriously. You really don't have the right to be upset about someone your partner slept with before she was with you.

But if you can't, the real questions is actually this: Is the relationship important to you? Are you happy in it? Is all this really just a way of hiding from yourself the fact that you want out?
posted by goblinbox at 9:05 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

No, I completely understand, I don't think a lot of people responding here do.

The internalized homophobia the poster is talking about is about not seeing lesbian relationships as being on par with heterosexual ones. It's not even about bi-phobia, although it's related. Of course there are elements of betrayal here, but that's not all. It's also a sense of "not being good enough" because society tells us that somehow, that one night stand she had was somehow more legitimate than her years of commitment to you.

I know this because I felt the exact same way when I found out my partner was having an affair with a man. It wasn't just the betrayal. I also felt that somehow I didn't deserve my partner, that the man she had slept with had just as much claim to her, even though she and I were married, and had been together for nearly a decade. But he was a man, and so their brief hetero fling was somehow more valid than our long term relationship.

Privilege blinds all of us. This kind of relationship insecurity is something straight people don't have to deal with, and is a direct result of society telling gays that our relationship aren't worthy and aren't on par with straight ones. I have been told directly that I'll settle down when I find a man, that being a lesbian is just a phase, and that my relationship isn't sacred like heterosexual ones. Our society treats lesbian relationships as a way to titillate men, rather than something solely separate from them. And my country, the US, supported by the majority of its citizens, fully sanctions this idea by not granting us equal marriage rights.

When you're feeling insecure, all these things add up to a really awful feeling about a relationship, something akin to betrayal, but not quite. All of a sudden, all these horrible homophobic things people said about you are coming true, and you start to believe it.

FWIW, I don't have any advice about hot to get over it. My relationship ended, and for the better. I never quite got over that feeling. For years, even after we broke up, I cringed when I saw hetero sex scenes in movies or on TV. Only time has allowed me to get over it. But with you, she really has chosen to be with you, and you should focus on that. She could be with a man, but she would rather be with you.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:15 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, I know we all like giving advice on here. That's why we're here, right? But I have to say, I'm a little shocked at all the responders here saying that this question is not really about internalized homophobia, and more about some general betrayal that everyone feels when being cheated on.

Please recognize that unless you're in a relationship with the same sex, you don't have to deal with this type of relationship insecurity. And if you have no experience dealing with the problem, you may want to think about how your own privilege has blinded you before you respond dismissively to the poster about the homophobia she's dealing with.

And yes, the poster chose her words very carefully, and defined them for the Meta public, since they aren't very well known. Reading this from a gay perspective it looks like to me that the poster is trying to be very precise in her language to make her question clear, rather than clinging to labels. But again, for people who really aren't well versed in the queer community, I can see how they'd misinterpret it.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:45 AM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mod note: take it to email folks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2011

Hmmm....don't want to fuck up the thread, but reading Toot's comment, she may well have a point. I'm sorry if I'm being an ignorant jackass, OP.
posted by Diablevert at 5:37 PM on February 9, 2011

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