Male lesbian?
May 19, 2012 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Advice and guidance for someone grappling with sexual and emotional orientation? Specific case inside. trigger warning

So...yeah. I've been wondering about this for a really long time, going on 20 years now. I can't really seem to figure it out. Here's my....internal matrix:

1. Sexually and emotionally attracted to women. The sexual part is 100% female.

2. Not sexually attracted to men.

3. Emotionally attracted to men, and desirous of male attention in a flirty but platonic fashion.

4. Gender identity is definitely male. I feel like a male. But I exhibit qualities considered 'effeminate' in really specific, non-obvious ways.

5. Survivor of sexual assault from another male, in childhood.

I've always sort of just gone with the theory that I was born male and bisexual, but the rape 'burned out' any facility I have for physical attraction to men. As I've gotten older, and I've found myself in various situations, I think that's not quite the case. I really don't have a desire to have sex with men, and never have, but I also really like being flirty with gay men, though not effeminate gay men.

What's going on? Do I fit into a useful genre of sexuality that might help me understand my nature more? It's all very confusing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Gay biological male here. I can tell you that many, many heterosexual-self-identified men enjoy flirting with gay men and enjoy having them as friends who are a little closer than their straight buddies, but not attracted to them sexually.

Also, many of the straightest guys I know are much more feminine in appearance and mannerisms than many of the gayest guys I know. How "butch" or "femme" you are need play absolutely no role in your sexuality, it's just part of your personality.
posted by xingcat at 7:15 AM on May 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

You are who you are, no need to fit into a particular box. I'm a gay man and like xingcat I also have met many straight-identified guys who are flirty with me. My interpretation is that they find flirting is fun, and are easy going enough about sexual identity to flirt with men as well as women. In some cases I think the straight guys were somehow trying to bond with me, to share some intimacy as a way of saying they like me and have no problem with me being gay. Sometimes I think the man just likes the attention, a way of saying "I can get anyone to flirt with me, even this gay guy who has no chance". Honestly it can be a little confusing, when I was younger I felt misled a couple of times. Now I understand it better.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you're just you. I know lots of gay men who like to flirt platonically with straight and bi women; why not straight men who like to flirt platonically with gay and bi men?

As for "effeminate" I think that stuff is pretty bullshit. (And very culture-bound; some of the things we would think were "effeminate" in the US, are totally the norm for straight men in other cultures [two men walking hand-in-hand in much of the Middle East, for instance, or men kissing each other on the cheek as a greeting in much of Europe, and so on]. Also time-bound; Jack Benny and Tony Randall were both straight.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, you sound pretty much heterosexual to me, based on the fact that you are only interested in sex and relationships with women.

As to the "emotional" attraction to men and the being "effeminate" - these are interesting things about your personality, but not necessarily markers of homosexuality or bisexuality.

I think it's very, very common to be emotionally attracted to members of the same sex and enjoy flirting with them, but not have a sexual aspect. Actually, this came up earlier this week in a thread about a teenage girl.

Which leads me to the fact that this is pretty widely accepted for women, but not men, at least in North American culture. But if you spend any time at all traveling in the Middle East, India or South East Asia, you'll see male friends displaying behavior that would read as flirty to most North Americans: hand-holding, whispering affectionately, teasing each other, etc. Because men are assumed to be heterosexual in these societies, they can openly be affectionate and even flirty with each other without anyone (including themselves) assuming they are gay.

And the feminine traits - well, no one perfectly conforms to gender norms. I've actually known several hetero couples where both partners were often assumed at first to be gay. These couples were all very happy.

However, this doesn't mean that you should stop exploring and trying to figure out what works for you - just that, sometimes you have to just take your own desires at face value. Is it possible that you could have been bisexual if not for your early experiences? Maybe, although it seems like orientation is a lot more hard-wired than that. But regardless, what matters is who you are now. If being with women is what you want, then keep being that heterosexual guy with a few feminine traits and a charming way with other men. There are much worse things to be!
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel like you've gone down a rabbithole a bit. It's great to think through these things and play with them and worry about them and take a long look at yourself, but you can also go Way Too Far and it gets kind of OCD and you're like pulling all the threads out of a very hairy sweater. So, as someone who doesn't know you, I think...

You're a straight dude! You're a guy who likes to have relationships with women!

And you're a straight dude with issues about attention. I've met a lot of guys like you.

This "stuff" likely doesn't have anything to do with your sexual identity or orientation. You just have issues with who's looking at you and how they're looking at you and how you want them to look at you. And you're hypervigilant about it.

People like attention, and they try to get it in ways that excite them. You're doing that with gay guys. So what? That's fine and all.

And as far as all these "boxes": yeah, we're all different.

On a slightly more critical note, whenever I hear the whole "male lesbian" thing, the hair on my neck stands up. It's off-putting in a number of ways. We're happy that you're straight and male and comfortable with gays and thoughtful about women and not a pig. We're happy that you're you. Embrace it. Be yourself. Enjoy yourself. But there's something a little bit wrong with "stealing identity," particularly marginalized identities, ya know?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:16 AM on May 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

You might be confusing yourself by seeking for causation where there's simply a correlation, or no relation whatsoever. I really don't see the complexity you see here (possibly because I'm that queer, but whatever).

You're into women both sexually and emotionally. You like emotional attachment and attention from men (who are into men). Your gender identity is male. It sounds to me like you're fitting the "heterosexual male who likes feeling attractive to people who are into men" box. You may be getting confused because lots of straight guys still see gay men as predators and you don't have that knee-jerk "ew gross get away from me" response.

And yeah, please don't use male lesbian. That's just all kinds of... awkward.
posted by buteo at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are questioning your sexuality because you don't fit into a particular box/label. But, the reality is that some people just don't fit into a box/label and the more that you try to force it, the more you realize that it doesn't work for you. It's seriously okay not to fit into any particular group.

There are other ways to identify by saying that you are simply into people which would be true (if you need a label). For what it's worth though, you seem to know quite a bit about yourself and your nature, you don't need a label to tell you that. You are a person that is into other people. You are sexually and emotionally attracted to women. You are emotionally attracted to men. And, you identify as male.
posted by livinglearning at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2012

I'm emotionally attracted to men too - it's called "being close friends" and it has nothing to do with your sexuality. You're just confused about it because society culturally teaches men that having strong emotions for each other is feminine and somehow "gay."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:31 AM on May 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm a straight guy. I'm attracted to women, not men. I'm not very stereotypically masculine at all, but not "effeminate" either. (You said "I exhibit qualities considered 'effeminate' in really specific, non-obvious ways." That's not how I'd describe myself, but given the "non-obvious" part, it probably amounts to the same thing.) I can enjoy gay guys being flirty with me — if they recognize that I'm straight and respect my boundaries, it can be flattering that somebody thinks I'm attractive, and kind of sweet, even though the attraction isn't isn't reciprocated on my end.

So I've most of your bases covered here, except 5). I think you're a perfectly normal straight guy who isn't homophobic and isn't particularly macho. (And you don't have to be macho or hate gay people to be attracted to women, and being attracted to women is pretty much all "straight" really means.)

I think it's common for men that have been sexually assaulted to end up questioning their sexuality. This seems to be due some really messed up ideas our society has about sexuality: 1) blaming the victim, 2) the idea that if something like this happens 'that means you're a woman', because men are supposed to be strong and being on the receiving end of something like this, being a victim of something, means you're 'not a real man'. This is bullshit. You did not ask for this to happen. It has nothing to do with you, or your sexuality, or who you're attracted to.

If this is a persistent problem and really it's bugging you, you can opt for counseling (talk variety), if it's available and you can afford it, mostly just to talk through how you're thinking about this. But mostly it sounds like you're a perfectly ordinary heterosexual guy.
posted by nangar at 11:07 AM on May 19, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you all for your patient advice and wisdom. I think that you all hit the nail on the head in saying that my thing is more attention-seeking behavior than sexual orientation per se. I apologize for using the term male-lesbian, I can totally see how that is weird and offensive. To be frank, I got it from Eddie Izzard because he's kinda the closest model for how I thought I was feeling, although I do not dress in women's clothing. He's not really a close model at all now that I think about it, I guess it's just all I had to go on at the moment.

And I think the US socialization factors mentioned are also huge. I'm gonna follow up with some counseling on this particular issue. Thanks again.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:50 AM on May 19, 2012

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