No, no, I'm not attracted to women! I just find women attractive!
July 10, 2012 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Mid-20s, female, sort of starting to wonder if I might maybe be bi, kind of hating on myself over it.

I remember being like eleven or twelve, and reading some article by a woman who essentially said "it doesn't make you gay if you feel attracted to women! It could just mean you think they're pretty!" And I was like... oh thank goodness! That means I'm not gay! My first crush on a boy a year later was met with similar relief. And from that moment on, I was straight.

In high school I had it bad for a girl I knew. But I 'knew' it was just because I thought she was pretty and I wanted to be like her. So what if I dreamed about her...

She was really my last female crush. Mostly I'm attracted to men. But I am now starting to realize that maybe the sidelong glances I give to hot women on the street are, in fact, not just glances of platonic appreciation.

And this really bothers me. Because I feel like I don't deserve to be queer, because I never had to suffer over this at all. I've been straight. I've never once felt like a closeted bi person, I've felt straight! I haven't ever felt like I was hiding some deep dark secret- I have happily dated and slept with men and not really felt like I was missing anything. I could try dating women, or I could just not bother and I think I'd still wind up happy. So I feel like if I did try dating women, I'd be cheating, or being a gayness dilettante somehow.

And there's also the fear that I was right all along, I really am straight, and I'll be one of those horrible bi-curious girls everyone loves to hate. The ones who date one girl and then go back to men forever. And because of that, there's a part of me who wants to try this without 'coming out', and that makes me feel cowardly.

Adding to this anxiety is the fact that, well, I'm dating a guy and we don't have plans to break up any time soon, so all this is purely in what-if territory, and I fear that this is all just fantasizing and if we break up I'll just chicken out of trying this.

Um... anyone been here? What is going on? How do I even know if I'm bi, like for realsies?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
First off, you deserve to give yourself room to contemplate this without using loaded language and denigrating this. You just do. You can decide to test the waters or not, or decide to test the waters in five years, or become a full-time lesbian separatist, all without beating yourself up for not suffering enough.

I am a 46-year-old dyke who is one of those "born this way" homos (because not all of us feel this, and by us I mean gay and straight and bi and everything). I give you internet permission to just breathe, and wonder and fantasize and think and read, all without judging yourself.

Someone should be along shortly with actual advice.
posted by rtha at 6:05 PM on July 10, 2012 [40 favorites]

Dude, you are suffering over this. Right now. The fact that you felt like, "whew, this whole being attracted to ladies thing doesn't necessarily mean I'm gay", all the way up to, like five minutes ago? Yeah, dude, that's pretty suffer-ey. As is the idea that you don't really "deserve" to be gay, or that maybe you're not gay enough, or that you will be the crappiest and most annoying kind of queer person, or that you need to come out, or maybe you shouldn't come out.

You're fine. You can be attracted to whoever you want. You can kiss, date, and sleep with whoever you want. Maybe some people will think that sucks (and in fact, being bi, I can tell you that, no matter what you do, someone will think it sucks). Take a deep breath. You're fine. I promise.

Fantasize about whatever you want. And if you find yourself single again? Cross that bridge when you come to it (not to mention, of course, that being monogamous doesn't make you not-bi anymore than abstaining from sex would).

By the way, I'm a lot like you. I'm bi. I haven't dated a woman in ages, and haven't ever been in a serious relationship with a woman. I still get to exist. And so do you.
posted by Sara C. at 6:13 PM on July 10, 2012 [25 favorites]

Have you tried not putting labels on yourself? That will help.

Go with the flow, feel how you feel, don't deliberately set out to hurt anyone, and you'll be fine.
posted by heyjude at 6:14 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a bisexual woman, I get what you're saying. I often feel like I don't fit into either world. Queer girls often don't accept me b/c I look very straight and have dated men and they fear that I'll leave them for men. Straight men either think it's the hottest thing ever or they're uncomfortable by it. Though, I've managed to find both female and male partners who are okay with it and had decent relationships with them. My parents at first would have preferred I was either straight or gay, rather than bi, but they've since gotten over it. I think a lot of people think that bisexuals just need to pick a sex and stick with it. I've heard psychologists on the radio say it, other queers say it, and some straights saying it, but for me... I really do like both. I like masculinity, confidence and assertiveness and that isn't just found in men.

I don't think you need to figure out if you're bisexual for realsies and just let yourself be free to explore your sexuality (even if it's just with your mind, novels, or stories you find online). I didn't explore this side of myself until I was about 20. I had my heart broken by a girl shortly later and swore off women and dated a man for 2 years. While dating him, I realized I longed to be in the queer community and read lesbian novels, rent lesbian movies, and went dancing at local gay bars (and of course went to pride weekends). Later when him and I split, I was deadset I was going to explore things with women and I ended up dating a woman for 2.5 years until very recently. While I was dating her, I found that the lesbian label made me uncomfortable eventually and it felt too restrictive. I think I can have monogamous relationships with either sex but that my identity remains queer and attracted to both.

I also have bisexual friends who believe and identify as bisexual although they've never dated the same sex but that they feel as though they would if they met the right person. I usually don't identify as bisexual actually b/c I find it even restrictive. I like pansexual, but most people don't know the term. I also just like to say that I don't identify. I believe these labels are social constructions and my identity and sexuality are ever changing and how I feel some days is completely different than other days. Some days I feel like a full out lesbian, other days straight and some days I'm attracted to those in between!

I don't know if any of that helped. But I'd worry less about identifying and more about just seeking out things you're interested. I found the author Sarah Waters really helped me read fictional tales about lesbian characters a way for me to start doing that. :)
posted by DorothySmith at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

PS. Feel free to private message me if you'd like. I don't mind questions etc.
posted by DorothySmith at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2012

And this really bothers me. Because I feel like I don't deserve to be queer, because I never had to suffer over this at all.

Oh, they removed the "suffering" requirement for your Queer Card about 6 years ago. You probably didn't get the memo.

As a gay homosexual man who's attracted to men of my own gender, I can honestly tell you that people don't "deserve" or "not deserve" to be any sexuality at all. In fact, you don't have to label yourself. Give yourself some breathing room. You're fine just as you are, and labels don't matter.
posted by xingcat at 6:18 PM on July 10, 2012 [21 favorites]

You're bi if you decide you are, basically. Nobody gets to define your sexuality for you, and you don't have to have sex with a woman to know that you're attracted to women. You can be bi without ever having had sex with a woman, if that's the identity that makes sense to you.

There are other labels, you could choose, if you want. "Heteroflexible" is a fairly popular one. Personally, I like "queer" for myself, but I don't try to stick it on anyone else.

The whole "bi-curious" hate issue is one I can't even begin to address without ranting, so hopefully someone else can pick up that piece, but really, if you find yourself at a point where you want to and are able to have sex with women, there are a lot of potential avenues to that, and the key is being honest with and respectful of your potential partners.
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:20 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am now starting to realize that maybe the sidelong glances I give to hot women on the street are, in fact, not just glances of platonic appreciation.

So? I mean, really, so what? The idea that Gay. Straight, Bisexual, and Queer or anything else are metaphysical categories into which everyone must fit is weird. You are not your sexuality. Your sexuality is part of you.

Just because you find someone attractive doesn't mean you have to go out and sleep with them. Just because you find a particular gender attractive doesn't mean you have to sleep with people of that gender. You are totally allowed to date men, and only men, while finding women hot. Similarly, the fact of getting married does not mean that you instantly stop finding people other than your spouse sexually attractive. It just means you've decided not to have sex with them.

People are sexy. It's okay to recognize and appreciate that. It's also okay not to want to have sex with every sexy person you run across. Relax.
posted by valkyryn at 6:27 PM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Hi, I'm a queer lady. I convinced myself I was straight for a while as a teenager, but then shit fell apart and I realized I was about 95% attracted to women by the time I was 20 or so. So, not the same as you, but I have a lot of empathy for you, and I totally remember being confused about whether I though women were beautiful or I was attracted to them.

I wanted to answer your question specifically to address this: those horrible bi-curious girls everyone loves to hate

It really bothers me when two girls make out for male attention at a party, or claim to be bi-curious to get a guy interested in them. But, what you are saying is completely and totally different. You are actually bicurious, and there is nothing wrong with that, not at all. I do urge you to be up-front about it if you start to date/experiment with women at some point; some women won't want to date someone who isn't sure she's attracted to women (which makes sense), some women will be open to casually dating you and seeing where it goes, some women will be up for anything. As long as you're honest, it will work out.
posted by Why hello, I am a sock puppet at 6:29 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

And there's also the fear that I was right all along, I really am straight, and I'll be one of those horrible bi-curious girls everyone loves to hate. The ones who date one girl and then go back to men forever. And because of that, there's a part of me who wants to try this without 'coming out', and that makes me feel cowardly.

Oh god any lesbian who's all hung up on whether or not you've earned enough frequent flyer points on your queer card isn't worth wasting your time on. If you find yourself single again and attracted to a woman ask her out. If you're having a blast with your guy stick with him. Just don't run away and get married in Massachusetts while you're still in the figuring it out stage with the ladies and you'll be fine. Otherwise enjoy the short skirts for the summer, and go rent Better than Chocolate.
posted by edbles at 6:30 PM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

You run the risk of being thought of as That Asshole™ by someone or another any time you go after what you want in this life whether it's an expression of your sexuality or something else. Sometimes getting what you want means someone else doesn't get what they want, and this new realization may mean you can't be the person someone else wants you to be. Sometimes people will wind up inventing reasons to assign blame to you for things that would better be chalked up to bad luck.

Tough shit for all of them; just do the best you can to be forthright in your dealings with people, and realize that the people who are defining you as their least favorite type of queer or whatever could just as easily empathize with the fact that what you're going through is complicated, focus on some other attribute of who you are, or devote that mental energy toward finding things that make them happy. Haters gonna hate.

But I'm sure you can find women who would be more than happy to explore this aspect of yourself with you even knowing where you stand with it. Because sex is fun and that's what it's there for.
posted by alphanerd at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

So I'm a bi woman (being an old from when that was the label, and having done some writing and activism under that label, so it's the label I still use as a self-identifier) who is in a long-term monogamous relationship with a man.

When I've been in relationships with men, including my current one, I definitely benefit from having that relationship privileged in a homophobic society. As someone who has all my life been open to both hetero-privileged relationships and those that are not, I am definitely in a position of greater privilege than someone whose orientation is gay or lesbian.

On the other hand, when I've been with women partners, those relationships have been marginalized by homophobes. When a gf and I were harassed on the street, it would hardly have availed me to yell, "I fuck men, too!" to the harassers, even if I had had the cowardice and disloyalty to think of doing so.

If you ever feel like you want to explore a same-sex relationship, but not sure if it's for you, there are other women in the same boat who would be interested in exploring with you if there comes a time when you are sexually and/or romantically available. Honesty is key to being respectful of other people's boundaries in sexual and romantic relationships.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have happily dated and slept with men and not really felt like I was missing anything. I could try dating women, or I could just not bother and I think I'd still wind up happy. So I feel like if I did try dating women, I'd be cheating, or being a gayness dilettante somehow.

I just wanted to mention a couple things about this paragraph. I'm a Real Life Bi Woman (tm) in a long-term relationship with a dude. I totally understand the guilt you're feeling, but being bisexual doesn't mean you are obligated to feel like something is missing in heterosexual relationships. Maybe you end up with a dude forever! Maybe you end up with a lady forever! I imagine your happiness will have a lot more to do with their personality than their gender.
posted by mismatched at 7:02 PM on July 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

As a hopefully encouraging data point, approximately 80% of the women I've slept with and been in relationships with (these usually amount to the same thing for me, YMMV) were historically bi or claimed it as an identity or both. They all slept with their First Girl at some point. You're not very unusual in this respect, I swear!
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on July 10, 2012

I don't know if I have the right words to convey my thoughts here, but here goes...

At the ripe old age of 44, I've seen so many changes in so many people I know. I've seen straight people leave hetero marriages and enter gay relationships. I've seen gay people enter hetero relationships. I've seen rampant lesbians (okay, one rampant lesbian) suddenly decide that she's bi and pursue a relationship with a man.

So for the last year or so, I've been wondering if there's no such thing as absolutely steadfast for life straight or gay or bi. You just fall in love with/want to sleep with whoever pushes your buttons in the right way. Sometimes that person will have the same bits between their legs as you do yours. Sometimes that person will have different bits. Sometimes those bits are part of what you fall in love with, sometimes it doesn't matter - you just want/love the person regardless.

I guess I agree with those above who have said "drop the labels". If someone interests you, go for it.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:07 PM on July 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

The best analogy I ever heard for sexual orientation is being right or left handed. Being left- handed used to be considered bad. Being right-handed was right, being left-handed was wrong, and children who tried to write left handed were wilfully choosing to do so and had to be forced to stop. Children who were naturally left handed were forced to write with their right hands, even if it sometimes meant tying their left arms behind their backs and caused speech impediments or other psychological problems and unhappiness.

We know better now. We know that people's brains are wired to be right or left handed, that left-handedness may be statistically the more rare but is nonetheless simply a perfectly normal biological variant. Further, we understand that handedness is not an either/or state of being but that there is a spectrum of handedness, that a person may write left-handed but in every other regard is right-hand dominant, or that a person can be almost entirely right-handed and do one thing left-handed, such as shooting left in hockey, that there are people who are ambidextrous, equally good with either hand, and that there are countless other variations on the spectrum. And now we all understand that this is all fine, that our brains are just wired the way they are and that we can all feel free to just figure out what works best for us as individuals and go with it.

This world is moving towards being equally enlightened about sexuality, so get on board the love train. We don't choose who we're attracted to, so you should never feel ashamed of the physical attraction you feel for another person just because they're supposedly in the wrong category. Enjoy that attraction, and explore it. It's just the way you're wired and it's neither good nor bad.
posted by orange swan at 7:08 PM on July 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

I had a string of girlfriends from age 11 to age 16. Then I started menstruating, discovered boys, never went back. I usually let other people assume I am heterosexual. It's just easier. For one thing, I don't think there is a word for someone like me which clearly distinguishes wiring from lifestyle. For another, a lot of uptight people of both genders aren't comfortable hearing I have bisexual tendencies.

I wrote about this previously, a post called "Just missed". I will put a direct link in my profile for a couple of days or so in case you want to read it. I see no reason to try to reinvent the wheel.

Info that's not in the post: My adult sons know I have bisexual tendencies. They have said if I was stranded on a desert island with nothing but other women, I probably would not sleep alone. Otherwise, I like men and have no trouble getting male attention, so I just have no reason to get a girlfriend. No big.
posted by Michele in California at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

We know that people's brains are wired to be right or left handed

Hey, ambidextrous erasure!

I joke because I have seriously gotten similar flak for being ambidextrous (as if I were either betraying my true inner lefty, or as if I were just trying to be a special snowflake even though I was really a righty) as I have for being bi.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:10 PM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's a comic someone is a similar situation wrote about their experiences (NSFW) --> Erika Moen's "Queer".
posted by Dynex at 7:21 PM on July 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi, OP, this was me a few years ago.

Posting that question was huge for me in terms of mental health and self-identity. I hope that posting this one will be huge for you, too. It was the first time I'd ever expressed a lot of my feelings of discomfort and confusion about my sexuality. Up until that point, I was kind of muddling through it--occasionally mentioning that I liked girls, too, to people I knew, but, deep down, absolutely terrified about what it all meant.

There were a couple answers on there that really, really helped me through my feelings of self-hatred and fear:
Ambrosia Voyeur's: You can stand under my Queer Umbrella.

I think you can say you're bisexual, a 5 on the Kinsey, queer, pansexual, anything you like. Nobody has a right to sanction your identity. It's fluid, and your own, and does not depend on what kind of relationships you've had. Labels and descriptors are only as confining as you allow them to be.

There are good reasons to tell people about your bisexuality - one of mine is that there are some girls who will get too much in my space for my platonic comfort. I need to know if they are actually flirting, of just being rowdy affectionate sisters. Making sure they have the pertinent information about which team I play for is important.

I'm in your position, too. I identify as bisexual without having slept with a woman. I like more men than women, but there's no mistaking arousal, is there? If I ever get flack from people about how I'm not "really" bi, which thank God I don't, I just explain that I'm good at attracting men, and staying in relationships, and don't like as many girls as I do boys, and was never socialized to understand how to get girls, so I just didn't have time before I fell in love with a man.

I do suggest that it's valuable to the queer community to go ahead and identify as queer, and not just an ally to queers.
desuetude's: There are advantages to being "really" gay or lesbian, too -- like random people not assuming that you aren't queer enough to be queer, or quizzing you on whether you've passed the qualifying rounds of sexual activity, or positing that that you're misguided/lying//teasing/poseur. Bisexuals who identify as such get this all the time; not even using that (not great, but it's what we've got) specific identifying term exacerbates the effect.
kalapierson's: You're asking how to name an identity a lot of the world won't acknowledge and tries to forces you out of with its assumptions, and I think some people in this thread are really missing answering your question by telling you "don't name yourself."

I'll tell you the opposite, as another queer female who's too often assumed to be straight when seen/associated with male partners. Labels have meaning, as long as something we consider important is invisible to other people -- actively denied by other people -- without those labels.

I'd suggest googling "biphobia" for some history and context about why lesbians have felt like excluding and denying bisexuality (and I agree with divabat that bisexual isn't the best term either, but it still has usefulness because that's what many/most bi people have called themselves for a few decades).
For me, the first step was talking to my now-husband about the fact that I suspected I was really bi. I feel really lucky to have been able to express that in a loving, supportive relationship. I feel more myself with him, and I don't know that our relationship would have really been so solid with all the mental back-flips I making myself do to avoid using the "b" word. All of that was rooted in fear and anxiety--genuine suffering!--though like you, I would have said that I had it pretty good. I wasn't a closeted lesbian. I hadn't faced homophobic taunting or behavior since middle school. I had good, happy, supportive relationships.

But I was never really myself. Hell, I didn't even really like that part of myself.

These days, I call myself bi. I still have never been with a woman--still with the same man, in fact. But it feels really, really good to embrace a label that I feel like is accurate to my attractions and inner self-image. Because it is okay to be attracted to both men and women. It is okay to feel the way you do and act on it--or not. You are in control of your sexuality and if people judge you for it, it's their problem, not yours. You are not horrible. You are not a poseur or a LUG or a dilettante or any of the shaming labels that get thrown around at bi people. What you feel is okay. Who you are is okay. You are okay.

It's okay to be bi. Really.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:33 PM on July 10, 2012 [11 favorites]

For what it's worth -- I'm a straight guy, and all three of the serious, long term relationships I've been in have been with women who were bi or at least bi curious. None of them left me for another woman, though one left me for another guy. My current (hopefully forever) girlfriend is the most yes-I'm-definitely-bi of the three, and it has never been an issue.

Whether you're bi or not, how you relate to your current boyfriend isn't a matter of whether or not you are also attracted to women -- because you're already attracted to men, and yet here you are, not running around with others behind his back, right? Why should women be any different for you as a couple?

And nthing the request to stop beating yourself up. You've suffered plenty. Hell, the goal for all of us as a society should be for anyone who's queer or straight to figure out who they are without having to suffer for it at all. If you've figured this out for yourself without being bullied or ostracized or punished, please just chalk this one up as a win for societal growth, okay?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:00 PM on July 10, 2012

A couple of interesting links for you:

Kate or Die has some comics on bisexuality. They're a little simplistic, but I think refreshingly so.

Dan Savage
has discussed lots of interesting questions about bisexuality and fluid sexualities, in his column and his podcast (both of which I highly recommend).
posted by pablocake at 8:02 PM on July 10, 2012

Your fourth paragraph below the fold made me a little sad.

When I was going through the process of figuring out my sexuality, it was brutal. Brutal. And it was long: I finally came out at age 31. Living a lie, telling lies to others and to myself to sustain the lie that was so much of my life, having to face up to everything in my life that changed once I finally started to accept myself as a queer person... it fucking sucked. There are a few years of my life that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

So, please don't feel bad that you "haven't suffered." It's not about who has suffered and who hasn't. Your expression of your sexuality isn't illegitimate just because no one's ever harassed you over your sexual orientation. In fact--and I will note that I'm hella queer and out as such to just about everyone in my life except for my students--I'm stoked for people who can pass. If people are going to be judgmental, well, you obviously can't control that. But the fact that you're even concerned about this stuff shows that your heart's in the right place.

Seriously, isn't there enough suffering in life? Please don't feel that you need to manufacture any more for yourself over this.

Also, there's nothing wrong with exploring your sexuality. You wouldn't be a gayness dilettante; you'd be a sexual Magellan! (Minus the imperialism.)
posted by the_bone at 8:06 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the question that PBWK links, I wrote:

Sexuality for some people is really fixed. That's me — I've liked what I like ever since I can remember. But for some other people, it's really fluid — maybe they like individuals, not types, or maybe their needs shift over time. For those people, labels don't help, although "queer" and "bisexual" and terms like that allow for a lot more slippage than some other terms.

My partner is in that second category. It's common, and almost completely invisible, to have people living in what looks like a "normal" lifestyle, but who are really living much more complicated sexualities.

Adding to this anxiety is the fact that, well, I'm dating a guy and we don't have plans to break up any time soon, so all this is purely in what-if territory, and I fear that this is all just fantasizing and if we break up I'll just chicken out of trying this.

Assuming he's at least somewhat cool, can I suggest you talk with him about this? (And if he's someone you can't imagine talking to about this kind of thing, he's probably not really the guy for you...) It's not really about whether you are going to run out tomorrow and hump all the hot women you see. Instead, it's about understanding the complicated intersection of how you identify and what you are doing, and thinking about the ways in which this should stay the same or might change over time. And if he's at all cool, your partner should be involved in this conversation.
posted by Forktine at 8:23 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was completely where you are for my early 20's. I had crushes on girls, then felt guilty because I kept dating boys and didn't know if I would ever go far enough to be "really bi" or "really gay" by sleeping with or dating a girl. I had a couple years-long relationships with boys and felt like "well, if I'm ok with this, then I must just be posing at being bi or gay".

For me, personally, I started dating my now-fiancee (female) and never looked back. I have never wanted to date or sleep with men again. I have felt like I "belong" being gay. I feel as much now that I was "play-acting" at being straight by dating boys as I used to feel like I was "pretending" to be gay or bi when I did date boys. So your perspective may shift completely.

And to be honest, at first I felt very relieved that finally I knew my place, that being gay felt right for me. But I don't think that invalidates any of the other identity stages I went through, and I don't think my previous attraction to the boys I dated or my previous "maybe I'm bi / maybe I'm gay" feelings invalidate who I turned out to be.

It's OK to be in transition; it's OK to say you are bi for now and revisit it later. It's OK to think you are bi despite, or even if you never, sleep with or date another woman.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:34 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Adding a little context to my earlier remarks:

I got married at age 19. I was married 22 years. I have two adult sons. I don't think anyone has ever really asked me what my orientmation is or baldly said something like "You're straight, right?" People tend to talk as if they assume I am hetero. I usually see no reason to quibble and suggest it is a bit of a grey zone, not really hetero, not really bi. It usually is of zero relevance to most social situations.

I typically inform men fairly early on that it isn't quite so cut and dried. If they are going to have a problem with it, I would rather they bail sooner rather than later. Though I don't know how successful that strategy was given my ex husband's vehement denial a few years into the marriage when it came up in conversation.

I don't hide this fact about myself. But it almost never comes up socially. I am only saying that fears about what casual acquaintances might think about me have turned into a huge nonissue. Not my problem that most people seem to assume they know anything about my sexuality based on past marital status or motherhood. If they aren't looking to get with me, it honestly isn't their business.
posted by Michele in California at 9:16 PM on July 10, 2012

I'm a lesbian, and I don't feel like I've suffered for it! So please don't feel like that's something that's somehow essential to a gay experience. I come from a family with a lot of gay people, I moved at 18 to a really liberal area, and while I had the same "Oh no I just look at girls because I'm comparing myself to them!" experience as you in my teen years, coming out in my early 20s was pretty painless, especially since a few cousins had primed my family just the year before. Since then I've been out at all of my jobs, been publically affectionate with my girlfriend without any problems, and generally enjoyed life. Hopefully more people will have painless experiences of coming into their queer sexualities in the future.

And how do you know for realsies? Figuring out how I really felt was the hardest thing about coming out for me. I read a lot, I thought about it a lot, and I talked to other queer women my age, which really helped. I was in a relationship with a man at the time, so I didn't do any physical exploration or date any women before coming out as bisexual (at the end of that relationship felt like the right time to me). The process of figuring myself out continued, my feelings changed when I no longer felt attached to my ex-boyfriend--and eventually I decided that lesbian was more appropriate for me. I worried about it so much in the beginning, but in retrospect, it's really ok to take a long time figuring it out, and it's ok if your feelings change later and the way you want to identify changes.

As long as you're being true to yourself, there's nothing wrong with being bisexual and never dating a woman because you stay with your current boyfriend--and there's also nothing wrong with dating one woman and then winding up back with men for the rest of your life. For many women, sexuality is a fluid thing. I really like Lisa Diamond's book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Desire--it's a longitudinal study over 10 years of women's changing sexual identities. I think some of the stories in it might resonate with you.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:50 PM on July 10, 2012

Your fears all abridge to what other people might think about you. The worry that you don't get to be bi because you haven't filled the angst quota can't be the issue in itself, because that's ridiculous. (Which I'm sure you know.) The idea that there's something wrong with being a gayness dilettante, or hooking up with a girl or two and then going back to men forever, or doing whatever the fuck you want to do with whatever gender you want for as long as you want - that's also ridiculous, in itself.

Which isn't to say that your fears are ridiculous, because people can in fact be judgmental assholes, and the convoluted world of human sexuality is almost unrivaled in its ability to inspire rabidly held beliefs that are based on nothing at all. No matter where you are on the queer spectrum, somebody somewhere has an opinion about you. Unless you're serious about meeting that suffering requirement, you have to learn to disregard those opinions and do what's in your heart.
posted by granted at 10:46 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need to slap a label on yourself unless you want to.

I figured out I was bi when I was 22. Mr. Yum's reaction: "Oh, I know that, Val!"

It is a part of my identity even though I only have sex with Mr. Yum right now. I just don't feel right saying I'm straight, because I am attracted to both men and women. Just like I feel better saying I'm genderqueer than saying I'm a woman.

My nitpick with "bi-curious" is that I never hear/read people never say they're "straight curious" or "gay curious." But if someone wants to use that label, it's not my place to say they're wrong.
posted by Val_E_Yum at 10:51 PM on July 10, 2012

I'm a bisexual woman dating a bisexual guy. Neither of us have had a serious relationship with the same gender, but it doesn't diminish how we feel about ourselves. The only people that it should matter to is you and the people you date.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 4:33 AM on July 11, 2012

Here's my parallel, for what it's worth: some girls at school called me a lesbian when I was about 11, I spent a while going OMG FUCK WHAT IF I AM, ignored/process that for a few years and decided I still liked boys and so that was probably okay, wanted to claim bi as an identity around 16 having got into a srs relationship with a boy but felt like I couldn't having never even kissed a girl, spent a few more years going 'um bi-curious I guess', around 21 engineered a situation where I could kiss a girl to see if I found it as hot as I thought I would (HELL YES and I still regret not going further with her), still felt uncomfortable claiming bi so just refused to label for a while, grew up a bit more, made a lot of lesbian friends (thanks roller derby), realised that all my lesbian friends would not hate me for being bi, became more comfortable with expressing myself and my sexuality in general, still have not had sex with or had a relationship with a girl but of late have finally become totally fine with claiming the bi label and mentioning it to people when it seems relevant (usually when I'm drunk).

I'm just what I am and I don't care so much what people think any more. You're what you are. It's okay.
posted by corvine at 5:24 AM on July 11, 2012

Its ok to be 50-50 man/woman attracted. its ok to be 90-10. its ok to be 10-90. Its normal but not terribly good to beat yourself up about what % you are/happen to be today/next week.

I think most of the above posters have done a good job on the 'calm down and smile sweetheart bit' :) So I want to emphasize: talk to your SO! This is something he probably needs to know about. You might want to do some therapy first.

Also, though this is probably too overwhelming for you at the moment, there is a whole world of casual sex, exploring, threesomes, poly.... anything you can imagine and some you can't. As long as you are not hurting yourself, your SO, and your playmates, nobody gets hurt. There is a system that will work for you, I know. Enjoy!
posted by Jacen at 6:45 AM on July 11, 2012

Didnt read the other responses, but quick and dirty:

You should not think so deep into this, if you want to date girls just do it. If you decide its not for you after doing it, then who cares? At least you know and can cross it off the bucket list.

Ask your boyfriend if he cares if you try dating women. Somehow I doubt he'd argue against it. Most guys don't nip anything in the bud that could one day become a threesome. I know I wouldn't. And somehow its less of a heartbreaker/gut wrencher if your girlfriend leaves you for a woman (I dunno, somehow its almost entertaining. Men don't get jealous of women stealing their girlfriend. It just doesn't add up in our heads so we don't really get it until we realize no ones having sex with us anymore.)
posted by el_yucateco at 9:30 AM on July 11, 2012

Most guys don't nip anything in the bud that could one day become a threesome.

Be careful traveling down this road. Especially if bisexuality is something you're just at the beginning of exploring for yourself. Your sexuality belongs to you, not your boyfriend. This is you figuring out who you are, not Girlfriend Expansion Pack 2.0.
posted by Sara C. at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

What Sara C. said. Also, "most guys" are not your boyfriend, and there are people (men included, bisexuals included) who, even if they enjoy the fantasy of threesomes, are not interested in incorporating them into their relationships.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:40 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Other people seem to be doing an awesome job addressing this biphobia stuff, so I'll just say something about this:
And there's also the fear that I was right all along, I really am straight, and I'll be one of those horrible bi-curious girls everyone loves to hate. The ones who date one girl and then go back to men forever.
I did this. I was mostly straight, and then I dated a girl for two years and I broke up with her after two years and there was drama and she was hurt and I rambled a lot about how I wasn't really sure about this girl-dating thing after all and immediately went and dated some guy and did probably everything I could have possibly done to upset her and was pretty much a total dick. It was awful. I may very well 'go back to men forever'.

She forgave me. She's still one of my best friends. I'm pretty sure that nobody hates me, even though I angsted about it for pretty much forever.

As long as you realize that queer people are actual people with feelings and not just there for your entertainment, and are generally honest and good with people, I don't really think you can fuck things up too badly. Being bicurious is okay! Being bisexual is okay! Being straight is okay! Not being sure is okay! Dating women when you are not completely sure about it yet is okay, as long as you're honest about it.
posted by oranger at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2012

"And this really bothers me. Because I feel like I don't deserve to be queer"

Some people need labels. They need to be able to say "I'm gay" or "I'm bi" or "I'm vegan" or "I'm a cyclist" or "I'm a republican" or whatever. They need the label and think the label IS who or what they are. One of the coolest women I know dates women, but she briefly dated me (I'm a guy). Her take on sexuality was basically that she doesn't have to BE anything. If she wants to date a woman, she will. If she wants to date a man, she will. A bunch of us were talking about sexuality over drinks one night. A guy asked her "So, you're not gay but you're not bi or straight? What do your friends say you are?"

She said "They say I'm Sara."

Some people need labels. She wasn't one of them. Maybe you're not either.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:35 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

P.S. If you try dating a woman and like it, yay. If you try dating a woman and it doesn't work, it's not as if you have to go around telling all (or even any) future suitors about it. Have you ever dated a guy named Scot? Do you say to potential boyfriends "Just so you know, I dated a Scot once." Of course not. It's irrelevant. If you meet a woman you'd like to go on a date with, ask her out :)

Best of luck!!!
posted by 2oh1 at 3:44 PM on July 12, 2012

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