I'm a lesbian crushing on a man. What now?
May 11, 2013 8:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm a lesbian who's recently found herself crushing on a man. Does this mean anything?

Has anyone been through this? I guess it's usually the other way around. I've known him for six months, recently confessed to wanting to sleep with him, we did it and I wasn't as grossed out as I have been with my previous experiences with men. It makes no fucking sense.

I also confessed to liking him, but he's not interested in that and we've agreed to stop sleeping together. So I guess it isn't as much about him as it is... what the heck? I don't understand it. My whole identity is wrapped up in being a lesbian, I've never been attracted to men sexually. But I found myself staring at his arms, his body, getting turned on and things of that sort. No other guy, just him. I don't have a desire to start dating men again, because if I did end up with a man it would turn my entire life, my identity, my community upside down. I've struggled so much to be accepted as a lesbian among friends and family, and if I suddenly had a boyfriend I would undo all that progress.

At the same time I believe in being myself first and foremost; I feel like I'm in one of those lesbian movies where the girl falls for another girl but tells her she can't be with her because she "just can't be gay." Except with me, I feel like I "just can't be straight." Really, I don't want to be straight, I don't want to be bi, I've been a lesbian my entire life and I don't want to relearn Who I Am. I remember how difficult it was to even be accepted into the community back when I was pretending to be Bi. I don't want to lose my sense of self.

But I also don't want to live a lie, and if this is A Thing, part of me wants to explore it. But at the same time I've dated men, I wasn't into them sexually, I was only into women and it was an issue. I've also done the "sleep with random men" and I wasn't into that either. So "exploring" this just seems like taking a step backwards that will just lead to heartache more than anything.

I guess I just need help trying to process this. I'm very involved in the queer community, and lately I feel like an imposter.
posted by Autumn to Human Relations (54 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think you might be interested in checking out the work of Erika Moen, who has done some comics about a similar experience that she had. The one I linked to is sort of the summary of the whole comic; the archive is here.
posted by capricorn at 8:55 PM on May 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

You are more than just your sexuality. I understand that the support of your community is very important to you, but you need to be true to yourself. You don't have to identify as any one thing. You don't have to relearn Who You Are because you just are you who are you are and your community should be able to support that. I'm sure you aren't the only one in your wider group to have gone through the same thing, and you might find that opening up to other people about it strengthens your bonds with them.
posted by greta simone at 8:59 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sexuality is more fluid than most people realize. I've crushed on men and women throughout my life. That's just me, though. *shrug* Your story may differ.

For what it's worth: in my life, I've been attracted to specific people, not to categories or labels. I love certain people because they are kind, or caring, or funny, or interesting. And I think that's okay.

Being bisexual myself (from age 13 on), I understand your misgivings. But, in my opinion, the labels you put upon yourself are just not that important. Perhaps you prefer women over men. Okay. But maybe there are a few guys that are also attractive to you. This isn't a "lie." It's you! You do yourself a disservice by castigating yourself in this way.
posted by SPrintF at 9:07 PM on May 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I think that it's okay to have an anomaly here and there. Are you also strongly attracted to his personality? The way that he lives his life or thinks and communicates about the world? Attraction, as you probably have had to convince others, is not an equation where you can just fill in the blanks and end up with your perfect person. And it's pretty flexible, too. Sometimes genitalia and gender presentation can be irrelevant in the face of everything else.

Full disclosure: I am a bisexual woman, and often find myself speaking loudly against bisexual erasure. So this is a thing where I'm coming at it from a different angle than you. I truly do believe that you are absolutely valid in calling yourself a lesbian, even if you've had a one-off with a man, or even if you've regularly loved men in your life sexually and romantically, if that's the identity that makes you feel the most true to yourself. I would argue the same for a bisexual person, even if they'd never once dabbled with another person of the same or another gender (depending on their situation.) For me and the queer people I am most happy with, it's not a matter of what you call yourself or who you sleep with, it's a matter of respecting everybody else, of fostering an attitude of acceptance in the face of entrenched cultural bullshit.

If you don't want to explore, don't. If you do, go for it. But you aren't radically changing your true self or anything by making either choice. You'd still treat others with respect, right? You'd still pursue your passions and your responsibilities? I think that for a lot of people the queer community of their given location has really helped them and they might feel beholden to stick to a label or fit into a group just because that's how people naturally strengthen their communities. But hopefully you're at a point and a place where you can still have your friends and community, regardless of who you may or may not be sexually attracted to. If you are scared of losing your sense of self based solely on who you're having sex with, then that points to something you might need to work on - unraveling your identity from only that. And you can still be a lesbian while working on that. (Or not!)

I suppose basically, your life as a lesbian is entirely valid. If, at some point, you decide to expand your sexual identity to something a little different, that does not invalidate your past in any way. You're still you.
posted by Mizu at 9:07 PM on May 11, 2013 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I just love the person and don't worry or identify with what's in their pants, as long as it works.

You're in your 20's, right? I think belonging to a particular group or subculture can seem very important, and then Life kinda supercedes any particular identification. Or, maybe that's just how it was for me?

I hope this isn't giving you any sleepless nights. Please tell anyone in your community that might call you an "imposter" they can take their label and fuck off.

Upon Preview: I was also going to start my comment with the statement "I've found sexulity is pretty fluid." HA!
posted by jbenben at 9:10 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mizu expressed herself far more eloquently than I did. I agree with her in every way.
posted by SPrintF at 9:11 PM on May 11, 2013

Best answer: This is one experience, and it sounds like it was a casual one.

Think about all the straight girls who had sex with a lady one time, but then went back to fucking dudes, without having to BECOME A LESBIAN (or bi, for that matter).

Think about all the dudes who got really high once and, I mean, it was just a one time thing, but hey, why not?

For that matter, think about all the presumably heterosexual men, throughout history, who have had gay sex because it was just what you did in that situation (stuffy English boarding school, sailors at sea, whatever).

I don't see anything about lesbianism that renders your sexuality null and void after one different experience, any more than would be the case for straight people.

And, like Mizu, I say this as a bi woman. You can be a lesbian who had sex with a dude that one time. It's perfectly OK. Nobody's coming for your toaster, I promise.
posted by Sara C. at 9:22 PM on May 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

greta simons hits the nail on the head- you are more than just your sexuality. Who you sleep with isn't anyone's business but the person/people that you are sleeping with. Your momma doesn't need to hear about it. Gay, straight, whatever, it truly doesn't matter as much as you think it does.

My advice to you is take some time and learn how to identify as yourself. The guy sounds like a jerk, btw. There are better ones out there. There are men who only sleep with women that they like.
posted by myselfasme at 9:23 PM on May 11, 2013

Bisexuals are part of the Queer community. So are people who simply identify as Queer. That's why there's a B and a Q in GLBTQI. Whoever you are and whoever you want to sleep with, you are absolutely not an imposter. If anyone in the Queer community makes you feel that way, they are no better than the homophobes in the straight world.

It sounds like you don't want to be bisexual because you recognise that bisexuals experience as much if not more discrimination and prejudice from within the Queer community as they do from straights. In the community you've come to identify with, being a lesbian is a position of relative privilege when compared with being bi. You're part of an in-group and ladies who sleep with men are outsiders.

But really...is the existence of prejudice ever a good reason to suppress your strong feelings about who you're interested sexually or romantically? Because to me, your question doesn't sound all that different to a young woman who asks, "Help, I like sleeping with ladies but I don't want to be a lesbian because lesbians get treated badly sometimes, what should I do?". You've been a lesbian all your life - what would you say to her?

Here's an idea: why not take whatever strengths helped you to be an out and proud lesbian and put them towards challenging biphobia and bisexual erasure within your own community? Or at least toward being proud of who you are and who you like and refusing to apologise for it. If fucking a dude makes you persona non-grata, I think that's probably a sign that it's your community that needs to change, not you.

Hang in there. It's okay to like who you like and be who you are. I'm sure someone told you this back when you came out as gay, but it's time to hear it again and remind yourself that it still applies.
posted by embrangled at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

For the record, a lot of lesbian identified women, friends of mine, have slept with a man, or men, and/or dated a man, after a long period of years living loudly and openly as a lesbian. Some of them went on to identify as bi or queer,or label-less. Most of them kept identifying as lesbians. You are still you. Only insecure assholes will give you a hard time. I think a lot of how your peers may react is how old,you,are and where you live. Don't let your fears of your peers mess with your head. You are great, you are you, and sexuality is not black and white, seemingly so for women in particular. An encounter like yours is normal. Not a big deal. A blip on the long story of your lady-loving life!
posted by manicure12 at 9:31 PM on May 11, 2013

I dated a girl for a few years. I dated guys before that, and have since, and she never dated another girl, and is marrying a guy this summer. I never considered myself a lesbian or bi, not even when we were dating. People would ask "oh are you bi then?" and I would just say I didn't have a label. If I tell people the story now, I just say I consider myself straight, not bi or a lesbian.

I didn't suddenly want to date girls, I just wanted to date her. So I did. I think she felt the same way. Well I think she slightly wanted to date girls, or was curious, where I wasn't really. Very Jessica Stein, the whole thing.

Obviously this is different since there isn't a "straight subculture" that I had grown to feel a part of that was then maybe going to ostracize me, and I think that's a valid concern, even if it would be unfair for people treating you differently if you pursue your attraction to a man. But if you want to pursue it I think you should. It doesn't have to define your whole identity or change who you are.
posted by sweetkid at 9:31 PM on May 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

Of course it means something.
A lesbian who is now having sex with a man needs to be downplayed as "beyond labels?" No way - being a lesbian who is suddenly enjoying sex with this one man has a direct arrow impact on your lesbian identity. Which is why you feel the way you do.

Sexuality is one of the most primal aspects of a human being, and it defines us in a dramatic way. Instead of trying to decide if you are an "imposter" focus more on the astounding discovery that you are being turned on by a man. For the first time. Ever. Then, consider understanding and focusing on this one man and explore the possibilities fully of what this holds for you. The label issues are a distant 2nd.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:56 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

From the perspective of depth psychology this is a very positive development on the road to individuation. As we mature we're supposed to outgrow all externally-generated perspectives. Exploring your feelings here will most certainly lead to a much fuller experience of yourself and how you move through the world. As Jung said of the task of the second half of life (which can arrive some at thirteen) "Tolerate the ambiguities!" This is very rich material, a spiritual gift you may find very formative in years to come.
posted by R2WeTwo at 9:57 PM on May 11, 2013 [24 favorites]

R2WeTwo is very very wise.
posted by jbenben at 10:10 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've been that guy. It didn't make her not-a-lesbian. It just made me her ... exception. A weird thing, but then again human sexuality is basically made of weirdness anyway. I suspect that most people have an exception lurking out there somewhere, but they're never forced to face the ambiguity because they never meet.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:13 PM on May 11, 2013

Best answer: Mizu said a lot of it already, and very well, so I won't repeat that.

Another thing to consider (especially since it's just the one guy) is that sexuality isn't quite the same thing as what you find sexy. This sounds weird, I know. But often the forbidden can be a big factor in what turns people on. If you are (sorry, were) feeling comfortable and secure as a lesbian, maybe something in your subconscious said, hey, you know what would be really wrong? Crushing out on a guy! Or even, you know, having sex with him! Maybe not, too, but it's something to think about. Maybe you have a fetish for this guy. Doesn't mean everything has to change. But it wouldn't be so bad if it did, honestly.

Sexuality disclosure: at the moment I am so celibate I don't think I have one. Last identified as lesbian. Previously identified as bi. Have no idea what will happen in the future. In general, women work much better than men for me, but who knows? Sex and sexuality are funny and interesting things and change a lot over time.

And when I read your question, I instantly thought of Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo going at it in The Kids are All Right. Oops, just ruined that for you if you haven't already seen it!
posted by Athanassiel at 10:24 PM on May 11, 2013

It means as much or as little as you want it to mean. Did a switch flip in your mind, and now you only want to be with men and not women? No. Are you now just as attracted to men as you are to women? It doesn't sound like it. It sounds like right now you are still mostly attracted to women, except for this one guy. That's where you are right now.

Sexuality can be really confusing and frustrating, if you're desperate to put a label on it. There can be times when you feel powerful attractions that make no sense to you, that don't fit the kind of person you thought you were. You can become terribly upset about it, or you can enjoy exploring a surprising new side of yourself.

What happens next is your choice. You don't have to be straight, or gay, or bi. You can just be you, and allow yourself to feel what you feel, and enjoy it. If you want to say that being attracted to this one guy means that you are bisexual, you are free to decide that. If you want to declare that you are a lesbian with a puzzling attraction to a single male on planet Earth, that's up to you too.

If you are worried that a magic switch has indeed been flipped in your mind, and your lesbianism is going to slip away and now you'll be stuck chasing boys and you won't get to be attracted to girls anymore... Well, I think you know it doesn't really work like that. You weren't a straight girl in denial. Your relationships with women were real, you really felt those things. But if you are also capable of being attracted to some men, that's nothing to be afraid of.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:31 PM on May 11, 2013

Best answer: My whole identity is wrapped up in being a lesbian

That's the nub of your problem right there.

This is an opportunity to do the hard work required to switch your thinking around. Instead of continuing to believe that you are the sum total of all the labels you apply to yourself, you could learn to just be, and demote all the labels to the flags of convenience they actually are.

To respond to the question "Who am I?" with answers like "I am a lesbian" or "I am a woman" or "I am a member of this or that community" is to miss the point. Those are answers to a different question, namely "How can I be categorised?"

Categories don't define an object being categorised. The object exists; categories describe it. Changes in your description don't alter your identity.

I found myself staring at his arms, his body, getting turned on and things of that sort. No other guy, just him. I don't have a desire to start dating men again

His identity is unique as well, regardless of the categories you're currently trying to fit him into.

Attraction doesn't give a shit about categories.
posted by flabdablet at 10:38 PM on May 11, 2013 [18 favorites]

I had some pretty marvelous sex with a lesbian a few years ago. I'm a guy, by the way. We had a casual thing for a little while. One of the funniest things I ever experienced in bed was when she gave me a blowjob. This was maybe our fourth evening together, and honest to god, it was the best I'd ever had. I was flabbergasted. Afterward, I said "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!??!?!? Wow! How could you possibly know how to do that so well!" She said "Oh, I asked my guy friends what to do they [2 married men] set me straight. HA! Set me straight! I didn't mean it that way!"

So, we had an awesome fling, yet she considers herself a lesbian. Who am I to suggest otherwise? Frankly, I don't even care (about the word, I mean).

Lesbian is a word.
Gay is a word.
Straight is a word.
Bi is an acronym for Bisexual, and that too is just a damn word.

YOU are not a word.

If you want to think of yourself as a lesbian, that's A-OK! Even if you, at some point, have wild monkey sex with a man, it's still fine for you to use whatever label you want to define yourself.

Don't let a label define you. If you're attracted to women, date women. If you find yourself attracted to a man and you'd like to date him, do it. Live your life as you see fit, not as a silly word would tell you to. Don't let a label box you in. Your choices are your own to make.

You only live once. Do what makes you happy... but above all, never forget that you are not a label, nor are you bound to one. And you sure as hell don't owe anyone an explanation if you ever deviate from a label.

A label is just a word.
You are a person.
Find joy :)
posted by 2oh1 at 11:07 PM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

i also think sexuality is more fluid than many realize. in life binary categories just don't always fit the reality of our experiences.

your sexuality is only one aspect of your identity. it is okay to rethink how you describe your identity.
posted by wildflower at 11:12 PM on May 11, 2013

Best answer: So, labels matter. They really, really do. I came out when I was fourteen and I can't even imagine the upheaval it would cause in my life if I were to start dating men now. But there's good news! It's 2013. We've come a long way since that 1994 scene in Go Fish (wow, I can't believe I found that) where the community interrogates the butch lesbian who supposedly transgresses by sleeping with a dude.

The concept of queerness is in common parlance these days—at least in urban areas with a decent academic presence—and it really is a label that is way more inclusive. And the cool thing about that is that you get to decide what it means for yourself. Maybe queer means "mostly lesbian except for this one exception." Maybe it means "more bisexual than most of my dyke friends, but still pretty dykey." Maybe it means "transguy who digs dudes and ladies."

Maybe you never even use the word queer, because that doesn't feel right to you. That's ok, too! Perhaps you're just a lesbian who sleeps with guys occasionally. Believe me, it's more common than you probably think. I know plenty of dykes who will occasionally hook up with a guy and they describe it as basically having an encounter with a friendly, sentient dildo. And the great thing is that there's no shame—and even more importantly, no shaming. And if a friend tries to make you feel ashamed of hooking up with this guy, that's not a friendship worth pursuing. Labels matter, so find one that doesn't suffocate you.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:16 PM on May 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and by the way—I think folks who mean really well in this thread are coming across as dismissive towards your fears about this. They might not quite get what it's like to spend years of your life fighting to get your friends and family to accept that you really are gay. No Grandma, you can stop fixing me up with nice single boys you meet. No, icky street harasser—I don't just need to screw the "right guy." Nope, nice guy best friend—not gonna secretly realize I'm in love with you one of these days. And on top of that, just how much of your life is tied up in a non-heteronormative community. Will it be weird to go to the Pride Parade holding a guy's hand? Will lesbian friends be freaked out that you're no longer subject to the othering they face every day?

So I totally get where you are coming from. Your fears are legitimate. But I still do think there are more possibilities outside the gay and straight binary for you to explore, and you may find those other possibilities quite liberating.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:28 PM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

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

In all seriousness, what's the difference between this guy and the guy in December 2010?
posted by elsietheeel at 11:53 PM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, I ended up losing attraction for that guy and leaving him for a woman. :/
posted by Autumn at 11:56 PM on May 11, 2013

I just came in here to echo Lieber Frau and say fuck "look beyond labels" so hard--that's a platitude that comes so clearly from a place of ignorant privilege that it makes me despair about metafilter being a place that can intelligently address queer relationship issues.

that said, it doesn't really sound like there are any changes in your actions or community that you want to make right now, and I think that's fine. what about tabling it? make a date with yourself on, like, june 12 to revisit the issue at length (through journaling or discussion with a close friend or whatever works for you.) one of the big pitfalls for me of the culture of processing is that it can sometimes make it really hard to get perspective on/space from something. a month from now, you'll still have slept with a man. why not spend that month pledging to really live in your queer life intentionally and come back to it then?
posted by animalrainbow at 12:00 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

A quick follow up to my comment above: The first time she and I hooked up, she told me she was gay. I guess she figured I should know? Frankly, I don't think she owed me any explanation. And if you go out with the guy you're interested in, you don't need to tell him anything other than that you like him.

P.S. Did I say acronym? DOOFUS! I meant abbreviation :)
posted by 2oh1 at 12:11 AM on May 12, 2013

It's OK for you to admit you are bisexual. The truth is, lesbians don't develop crushes on men or sleep with men. The fact that asked this same question three years ago really proves the point -- you're problem probably isn't that you are a lesbian who likes men. The problem is probably that you are a bisexual who refuses to accept it.

Just an FYI and a lesbian perspective: Many lesbians find it pretty offensive when other "lesbians" who are bisexual tell everyone they are lesbians, but also have romantic relationships with men. It just adds more fuel to the shockingly frequent conception people have that lesbians were just turned off by a bad relationship with a man. If it were me, I would ask myself if I was really being honest with myself. Can you be a lesbian who has repeatedly experienced infatuation and a desire to sleep with men? By definition, not really.

You can still be involved in the "LGBT" community and identify as "queer" if you are bisexual. Your community and you're identity don't need to change. You don't need to feel like you are abandoning your identity at all or displacing yourself from where you've settled in life, which seems to be what's stopping you from identifying as bisexual. Holding onto a label for the sake of a label is really unfair to you, if a man would actually make you happy, and it's really unfair to people who are still fighting for that label to be taken seriously.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:28 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

(I just noticed how many times I used the wrong your/you're and I apologize. It's late.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:36 AM on May 12, 2013

Wait, what? You "lost attraction for him" over the course of three hours?
posted by gingerest at 1:10 AM on May 12, 2013

Response by poster: No - that was in response to elsietheel's comment about a different person.
posted by Autumn at 1:15 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm ostensibly straight but I do occasionally encounter other men that I find sexually attractive, sometimes very much so. Most of the time and with most guys, I feel nothing at all. I'm much more strongly and more often attracted to women. Those attractions are real and are sometimes very powerful. (I have no plans to act on them because I've been faithfully married to my wife for almost 20 years. I've openly discussed this with her and she's totally OK with it. In fact, I think it kind of turns her on, but I digress.)

That's the physical attraction part. But what about the identification part? It sounds like you are more worried about not fitting the label that you've chosen for yourself. I'll go against the grain here and say that labels are important. As a man who is happy and fulfilled in a committed straight marriage and who has never so much as kissed another guy, I would feel very uncomfortable suddenly declaring myself as bisexual to everyone in my life. It sounds like you would be very uncomfortable declaring yourself as not a lesbian to everyone in your life after being attracted to only one guy.

I think you, like me, are experiencing a bit of a mismatch between your exact sexual orientation in terms of your physical feelings and your declared sexual orientation as a prerequisite to belong to a community or group.

You feel like you are somehow not meeting a basic requirement for being a lesbian. That requirement being that "real" lesbians aren't attracted to and certainly don't have sex with guys. That's called the no true Scotsman fallacy. As we grow older, we find that we don't always exactly match the labels that we apply to ourselves. Pick the label that makes you most comfortable. It's not like there's a central authority that can kick you out. If, over time, you find yourself more often attracted to men, it may be that the lesbian label won't feel as comfortable to you as it once did. At that time another label might suit you better. It doesn't mean that you are selling out. It means that you are learning who you really are. There's nothing wrong with that.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:22 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: From an anonymous commenter:
There's a reason the Kinsey scale is a scale, not a system where it's three straight strikes and you're out or moved to bisexual. There is a very simple method to define yourself: do you identify as a lesbian? Congratulations! You are a lesbian.

I am a gay woman who had a long, intense relationship with a man. The sex was great, for one thing because I loved him and I found him sexually appealling. I was a lesbian before I was with him, I was a lesbian while I was with him, and I was a lesbian after: he was my outlier. Yes, the relationship was out-and-out straight - me being queer didn't somehow queer up the relationship, it was one with straight privilege - but it didn't make me less gay. It didn't make me bisexual, because I'm not. It did not make me pansexual or biromantic. The idea that your male lover is the one who defines you is steeped in pretty gross misogyny, and is also where we get a lot of biphobia from; a bi woman who sleeps with men can't want women REALLY because men are important, and a bi man who sleeps with men can't want women REALLY because men are important. It's funny how many times I've witnessed a homosexual guy have a romantic/sexual experience with a woman and never be accused of being bi or straight, let alone letting down the side. He said he was gay? He was gay. A gay woman isn't often granted that good-faith acceptance.

You have lived life as a lesbian. Keep living that life if it makes you happy. If you have sexual or romantic relationships with men but still know your Kinsey falls past 3, you're a lesbian, and nobody ought to be offended by that; yes, people will be assholes, especially in the gay community where ideological purity is paramount and especially important for queer women to uphold, but your sexuality is yours. Don't castigate yourself, and don't feel like other people are the ones who get to dictate what and who you are; gay identity and experience is complicated and rich across the board, and when you think it ought to be about "lesbians can ONLY do X or they're not acceptable" you're making it tough for yourself, and buying into denying the experience of gay people across the board who aren't bi-identifying but have had heterosexual experiences.

Anyone who excludes you from the community is wrong. The label isn't as rigid as you're fretting. And nobody can label you but you.
posted by taz at 2:31 AM on May 12, 2013 [13 favorites]

I finally came out to myself after realizing that it's not that I can't find men attractive, it's that I can't find men attractive for more than about five minutes. It still happens, but it's functionally impossible for me to have a relationship with one because they make lovely friends but I'm not generally happy being with somebody I only want to have sex with about once every six months after the first couple weeks. I held out hope for a loooooong time that I could pass for straight by just having relationships like that with men. It sucked.

But at the same time, that feeling, it happens. I identify as a lesbian not because I have never found a man attractive ever but because it's not significant enough to incorporate into my identity. Just more of a pain than it's worth. YMMV, but if you've had this problem before and you've generally not had the same trouble with women, I'd say just chalk it up to a passing fancy. If at some point you want to have a boyfriend and the guy's amenable, maybe consider revising things then, but if it's never been sustainable before, I wouldn't assume it is now.
posted by Sequence at 2:39 AM on May 12, 2013

Does this mean anything?

Yes - it means that you're human.

[you are not a label]
posted by heyjude at 2:39 AM on May 12, 2013

It sounds like you would be very uncomfortable declaring yourself as not a lesbian to everyone in your life after being attracted to only one guy.

Well, OK, but the OP has been attracted to at least 2 guys now, and has enjoyed sex with one of them.

Look, there's two ways of using identity labels: one is to align yourself in terms of politics and loyalty and one is to describe your sexuality so that people have a vague idea of what kind of stuff you are going to get up to. It's a bit unhelpful, really, that we have the same words for both of them. However, it can be really useful to make a distinction in your mind. For you at the moment, in terms of loyalty you're a lesbian but in terms of your actual range of experiences and possibilities you're bi. For me, in terms of my actual range of experiences and possibilities I'm a lesbian (I actually think of this as a pretty boring state of affairs, but it's how it is) but in terms of my identity affiliation I'm queer because I think I share a set of interests and concerns with all non-normative sexualities.

Some notes regarding this distinction, in no particular order:
- Queer is only ever an identity description as it conveys very close to no descriptive information at all about someone's actual behaviour or experiences. The only thing that unites an aromantic hetero poly kinkster with a monogamous vanilla lesbian is the shared knowledge that heteronormativity sucks.

- I keep wanting to disambiguate some of the other words using capitalisation, so using 'lesbian' to describe someone who sexually responds only to women, but 'Lesbian' to describe someone whose identity affiliation is lesbian. Not sure whether this is a good typographical thing or not.

- The different bits of information are relevant at different times. Identity/affiliation is usually more relevant, except when you are actually trying to have sex.

- Identity/affiliation is strongly performative, the other one (experience/possibility) is descriptive, and so can in principle be applied by somebody else, although naturally with incomplete information.

- I personally think every non-heteronormal person's Identity axis term of choice should be 'queer', because I think us queers have something really major in common (see above) and should stick up for/look out for each other.

- Some people's identity affiliation is 'no labels' or 'human being'. This does not mean that their sexual experience/possibility cannot be described as eg 'gay' or 'bi'.

- People whose Identity/affiliation is narrower than or exclusive of their experience description are going to be subject to tensions that the rest of us are not, and this may negatively affect their quality of life. This is, however, ultimately their choice.
posted by Acheman at 3:05 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can totally understand how this is freaking you out. Being queer is such a large part of my identity that I can't even begin to fathom identifying as straight and when I last dated someone who was read as the "opposite" gender, I was constantly wary that others would see us as a straight couple. It's really hard to spend most of your life fighting to be seen as legitimately queer/gay/lesbian only to then be attracted to folks of a gender that challenges your identity.

As for what you do now - whatever you want/nothing. There's no requirement. You haven't lost your lesbian card, you aren't an impostor or a traitor. You liked someone and had sex and you would've dated them but they turned out not to be interested. That's pretty much it.

I don't mean to downplay your concerns, I only mean to point out that practically speaking you don't have to do anything. What I usually do in these situations is do some soul searching to try to figure out why I was attracted to this person, realize that this level of analysis only makes my head hurt, and resist the urge to ret-con my entire romantic history every time this happens. This is really really hard to do, though, because we're raised to think that our sexual orientation is and should be static so there's this intense desire to "figure it out" in a way that can explain all of our sexual experiences... but that's not how it works for some of us. Some (most?) of us don't have a handy label that fits every single one of our experiences throughout our life time. That's completely OK. It's also completely OK to be unsettled by this realization because hey, being "deviant" is kind of a mindfuck.

I also recommend Erika Moen's comic. It really helped me when I was questioning my identity and my validity as queer.
posted by buteo at 3:26 AM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Love, and do what thou wilt." — St. Augustine of Hippo
posted by krilli at 4:18 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came to say what flabdablet said. We don't choose who we are attracted to, but we do choose the identity box we place ourselves in. It is much easier for people to grab onto one of the available identity archetypes than walk out into the world feeling like they are unique and not a part of something.

Long story short: how you identify yourself should serve you; not the other way around. Don't be a slave to the "rules" of your identity.
posted by gjc at 4:23 AM on May 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are lots of straight people who have gay crushes from time to time and that doesn't make them gay or even bi. I am sure the opposite is also true. You should be with whoever makes you happy.
posted by empath at 4:50 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sister self-identifies as queer and hangs out largely with lesbian and queer women.

The vast majority of them have some sort of heterosexual experience in their past--sometimes significant heterosexual experience. Often recent.

But I've been around that scene to know that biphobia is real and both a very powerful and very scary thing for women in the lesbian community.

As a bisexual, I liked Erika Moen's comic, too. Only . . . only I realized that my fear of labeling myself as bisexual and preference for the term "queer" was rooted in self-loathing and hatred. I was afraid to be one of "those girls." You know, girls married to men who make out with other girls at bars. Because the stereotype is that bi-chicks are slutty and only doing it for attention. That bi is a lie--a phrase I've been hearing from my queer friends since I was thirteen--and, at best, just a cover for homosexuality and, at worse, something one does to make yourself sound more interesting.

None of that is true for most or even all bisexuals. All of that is grounded in fear, hatred, and intolerance.

I realized that my refusal to embrace a label which most accurately described who and what I am actively contributes to that fear, hatred and intolerance. The best way to combat --phobia is by visibility. The queer community is still filled with really awful messages about women who sleep with both women and men when that's a really common pattern of behavior and attraction (for women of all sexual affiliations).

So I've embraced bi. You know what? It feels really, really good. Yes, I am a queer woman. Yes, I am monogamous, partnered to a man. But most importantly for me, yes, I am a bisexual.

This, all of this, meant I no longer had to angst about each and every attraction and what it meant and whether it was okay and if it fit within a gender identity which didn't at all accurately describe me. This is really, really familiar to me, by the way:

Really, I don't want to be straight, I don't want to be bi, I've been a lesbian my entire life and I don't want to relearn Who I Am. I remember how difficult it was to even be accepted into the community back when I was pretending to be Bi. I don't want to lose my sense of self.

Only the straight version. But you know what? If you are bisexual and sleep with a man (or a woman), you are not straight. You are still a bisexual. Nothing has changed. You have not changed. Your pattern of behavior still fits within the label.

My label might not be yours (though I would applaud anything you do to combat biphobia, including embracing the label, because frankly, we need allies). But I really encourage you to find a label that fits you rather than trying restrictively to fit yourself with a label. It's really unhealthy, and not so far different from any other closeted behavior, psychologically.

Now, more practically: you like this guy. He makes you happy. You had good sex together. Wonderful! Don't hold back from situations that make you feel good because your self-identity won't have it. What good is an identity without happiness? Why make yourself miserable? Since the situation changed, you can sleep with someone else later. It can be a woman, if that's what makes you feel happy, then. If that's who you're attracted to.

But if your lesbian friends treat you like a traitor for your happiness, fuck them. Seriously. Anyone who sows discontent and judgment in that way isn't a friend worth having. True friends will be happy for you, will realize that who you're schtupping needn't constitute a loss but is, actually, a reason to celebrate.

Obviously this is different since there isn't a "straight subculture" that I had grown to feel a part of that was then maybe going to ostracize me, and I think that's a valid concern

Actually, there is. It's called "the vast majority of hetero-normative culture." Bisexuals get pressure from both sides not to identify as bisexuals.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:48 AM on May 12, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm probably getting this wrong because well, I am not queer and wtf do I know. But...why do we clarify for other people what gender(s) we go for, anyway? So that everyone else knows what to expect from us. So that Grandma doesn't keep insisting on setting you up with a nice boy if there's no way in hell that you could ever want to boink him. So that your friends will set you up with someone you would prefer. So that your relatives get the message as to what to expect out of you in terms of who you bring home and what your future potential marital status could be and how you could potentially have children. So that nobody is surprised when you make out with whoever at a bar. Those are kind of the people who "need to know" who you want to boink--otherwise, do your coworkers or random strangers who don't want to boink you care, do they need to know that? Eh, probably not. That is why we have the labels.

This kind of reminds me of when a lesbian of my acquaintance (with a long term lady partner) said the word "housemate" so that it sounded like "husband" by mistake. I seriously choked and was all, "HUSBAND?!?!" because that was not what I had learned to expect out of her.

In your case, the expectations for who you want to boink....well, for you they have changed from what you thought you were. And when you're bringing home a hot dude to meet the family because it's gone that far (okay, this is jumping the gun for you), you will have to make some adjustments socially. That's why we have "bi" (or "queer," I suppose) as a label. It means that you don't rule out one gender automatically as an option, and technically, you no longer do. And if this has now happened more than once, and you're not one of those lesbians who briefly have the hots for a guy and then decide you don't like the sex or whatever...maybe it's time to start making the mental adjustments, at least in yourself.

I also think what would be helpful for folks in your situation is to say, "I'm bi but I prefer ___ gender." To me, that would clarify that yes, most of the time you'd really prefer ladies, but the occasional exception can be made. And then mentally I'd be all, "okay, then," and not have a "HUSBAND?!?!"-type moment later on if you suddenly defy what you told me you were. I can see this kind of sucking if you have a family who really really wishes you'd turn straight because that would get their hopes up, but...what can you do there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:53 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love to recommend Lisa Diamond's Sexual Fluidity. It's a fascinating longitudinal study of 100 women which tracks the changes in their sexual identities over 10 years.

Many women experience what you are experiencing--sometimes they're straight women falling for just that one girl, and sometimes they are lesbians falling for just that one boy. At the end of the day, we all have to pick the label that feels right to us personally. It could be "queer," which is awesome for its inclusiveness. It could be "bisexual," which is a perfectly legitimate identity and, as posters above has mentioned, will only lose its stigma if bi people come out. Or it could be "lesbian" or "straight," regardless of the existence of the exceptions.

Personally, I came out as bi while in a relationship with a man, and later slipped into "lesbian." My attraction to women became much, much stronger after the end of that one relationship. Today, I do still feel attracted to the occasional dude. In fact, my girlfriend and I check them out together sometimes. But I don't feel like I ever want to be in a serious relationship with a boy, so for now I prefer "lesbian." Who knows how I will feel in the future. I've chosen the word that's right for me, right now, and if that changes later, fine. A surprising number of lesbians have had, continue to have, and/or will have attractions and encounters with men. I think we would all be much better served by just talking about this, respecting each others' choices, and being non-judgemental. You are not obligated to police your identity, and nobody else should, either! If you feel like a lesbian, you should continue to identify that way.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:00 AM on May 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm someone to "rounds up" to straight. I enjoy having occasional tipsy hookups with other girls, and I'm cool with same-sex FWBs, but I've never had a serious romantic relationship with a woman, and while I'd be open to it I know the likelihood is that the vast majority of my life's relationships will be with men.

For whatever personal reasons, I don't feel like "bisexual" describes me well, so I describe myself as "like 85%-90% straight." I'm not 100% het, and I identify pretty strongly as genderqueer, but I feel like "straight" is a good word to describe the majority of my sexual and romantic behavior.

I think it's ok for you to be __% lesbian. It's still the majority of you identity and one that describes the majority of your sexual and romantic behavior. You do not have to say "__% lesbian" to anyone.

And if you feel that doesn't describe you well THAT IS FINE, also; I'm not trying to say you're "less" of a lesbian. If you feel 100% lesbian, don't think every crush in a dude knocks you down a percentage. I'm just describing the way I feel and kind of loosely applying it to your situation, but it may not be applicable and I am not trying to be a big ole heteronormative jerk, I promise.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:59 AM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's a fantastic post by Andrea Zanin about her experiences cruising/being cruised by gay men (as a queer woman). Not your situation, but related/interesting reading about how it's "not okay" for people who identify as gay/lesbian be attracted to people of the 'opposite sex'.

Another book on this topic is "The Leather Daddy and the Femme" by Carol Queen, about a femme who hooks up with a leather man. It's erotica, but they also have a lot of discussions about queer identity in between having sex.

I've been mostly attracted to men, and I dated a girl for two years. These days I am not, in general, attracted to women, but I felt like the queer community was an amazing place for me and it was really hard to start dating men and I feel like I can't go to queer things or be queer any more.

When I go to queer events I kind of feel like an imposter and I wish I didn't. So I'm reading this thread very attentively :)

I guess she was my 'outlier'. People occasionally ask me how I identify ("So, are you straight now? Were you gay then?"), and I usually tell them I don't identify with any label. But labels can be really useful!

I don't think there are easy answers here. There's been some discussion in the queer group at my university about how women who have relationships with men feel excluded, and like it's not okay to be bisexual or lesbian-almost-all-the-time or be anything but totally grossed out by the 'opposite sex' 100% of the time. It's definitely a thing, and it's tough to deal with.

You're definitely in good company, anyway, and you can identify however you want. And, yes, Erika Moen's comic is amazing.
posted by oranger at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2013

Best answer: I'm going to step out on a limb here and propose that the problem you're struggling with is fundamentally about identity, rather than sexual identity.

I've struggled so much to be accepted as a lesbian among friends and family, and if I suddenly had a boyfriend I would undo all that progress.
I don't want to lose my sense of self.
But I also don't want to live a lie, and if this is A Thing, part of me wants to explore it.

Your statements suggest to me that you're deeply invested in the notion of identity being a stable, static thing that will never change, that can never change lest you lose absolutely everything.

In fact, identity itself, not only our sexuality, is a fluid thing.

Sometimes deeply religious people confront situations that make them question and abandon their faiths. Professional athletes grow old, wake up to the realization that they can no longer define themselves solely in terms of their athletic performances. People decide to have kids and become parents. People are permanently injured in accidents, they contract illnesses that radically and permanently alter what they are capable of. People lose their jobs and are forced to find work outside the field they loved or for which they trained decades to master. People who thought they were straight find themselves passionately attracted to members of their same sex. And vice versa.

Just by living, you will inevitably confront challenges to your sense of self like these. It can be terrifying, it can feel like a void has opened up in your life, like up is suddenly down, true is false, and there is no certainty or truth anywhere.

This is okay, you're okay. It doesn't mean anything more than that you're growing, changing. That void, that sudden, terrifying uncertainty is an opportunity to look beyond the most recent box you've constructed that says 'me' on the lid and see what else you can be next.

I know that it's not easy. Like the athlete or the religious person-turned-atheist or the person in the accident, you might lose something--membership in beloved community, the ability to do something you loved. But then, you might also gain something amazing from the transformation, too.

Regardless, change is inevitable, challenges are inevitable. So, embrace this change, allow your identity to expand a bit, loosen your grip on your self to include the occasional attraction to men. Sometimes, defining who you are, choosing to be authentic is about letting go as much as it is about becoming.
posted by skye.dancer at 10:21 AM on May 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You should be able to care about, love and fuck whoever you want regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

I live in the Bay Area, California and here, I gotta say sexuality and gender are pretty fluid for people under 30.

The bulk of the older gay and lesbian community don't seem thrilled about the bi, trans and try crew because they feel like it chips away at the strength of the community identity. As an outsider with LGBT friends, I think its all just growing pains in the evolution of the non-straight spectrum.

Some of my lesbian pals have slept with men occasionally and basically endure the eye rolling and grumbling from their friends while it lasts, but playing with straights doesn't seem to last long. In the early 2000's it seemed like straight dudes were the new purse dog for lesbians... but it sort of fizzled out.

From a chemical perspective... people you love and trust help your brain produce oxytocin which makes you feel lovey feelings... totally normal. We sometimes confuse that chemistry with some sort of deeper connection and act on it an then try to puzzle it out. Also totally normal. That you said you weren't "as grossed out" when you fucked your friend, probably keeps you comfortably in the lesbian spectrum.

If you think your situation is confusing, talk to some trans people who have done top surgery only, have adapted to a new gender and are bi-sexual. It's trippy stuff.
posted by bobdow at 12:41 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Uhh, so yeah, I'm trans and it's a total mindfuck sometimes trying to sort out what's what.

At the risk of being overly reductive, I think the only thing that will eventually work is for trans to mean 1 billion different things, in short a totally unique identifier. This requires some seriously advanced social protocols that don't even exist yet, so, I feel your pain.

The lesbian community can be really protective and dogmatic about who is in and who is out. I'm sorry. We in the trans community have our own forms of this going on, but I think it will eventually have to play out like something desribed in the above paragraph.

What you need is strength to be yourself first and foremost, and remind yourself that there's no real litmus test on what a lesbian is. I am a transgirl and I am a lesbian, but I have yet to find a lesbian community that will accept me, so I just call myself trans and leave it there.

So yeah, there's not an easy way to navigate this other than to believe in yourself, live an authentic life and gracefully deal with the shit the world throws at you for daring to be unique.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:12 PM on May 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm a lesbian who's recently found herself crushing on a man. Does this mean anything?

Well, I've known a couple of lesbians who found themselves getting attracted to men right around the time they were seriously considering whether or not they wanted to have children of their own.

One developed a relationship with a man, and then went back to her girlfriend after getting pregnant.

The other asked one of her crushes to be a sperm donor, and he agreed.
posted by jamjam at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2013

"fuck "look beyond labels" so hard--that's a platitude that comes so clearly from a place of ignorant privilege that it makes me despair about metafilter being a place that can intelligently address queer relationship issues."

I struggled mightily to resist responding, and I do not want to derail, here... But how the heck can it be a bad thing to not get so caught up in labels? And how is it fair for you to assume that people who aren't as interested in labels as you are are coming from a place of "ignorant privilege"? What sort of "privilege" are you assuming all of these people enjoy?

I would argue that labels are reductive and mostly destructive, and getting beyond them can be a major step toward maturity and happiness. I can understand why people want to rigidly classify themselves as just one thing. I used to do that myself, and it's a lot simpler and easier than the truth. The truth is that humans are messy creatures, and very few of us can claim to be 100 percent anything.

I am not belittling the confusion and fear that the OP may be feeling. I have felt similar confusion and fear, and after years of sorting through it I decided that it was pointless and stupid to spend so much time and energy worrying about whether I fit somebody's else's classifications. After years of pointless misery, I rejected the labels, and accepted the complexity of who I really am.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:00 PM on May 12, 2013

This is the problem with having an "identity." In the end, its just a generalization you choose to believe. If there is a "real you" it is a sum of a series of experiences, some of which agree with that generalization and some of which do not.

So you have been attracted to a guy? So what? I advise you accpet what happened and see what happens next.

To accept it, every time you have these questions, train yourself to say: "This happened, and what it means doesn't mean a good or bad thing."
posted by Ironmouth at 9:11 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ironmouth: In regards to the phrase "so what" - It's a little more complicated than that.

There are standards within each LGBTQIA community at large that are understood, for my own lack of a better way to put it as, a "card of entry" into the realm. There are unique experiences and concerns within each of the letters of the LGBTQIA acronym that are based on the commonalities each these groups of people have experienced while trying to live authentically as their letter of the spectrum. This has created a defined set of acceptance criteria within each of these groups that are based on very real experiences and traumas, so to frame it as "so what" is a bit reductive. To put it gently because I don't want to hurt your feelings, you come across as a little ambivalent and blasé when you frame it as such. You are talking to several classes of people that typically do not have "so what" as an option in their daily lexicon as a method of dealing with the bigotry and ignorance from outside pressures, not to mention the internal rules and acceptance criteria that may be relatively fluid based on the outside pressures that exist at any given moment.

This create all kinds of complications that are difficult to parse. Within each "letter" of the LGBTQIA communities we struggle to play nice with each other. When one member within a lettered group of the acronym set starts exhibiting traits that appear contrary to the lettered group's established rules of behavior things can get messy. The reason they get messy is that privilege within each letter of the LGBTQIA realm is limited and must be protected against undue outside influence that could dilute the meaning and protection afforded by the label itself. Expand that to n+6 influences within the LGBTQIA acronym and we are talking about communication problems pushing the limits described by "The Mythical Man Month", include the larger outside world, and well, it becomes mind-bogglingly complicated.

So, it is important to validate the efforts Autumn has put into being accepted into her community, because without that acceptance she is pushed out into a world that does not give much of a shit about her sexuality and attraction and puts her right back into the traumas and experiences that brought her into the "L" of the LGBTQIA rainbow.

So, Autumn, I understand your fears. Ironmouth, I understand telling Autumn to say "so what?" to her community. However, but there is a soft middle there where Autumn has to take the risk that she will lose the acceptance of her community by being herself and when your options are limited that is a hard thing to face.

Autumn: I will say this again, the most important thing you can do is to live an authentic life. I am sorry that you are in this situation, but you have to find your path forward based on your heart's desire and search for happiness. The only thing I can offer at this point is to appeal to your friends and try to explain that this doesn't make sense to you, but it is a feeling, and that feelings ought to count for something, even if they don't make sense to yourself and your immediate community. Ask for space and understanding. If nothing works out there, I assure you the rainbow is made up of millions of colors and there is a group out there that will accept you for who you are.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:50 AM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

There are standards within each LGBTQIA community at large that are understood, for my own lack of a better way to put it as, a "card of entry" into the realm.

It seems to me that this kind of "standard" is every bit as oppressive as the heteronormativity of the wider community, and worth speaking out against for exactly the same reasons.

There are unique experiences and concerns within each of the letters of the LGBTQIA acronym that are based on the commonalities each these groups of people have experienced while trying to live authentically as their letter of the spectrum. This has created a defined set of acceptance criteria within each of these groups that are based on very real experiences and traumas, so to frame it as "so what" is a bit reductive.

It seems to me that trying to live authentically as an exemplar of some category is a self-contradictory aim, because there is simply no such thing as an authentic categorisation.

Categories (or labels, if you prefer) are shortcuts we use to simplify our thinking, no more and no less. The claim that a thing or a person is or is not a member of any given category is inherently a simplified and incomplete claim, and there will always be edge cases where the category name means different things to different people, resulting in disagreement about the appropriate categories to apply.

In my view, it is truly sad that so many of us seem to care more about resisting change to our categories than we do about the people we apply those categories to. It's doubly sad when the people we disrespect and diminish in this way are ourselves.
posted by flabdablet at 2:23 AM on May 13, 2013

...heteronormativity sucks...

for you. There are a lot of people who have based their lives around it and are perfectly happy. People can't control who they love. That applies to gay, bi and straight people equally.
posted by double block and bleed at 5:17 AM on May 13, 2013

...heteronormativity sucks...

for you. There are a lot of people who have based their lives around it and are perfectly happy. People can't control who they love. That applies to gay, bi and straight people equally.

Apologies if this is derail-y, but this isn't really what "heteronormativity" means.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:15 AM on May 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

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