Um, coming out... again.
September 6, 2006 6:34 PM   Subscribe

For the last 5 years (age 18-23), I've identified myself as a gay man. Came out to my friends and family and was living okay. Now, for the last year, I've basically come to realize I'm not gay. I've lost all attraction to men and I kinda fell for a woman. I haven't talked to anyone about it (including "her"), and am now realizing I need to come out (er, again). Any ideas how to handle it with my friends, family, and "her"? I'd obviously like to minimize the humiliation, anger, hurt, etc.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Hey, congrats! (I figger this self-realization stuff always could use a mazel tov.)

I would imagine your woman-friend will be a bit surprised when you tell her that your feelings for her include romantic and sexual ones. (That should happen soon, by the way. Secret crushes are less good than expressed crushes!) But her surprise doesn't matter! You need to express this stuff to her in the simple, normal, and romantic tones that any crush is expressed. Don't matter much if she thought you were a 'mo.

She and the friends/family are different situations. You can deal with them later. And also?

Friend: Hey, long time no see, what's new?
You: Well, not much. But just started dating someone cool!
Friend: Ooo! Great! What's his name?
You: Funny story! Actually, it's Jennifer. Kinda weird, right?
Friend: Uh...
You: Hey, what a cool world! And yeah, she's great. What's new with you?

Later on there can be talks about what all this means. There need be no rush for identification. There's no need for you to recant, apologize, feel humiliation, or face anger. It's your life to do whatever you want. If anyone treats you like shit over this, you don't need 'em around--and sooner or later, they'll get over it.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:47 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Maybe you don't really need to officially come out as straight. Maybe you can just decide that you are attracted to this woman for some reason, and you can tell her. And then you can tell other people that you are attracted to this person. Maybe you defy conventional labels. Maybe you'll be attracted to men again and be attracted to more women, too. You're still quite young. Maybe for you the sex doesn't matter as much as the person. Sexuality can be more fluid than you think. Maybe you can just not label yourself anything to your friends and family, but you can tell them about your specific feelings.

Most of us aren't 100 percent straight or gay, or evenly bi. I understand that these feelings are strange and uncomfortable, and you might worry about how other people will feel. But just don't feel bad about things.
posted by Airhen at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2006

I think it may be important here to specifically state that you have nothing to be ashamed of. There's absolutely nothing scandalous about being heterosexual. (And no, I'm not kidding.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:03 PM on September 6, 2006

For a more scientific perspective you can point people to this article here from scientific american. Basically it points out that research has shown that people are not either/or gay but rather operate on a sliding scale. Accordingly, thats why some people vascilate between living a gay lifestyle and living a straight lifestyle.

For the more scientific minded people it might ease things and make your lifestyle change easier to understand. If you'd like a copy send me an email at and I can forward you a copy from the Proquest digital archives.
posted by jourman2 at 7:07 PM on September 6, 2006

As a lesbian who was in a relationship with a guy for
two years, I'd just like to gently point out that one romantic attraction does not a sexual orientation make. I think pretty much everyone (well, everyone who's not super-homophobic) will admit that there are a handful of people out there for whom they'd "jump the fence." You fall for a person, not their gender... it happens.

My friends were all supportive of my visit to heteroland, though I endured a lot of good-natured teasing. I also got a lot of, "So you're bi?" Well, no.
I chose to deal with people's responses by being really straightforward. I made it clear that this was what I chose and that I was happy, while acknowledging that it might strike some people (okay, pretty much everyone) as odd. At the same time, I also made it clear that people's confusion or discomfort was not my problem. My basic stance was, "This makes sense to me and this feels right; if you don't like it that's understandable, but take it elsewhere because it's not my responsibility to explain every inch of my heart to you."

Don't feel like you have to commit to a label to make everyone else comfortable. If you start dating this woman, let people know about the relationship when it comes up and feel free to tell anyone who demands an explanation that human attraction is a lot more complicated than we're led to believe, and they just need to chill out.
posted by chickletworks at 7:14 PM on September 6, 2006 [6 favorites]

Don't be too hasty to publicly identify, when you are clearly in a transitional stage of sexual development. Not only is it confusing for those who love you, but as you've already learned, you may yet again go through a change worth informing others of, and you don't want to force any of your tried and true friends into "revelation fatigue".

When I was 18 I came out to my close friends as gay. I lived in Arizona where there were limited opportunities to socialize with gay men my age. After two years of almost universally unsatisfying sexual experiences with the guys that I was able to meet, I felt empty. This was what I had abandoned security, reputation, and conformity for? One night as I was having sex with a new boyfriend, I realized that considering all the effort I was putting into enjoying sex with him, I may as well have never stopped dating women. I immediately put my clothes on and left, suddenly shocked with the realization that for the first time in my life I was possibly now sexually confident enough to date a woman. I had abandoned my attractions to females once I had been able to act on my lust for men, but it became clear that I had walked away too far, too fast.

Yes, it was confusing for my friends. Yes, I started identifying as bisexual. Yes, I experimented with women. I also continued to experiment with men when there seemed hope of finding what I had sought all along, which was a truly equal and sexually satisfying experience. I simply dated/slept with everyone that I wanted to, searching for what was right, mainly keeping my friends guessing.

Some friends will support you all the way through something like this. Others won't believe you. Some will be honest about what they think, others will lie, and most of all, none of to really be able to do more than accept it and wait to see what happens, just like you're going to. But announcements about one's sexual identity should be made when one has arrived somewhere; what you need are not announcements, but discussions. Discussions in which you are free to reach the conclusion, "I don't know," and leave it at that. Seek out these conversations with likeminded or insightful friends, and as for the rest, keep them informed on a strictly need-to-know basis.

Ultimately I wound up learning how to enjoy sex more no matter who I was with, and it had a lot to do with sorting out my psychology and the baggage I'd gathered from being repressed for so long. I've been with the guy of my dreams for over three years, and while I still often find myself attracted to females, I remind myself that I am worth more to womankind as a friend who understands womanly allure than I am as a fucked-up, confusing guy whose sexual ideals do not especially lend themselves to traditional relationships or, eventually, families. Some women will be moved by your struggle and want to participate in your sexual (re)awakening, but most, while flattered, will probably not want to get involved unless you are completely secure in your sexuality.

Keep an open mind, quietly defy categorization, and when you find someone who really does it for you, let the world know. This kind of news is easiest to believe and accept when there is a real live love interest involved. Good luck! Email is in profile if you ever want to talk.
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2006 [12 favorites]

i believe that we can be attracted to any person, male or female, and alot of people prefer certain qualities that are usually in men or in woman and assume that they can never fall for the other, (not to mention all the societal damage that has been done in the department of relationship conditioning). just because no men have really done it for you in awhile and youve seen qualities in this woman that you like, that doesnt at all mean that you wont again be attracted to a man. i would think that you are being attracted to individual people for certain qualities with the openmindedness that people dont have to have certain sexual organs to gain your love and attraction.

also, never worry about what other people are going to think. relationships in general are confusing and there are no real experts that have it all figured out. i wish you the best of luck in finding happiness in whatever direction you take.. good luck with the girl!
posted by trishthedish at 7:19 PM on September 6, 2006

Don't feel like you have to commit to a label to make everyone else comfortable.


hump who you want to for whatever reasons make you happy. labels should have no bearing on what brings you joy or sexual satisfaction. you are who you are, and being "gay", "straight", "bi" or whatever doesn't make a damn bit of difference in the reality of what actually brings you sexual and emotional satisfaction.

(unless of course its like little kids or something totally not cool like that)
posted by teishu at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2006

I have a couple of women friends who went from lesbians to dating men. I don't think they really officially "came out," they just mentioned that they were dating men. I took it in stride -- I've been surprised by enough changes in sexual orientation over the years to stop worrying about these things. I'm sure some people were surprised enough to ask probing questions.

Just tell the truth and don't make a big deal about it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:16 PM on September 6, 2006

Dude, you're young. Feel free. Be happy. It's cool.
posted by unSane at 8:18 PM on September 6, 2006

(If I were in your shoes, I would be more nervous about asking the girl out than what to label myself. That always got me churned up inside and puddled me into a bundle of nerves.)
posted by iurodivii at 8:23 PM on September 6, 2006

Don't feel like you have to commit to a label to make everyone else comfortable.

Yep. The word boxes we have for fluid feelings of desire and attraction are way too limited. At best, they're general attempts to capture the flexible reality of day-to-day human interaction. Don't stress over them.

There's absolutely nothing scandalous about being heterosexual. (And no, I'm not kidding.)

"Scandalous?" I don't believe there was anything about "scandalous" in the question. Someone's projecting, and badly at that. Perhaps staying out of sexuality threads might be a preferred option.

posted by mediareport at 8:52 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

There's no orientation. It's just about who you like be it male or female. If someone turns your crank, go with it.
posted by pieoverdone at 8:56 PM on September 6, 2006

I'll echo: Who you are attracted to is not always determined by gender. Some people stick along gender lines, and some people are flexible. There is no embarassment in who you choose, unless you placed a significant cash wager on it.


Go with whom you like. And, honestly, you've done the hard part already (admitting non-hetero attraction, which, sadly, is not universally accepted) so I'm sure explaining this one won't be difficult.
posted by brianvan at 9:10 PM on September 6, 2006

Because movie therapy is always good, can I recommend Goldfish Memory (2003) about the intangibility of modern sexuality? [official site]
posted by feelinglistless at 11:41 PM on September 6, 2006

A lot of great answers and while I have no personal experience from which to relate I will add that you might be wise to be prepared for feelings of confusion and possibly even betrayal on 'her' part. She accepted you as a gay man and may have given you insight into her personal life/feelings that she might never have allowed if she thought there might be a romantic future between the two of you.

Beyond that, what UnSane said.
posted by geekyguy at 1:17 AM on September 7, 2006

You say you've lost all interest in men and fallen in love with a woman, all within the last year. Think back... Did those two things happen at about the same time?

Because if so, I think its less that you're no longer attracted to men and more likely that you're in love.

My belief is that you don't fall in love with a body. You fall in love with a mind, a personality. If that mind happens to have a penis or a vagina... does it really matter? Your friends should be happy that you're happy.

Those that aren't, those that this is a big deal for... maybe they're not friends.
posted by aristan at 4:16 AM on September 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

No big deal.
Them: "Hey, I thought you were gay?!?"
You: "I did too. Go figure."
posted by Crotalus at 5:48 AM on September 7, 2006

Response by poster: This is pretty weird. I am in almost exactly the same situation as you (approximately same age, same length of being out), except I'm a lesbian a couple months into a relationship with a dude and I remain very much attracted to the ladies.

The reactions you get from people will be mixed. Most of my friends were cool with me coming out, and most of them are cool with me dating a guy. There are questions, to be sure ("So, you're not a real lesbian?"), and some people might even insinuate the whole coming-out thing was just a bid for attention, but man, I worried about semi-going-back-in as much as I did coming out, and there was no reason for worry either way.

It's really going to depend how open your friends are to the idea of fluid sexuality--and you probably already know this from hanging out with them.

Also: I would not make a big deal of the straightness like it is sometimes necessary to do with the coming out. I would talk to the lady about it first. Pursue that relationship. If you want to keep it under wraps for a little bit that's OK--my guy understood the delicacy of my situation and let me reveal the nature of our relationship on my own time to our friends. When you're ready, talk to close friends/family as necessary. Once your core group knows, just let it filter through your general social sphere. It's not necessary to stop everyone and explain the details.

Remember, above all, this is your relationship, your sexuality, and your private life. Those objecting to who you love on the basis of how they define sexuality can go shove it.
posted by Anonymous at 6:24 AM on September 7, 2006

A friend of a friend was dating chicks and realized that she was into guys. She pretty much just said "Listen, I'm dating dudes now," and left her friends to talk about it amongst themselves if they so chose. But you know in the end I think they were more bemused than anything else--it seems like she worried a lot about what they would think and in the end I think they thought it was cute that she was so stressed out about it.
posted by clairezulkey at 7:24 AM on September 7, 2006

You've gotten a lot of good advice in this thread, mine will mostly be redundant, but I thought I would share with you what it's like from the friend of the homo/not-homo's side. As a gay person you probably have a lot of gay friends and their reactions might be a bit mixed.

I am a lesbian and so is a very good friend of mine, L. We would often joke that L was a seven on the Kinsey scale (which only goes up to six - six being maximum homo-sity), but then L started to fool around with boys and is now dating two of them. She never "came out" as being bi, she just told us that she was cuddling with Marcus last night, or went to a movie with Leo, or had wonderful wonderful sex with James. A few people were uncouth enough to ask "So are you bi now?" To which she generally responded, "I'm not anything, I just happen to be dating a boy for now," which I think was the best possible response.

My parter and I talked about these new circumstances quite a bit, and I am not proud to say but, at first I felt a little... betrayed. I felt like L was a bit of a traitor. She was a lesbian, she was THE lesbian, and if the absolutely most homo person I knew could be happy in a hetero relationship, then isn't she supporting the "Gay is a choice" side, and the "You can be 'normal' if you want to be" idea? I never stopped being her friend, but I felt a little wierd for a bit.

Very quickly, though, I realized that L was just as political, just as wierd and quirky, just as fantastic a person as she had ever been, and I got over my heterophobia. I know that even though she's dating boys, she's is still applying the same standards to her dating partners as she ever has, and so the boys that she dates will be political, wierd and quirky, and fantastic. She isn't dating boys because she suddenly craves penis and wants to be someone's pretty pretty princess, she is dating people who she likes, and now she has twice as many options.

So, don't tell people you are straight. Tell the girl that you like her and if something happens between you two (or you and another girl) then tell friends and family that you are dating someone new, in exactly the way that RJ Reynolds suggested. If/when you do start dating someone else, be prepared for a bit of backlash from your gay friends, some of them might think you are abandoning them or that you'll join up with an ex-gay ministry. If they are your friends, though, they will be more than happy to see you happy, regardless of who it is that you are cuddling with.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:08 AM on September 7, 2006

It's not what I mean when I quip it, but I have on many occasions told people "I don't really believe in this hetero, gay or bi stuff. The only two categories I believe in is 'fucking me' and 'not fucking me.'"

It's nice to feel a sense of belonging and to be part of a community, but you should find the community and be a part of it because it's where you fit in. Changing yourself to fit into the community - or label - is no way to be happy.
posted by phearlez at 9:32 AM on September 7, 2006

What everyone else said about not being in a hurry to label yourself (and it might be helpful here to keep in mind that the urge to label oneself as something is very strong when one is young, and gets weaker as one grows older . . . at least in my experience; if you can learn to overcome that need to definitively label yourself once-and-for-all, I think you'll be way ahead of the game).

But also wanted to add that your loss of attraction to men may be based in something other than an orientation flip-flop; is there something about dating men that has left you hurt, angry, etc.? If so, these feelings may be strong enough that their "noise" effectively drowns out whatever attractions you may feel.

If you just have to label yourself, I'd suggest going with bi. That will save you from coming out the closet yet again if you wake up one morning and realize, "wow, I just met this guy and realized that I was attracted to him . . . never thought it would happen again, but it did . . ." (Chances are it will, even if it doesn't seem like it now).
posted by treepour at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2006

Tom Robinson (of the Tom Robinson Band - Glad to be Gay, etc.) has this in his biog:
In 1982 across a crowded room at a Gay Switchboard benefit, Tom Robinson spotted the boyfriend of his dreams who, inconveniently, turned out to be a woman. Over the years they became friends, then lovers, and eventually parents, despite a brief period in tabloid hell. "BRITAIN'S N0 1 GAY IN LOVE WITH GIRL BIKER" screamed the Sunday People. "GLAD TO BE DAD" shouted The Sun.
posted by athenian at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2006

Something like this happened to me (I'm female) when I was in college in the 80's. It was a time of more hardcore lesbian feminism, separatism, and identity politics, and the first person I came out to about liking a man was a gay male friend of mine, who basically said "it's no big deal, you can like a boy and still be queer". These days, it seems that both young people and queers my age are more accepting of bisexuality or fluidity or whatever you want to call it.

The only thing I'd worry about in your situation is that straight/bi women can have a special form of affection for their male friends that they perceive as gay, and therefore free of sexual tension, and "safe". There's a kind of emotional intimacy that can happen there. If she's got you in that box, and finds out you're attracted to her, that could really throw her off, or, on the other hand, she might really be into it (c'mon, ladies, who hasn't at least once wished she could marry her gay best friend?).
posted by matildaben at 2:24 PM on September 7, 2006

c'mon, ladies, who hasn't at least once wished she could marry her gay best friend?

Heh. I made a pact with my gay best friend in high school that we'd get married!

posted by scody at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2006

« Older Can stress cause weight gain?   |   Can I get a skin for my laptop? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.