How does a gay man go about dating women?
March 11, 2008 8:14 PM   Subscribe

How does a gay man go about dating women?

I'm a gay man who is looking to start dating women. How do I broach the subject with a date, if at all? Confused? Let me try to explain.

I identify as gay. When it comes to my sexuality, it’s the label I’m most comfortable with. But I'm also attracted to women. I’d rate myself as 4.5 on the Kinsey Scale and some of my friends would argue that I'm bisexual. I haven't dated a woman since high school and the last time I had sex with one was in 2002, but I've been pining over the fairer sex for the last year or so. I'm more easily and more often attracted to men, but the attraction to certain types of women is definitely there.

I believe I’ve reached a point where I'm comfortable with the notion that a person’s sex is less important to me than is the connection I have with them. Having recently moved to a big city where the dating pool is vast, I now have ample opportunity to pursue the other side of my sexuality. However, there are some obvious hurdles.

I'd like to know your ideas on (i) how a woman I'm dating might respond to finding out that I'm essentially gay, (ii) the ideal point in the dating process to broach the subject, (iii) the best way to broach the subject, (iv) how I can avoid being unfair to or hurting the other person, and any other thoughts you might have.

It may help to know that I'm a fairly "masculine" lad and most people wouldn’t guess that I’m gay.
posted by pantheON to Human Relations (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you identify as gay, does this mean that there's no chance you can commit long term to this person? That is important to a lot of people, and you need to have this somewhat decided before you even approach dating. I feel this is a more important issue than being gay in and of itself.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:20 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would just put yourself out there as bisexual up front so that women you date realize up front that you also like men. Some women do find that sexy. The precise degree of your bisexuality you might be able to save for later.
posted by kindall at 8:20 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

In all my life, no one I have ever dated has ever asked my sexual orientation. I'm not sure how it's even relevant, unless it is an issue because you are in a committed relationship that you're thinking of cheating on. The Kinsey scale is interesting, but knowing someone else's Kinsey score is not something that I can imagine any reasonable person caring about.
posted by The World Famous at 8:23 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Deathalicious: Thanks for the response. It definitely does not mean that I can't commit to that person. In fact, that's exactly what I'm looking for.
posted by pantheON at 8:23 PM on March 11, 2008

Response by poster: The World Famous: I can think of a number of situations in which it would come up. For example, if she asked about my past dating history. More importantly though, if the relationship was serious, I wouldn't want to keep such an important part of my past a secret from her.
posted by pantheON at 8:26 PM on March 11, 2008

I would certainly not keep it a secret, but, as with anyone talking about their dating history, I would not bring it up unless asked or until the relationship reaches a stage where such things are discussed in the ordinary course.
posted by The World Famous at 8:28 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think whoever you do end up dating, you have to be clear that all of your meaningful relationship to this point have been with men, but that you want to try and make it work.
posted by parmanparman at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2008

(ii) the ideal point in the dating process to broach the subject

Well, probably when sex is within contemplation. Your openness toward dating women generally makes me think it will probably be a non-issue at every juncture until then, unless you're dating a woman that wants the whole six-month-courtship-before-some-groping thing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:37 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For the sake of simplicity, if you need a label, "bisexual" might be good. I don't think "bi" has to mean attracted exactly 50/50 to either sex. Plus, it might be easier for a potential mate to wrap her head around that than around "I'm gay, but I want to date women," which could seem like you just want to experiment and are not in it for any possibly long-term relationship.
posted by Airhen at 8:42 PM on March 11, 2008

there's no blueprint on this. When that's the case, you have to rely on yourself. That means acknowledging that you are a human being and that you have a few built in resources to deal with difficult social situations, and trusting that you will be able to access these resources when it comes time to deal with the situation. Trust yourself and trust that when the little voice says--tell her now and tell her this way, that you will know what to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:43 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Deathalicious is right on, plenty of women like bisexual men. The question is, are you ready to be monogamous with a woman, or with a man for that matter? Giving up one or the other is hard for some people, but your partner may not mind your "extracurricular" activities as long as they are safe. Lots of women don't mind the latter.
posted by Melismata at 8:53 PM on March 11, 2008

FWIW, I'd say that if you're seeking commitment with a woman, then the bisexual label is probably more appropriate than the gay label. If it's not appropriate, then I'm honestly perplexed about you wanting to keep the gay label while remaining committed to a woman. Bisexuality can be a complex thing -- e.g., maybe you're more sexuality attracted to men while you're more emotionally attracted to women.

There are monogamous bisexuals, of both genders. My suggestion is to look in bi circles (online, or perhaps there's a bi group nearby) for a woman who's coming more or less from your same position -- more "gay" than "straight" (at least in practice) but nonetheless interested in exploring a committed relationship with the opposite gender. In such circles, you'll probably have better luck negotiating the dating field -- if neither of you don't know quite how to proceed, at least you'll both know why.

Other options: polyamory, if it's your cup of tea (and it sounds like it probably isn't); presenting yourself as bi and finding a straight-identified woman who's willing to have a relationship with a bi man; or presenting yourself as straight and claiming the whole gay thing was a mistake. But I can't see that presenting yourself as gay while seeking a committed straight relationship is going to work.
posted by treepour at 8:53 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Calling yourself bi instead of gay would help a lot with me.
posted by olecranon at 9:00 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think your best bet is a bisexual woman. If you're in a large city that shouldn't be hard to find. I've never met a bi woman who didn't like bi men. I would be very matter-of-fact about your dating history, but you don't want to make her sound like an experiment. The way I'd understand it best is if you phrased it that you do genuinely love women, you've just happened to date men for the last few years.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I hate to be forcing labels on people, but I can imagine if I were your date, I would feel really weird to hear you refer to yourself as "gay." It might make the woman feel like she's just an experiment or, in a way, that women don't "figure" into your sexuality, which is bound to be confusing to her. It's not likely to make her feel special, know what I mean?

If you don't feel comfortable with the word "bisexual," you could simply explain your past. But I'd definitely save it for the second or third date, depending on how things are going. It might be a little much for a first meeting/date, but it's definitely something you want to be open about before getting really involved emotionally (ideally before having sex, too).
posted by lunasol at 9:12 PM on March 11, 2008

(i) how a woman I'm dating might respond to finding out that I'm essentially gay

Probably confused, since it sounds like you are quite interested in women.

(ii) the ideal point in the dating process to broach the subject

As soon as a quick, offhand mention can be fit into whatever the topic of conversation is.

(iii) the best way to broach the subject

Quick and offhand, since it will either be a really big deal to her and will escalate no matter how much you put into the 'reveal' or it won't matter and brevity will be sufficient.

(iv) how I can avoid being unfair to or hurting the other person

Can't see how there's any risk of either of those things unless you flat-out lie.

Good luck.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 9:23 PM on March 11, 2008

Best answer: You could just explain that you are bisexual. If you're not comfortable saying that right away, read below.

I. How a woman responds to your sexual history disclosure depends alot on context and how you phrase it.

First of all, you don't have to bring it up right away. If you're someone that talks about ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, I can see why this might be important. (But please don't be the guy that can't stop talking about your ex(es)-- it makes people think you're still hung up on them and it's a major turn-off. But I digress.)

So, if you told me on our first date that you were GAY with a capital G, I would assume it wasn't a date and invite you to go shopping and watch Project Runway with me.

II. If you told me early on that you've been with/attracted to "lots of different kinds of people (a la Ricky Martin)," however, it wouldn't make a difference whether they were men or women. You wouldn't have to tell me right away that the only people you've dated for 6 years were more Rock Hudson than Kate Hudson.

III. Don't go into detail, especially at first-- you don't know her very well and don't know what she's sensitive about. For all you know, her dad could have led a secret double life for 20 years like Ted Haggard.

Now if it's still early on and you are ready to be intimate but you feel uncomfortable because you haven't been with a woman since the Patriot Act was passed, you can blush, smile sexy/bashfully, and say, "Gee, it's been awhile since I've done this." "This" meaning sex with a woman, instead of a man; you don't have to elaborate. If we're getting naked, the last thing I want to hear is, "Sex with a woman--now I can save money on condoms, woo hoo!"

IV. In the first three steps you are testing the waters. If she freaks out after you mention that you've had diverse romantic tastes, she is not ready for step IV (and might never be)

If, however, a few weeks or months, you feel that she's fairly open-minded, you have a connection worth keeping, and/or you really trust her, you can share a little at a time. But keep it simple and modest. No woman really wants to know too much about her guy's past romantic/sexual exploits whether penis/vagina or penis/penis. And when you do share, choose your anecdotes carefully: most conversations about exes should be a synopsis of day-to-day relational stuff and just allude to the sexual part. This is true in practically all circumstances.

At the end of the day, people are people, and if she can't deal with your past, then she's not right for you anyway.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:25 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

For me, hearing and believing an honest, "I usually go for men, but in rare cases, I like women too," would be a good thing and something of a compliment. I think I'm probably in the minority, but I also think the minority is probably bigger than most people think.

If I were guessing at how it'd work, I'd probably picture a guy mentioning a past boyfriend early on, and then I would ask questions afterward to clarify it for myself. I wouldn't have any problem with it at all, so my type of girl is definitely out there. The old Dan Savage idea of mentioning it in a way that's more like, "hey, there's also another interesting thing about me" and less like, "hey, by the way, isn't this the worst thing you've ever heard?" also applies. It's just a casual true thing about you, and you might as well treat it as such. Elsewise, wait until you're both a little tipsy and just get the words out. Better earlier than later.

As far as dating straight versus bisexual women, I identify as mostly straight and have never dated a woman, so straight girls are fine, too. I agree, though, with not using the term "gay," unless you frame it as something like, "I'm usually slightly more gay than straight." Makes an open-minded girl feel special to be the exception to the bendy rule.

The moral is: mentioning it early and being okay with it and perfectly open about it would be the way to go (with me at least). On preview, I'd say that I'm probably more okay than most with the knowledge that my significant others have had full lives before I ever came around, so toss a couple of grains of salt into the above.
posted by lauranesson at 9:37 PM on March 11, 2008

Just out of curiosity - why do you identify as gay when you're obviously bi? I suspect there is a reason you prefer one label over the other, and that makes me wonder if you are ready to date women at all. Honestly, you might want to take a step back from dating either gender and get to know yourself. Figure out what issues you have with your sexuality and how to get past them.

By the way - I don't mean that as a criticism at all. Just an assessment based on your post.

This brings me back one of your questions:

I'd like to know your ideas on (i) how a woman I'm dating might respond to finding out that I'm essentially gay

If you are in fact "gay", you aren't dating her. You're just a friend.

Best of luck to you in figuring this stuff out.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:41 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

You gotta reveal this up front, right away, as soon as you are able to without just blurting it out in the middle of a conversation. Think of it as a selector -- if she's cool with it, then great. If she's not, then there's no way you'll want to date them anyway, right?
posted by incessant at 10:54 PM on March 11, 2008

My read is that "gay" is a cultural identifier for you, rather than a restrictive descriptor of who you're attracted to. And as many above have noted, using the word in that sense is likely to cause confusion.

But the underlying issue -- that you're most at home in gay culture -- is important.

If you date J. Random Straight Woman -- or even a bi woman who is culturally straight -- no matter how many gay friends she has, there are going to be some serious cultural differences between you, including attitudes about monogamy, gender roles, sexual practices, brunch habits, tolerance for show tunes, etc.

So maybe you should look for a bi chick who is gay just like you are.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:07 PM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Speaking as someone who would easily date a man who identified as gay or bi, I think the most important thing is just to qualify what you're looking for in a dating partner. So if for you dating means dating a bnumber of different people of different genders, that's a different situation than serial monogamy (of either gender). So, if you told me you were "essentially gay" as you put it, my only concern would be whether I was some sort of experiment, whether you liked me because I was butch and/or whether you were generally a promiscuous gay man or not. I'd mention it early on, but not belabor it (lauranesson has this right, imo) and let her ask questions. Of course, for some people, this is not news they want to hear, but whatever. I don't think I'd want to hear that you voted for Bush either but you take news as it comes and decide what you want to do about it. Give your female partner/date the same consideration that you give other people that you go out with.
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Props to ottereroticist for 'getting it' re: cultural &/or political identity!

Funny--as a [queer-identified, but functionally hetero of late] woman, I've long wished it wasn't so hard to date gay men!
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:58 PM on March 11, 2008

Expect a few spit takes if you tell a woman, "By the way, I'm gay", while inviting her upstairs to see your etchings.

I agree with the rest of the chorus that you tell her you're bisexual and at home in gay culture once dating history comes up, since the definition seems to fit how you've described yourself.

Good luck. I think the other posters are right that it will be the most 'straight'-forward asking out bi women.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:23 AM on March 12, 2008

date queer people!

so many straight people are just so hung up on the "right" way to do things like date and have sex.
posted by entropone at 5:50 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I don't wish this query to appear intolerant, but I'd like to ask the original poster, politely, how he can be attracted to women and still self-identify as gay. That's not meant to challenge his sexuality but merely to explain that I (and perhaps others) have problems answering his question given the confusion over that point.

The two are antonyms, aren't they? It'd be like saying I'm a smoker but I identify as a non-smoker. I understand that gender is a spectrum, not an on-off switch, but if you are attracted to both men and women with an emphasis on men, that would be bi, as far as I understand the term, even if it's "bi but heavily leaning towards gay".

Since you are asking us to advise you as to how a woman you might date would respond to you being gay, perhaps confusion such as what I express above would result.
posted by WCityMike at 7:25 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

first of all, labels are for clothes, not sexuality or sexual identity. but humans are always hung up on how to box, label, fold, and spindle you, so find a shorthand that describes your attractions better. "queer" or "bisexual" may be terms in the right direction.

drop the "i'm fairly masculine" crap. one of my sweeties is a male bodied high femme who successfully dates all sorts of women. there are more than enough "i'm fairly masculine" dudes out there ... yawn ... be original!

toss out the Kinsey scale! while i respect Mr. Kinsey and his peeps were innovative and groundbreaking for their time ... their time WAS the 1950s. these days, sexuality and sexual identity aren't spectrum based, but are more open to wider interpretation. embrace a more up to date model, be creative and humourously tweak your identity (for example, the now cliched 'trisexual' - "anything sexual, i'll try" hahaha).

nthing the 'date queer women' suggestions. meet others who have traveled the path(s) you have. many women i know who've transgressed the "what? you're a lesbian and you slept with a guy?" taboo truly need cool guys to date and sleep with, as most likely the lesbian club yanked their credentials and probably in the most ostracizing way possible.

and lastly, become a feminist. this is an over generalization, but i found the majority of gay men i hung out with when i first came out (my identity is more 'pansexual' than anything) were hateful of women (e.g. "fish" jokes that made me very angry) and you'll get a ton of crap from nasty queens once they find out you're dating and/or sleeping with women. be prepared to stand up to folks like that and not let them denigrate women.

p.s. be completely honest in all your associations. a bisexual identity has tons of baggage associated with it by folks who are quick to judge and vilify. being sincere and honest will only help you in the end.
posted by kuppajava at 9:37 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's funny, because I'm going through this as well, but from the other gender. I've always identified as lesbian. My two serious relationships have been with women, although I have slept with and dated guys and enjoyed myself, however that is a fairly recent phenomenon. But it's one I've decided to explore, and I can definitely see myself in a committed long-term relationship with a man.

But it's been strange. Accepting that for all technical purposes you are actually Bisexual can be difficult. For me it was because I had spent all those years forging this identity and coming to terms with being a lesbian (I came out at 19, I'm about to turn 30), and then all of a sudden I met a guy I was attracted to in all ways. It was far more confusing than discovering I liked girls, let me tell you.

But for the purposes of dating it's obviously far clearer to tell people that you're Bisexual. In fact, I tell people just what I said in my opening paragraph.

Essentially, like everyone else, I think honesty is the way to go.

Although I will say, it's ironic that even though I've officially widened the playing field I still can't seem to meet anyone :)
posted by aclevername at 10:01 AM on March 12, 2008

Best answer: You prefer to apply the label "gay" to yourself, which you are free to do even if this doesn't line up with how others see you. This label is usually used to describe men who date other men. Using it to describe yourself to a woman you are on a date with is bound to cause some confusion.

I suggest you describe yourself as dating (or having dated, whatever -- I've never quite gotten the proper grammar down on that one) both men and women. You don't need to label this "gay" or "bi" or "4.5" or anything else -- describe how you behave, and how you feel, without placing yourself in a broader demographic category. Your date isn't dating a label, she's dating you. There should be some reasonable point to bring this up in the first one to four dates or so. Do bring it up before you get into a sexual situation.

a person’s sex is less important to me than is the connection I have with them

Focus on this message, rather than that you like to use this certain label for yourself. Later on there will be plenty of time to tell her about how at home you feel in the gay community, and why you choose to use this label "gay" to describe yourself.
posted by yohko at 12:48 PM on March 12, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - if you are not addressing the OPs question and just ruminating about people who are sexually different from you, don't do that here. thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:24 PM on March 12, 2008

As is always vital when dating, establish first that the person actually is attracted to you; she smiles at you, seeks out your company, asks you questions, gives you signals, touches you, etc.

So, the attraction established:
You: "Hey, I like you, wanna go out?"
Her: "Sure, but aren't you gay?"
You: "Mostly, but I'm prepared to make exceptions. Want me to make one for you?" (Sexiest smile!)

I expect your biggest obstacle will not be getting laid by women, it will be getting long-term relationships with women. You may need to go to extra effort, from time to time, to show your fidelity and commitment.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2008

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