Originally posted on Thought Catalog December 17, 2012
How are you 100% positive you won’t go back to dating men?
When I first came out, I did it in a weird way. My mom sat me down at a very public restaurant with my siblings and my grandparents. Everything was going fine, and then as our food was set down, my mom cleared her throat and said, “Alison, is there something you want to talk about? Something you want to tell everyone?” I most likely looked like Allison from Top Model Cycle 12, which is the epitome of deer-in-headlights. I then said something along the lines of “Um, well, as you all know, I’ve been seeing this woman for like seven months, and um, things are going well, and we’re not going to stop dating, so…” Not exactly the strongest speech I’ve ever given. But, as I spoke and sputtered over my words, I gained my footing. By the end, I was sitting up tall and happily chomping down my fettuccine noodles.
After the whole speech, my mom had tears running down her face, understandably. Here was her daughter, who she thought she knew as a straight girl, telling her that the things she saw when she closed her eyes and daydreamed for 24 years beforehand weren’t going to come to fruition. Then I was asked two questions in the same vein: one from my mom and one from my grandfather.
Grandfather: “Well, Al, here’s what it sounds like. You were with someone before that didn’t match up to the things you liked, and now here you are, and you’re with someone who works at a church, and this person likes to volunteer, and you two like all the same things. Don’t you think you could find that with a man?”
I understand that he was asking this with no malice, but it still hurt. I responded by saying “Grandpa, if this were a man, would you even say anything? Because that description is the person I’ve been looking for, and you seem to only notice that she’s a she.” He tilted his head and thought about it, then said “You know what? You’re right. If you’re happy, then I’m happy, and that’s all that matters.”
My mom didn’t wait long to ask from the other end of the table: “Well, does this mean you’re never going to be with a man again!?”
Before I could respond, my sister haughtily set down her knife and fork and gave my mom a serious stare before loudly saying “Why does it matter, mom? She’s a lesbian, maybe she’s bi, maybe you shouldn’t ask! Just let her be!”
I watched as the tears flowed a little bit harder down my mom’s face. I calmly set my hand on my sister’s and said to my mother that I didn’t know what the future brought, but for the first time in a relationship, I wasn’t looking forward to the person I’d be seeing next. They didn’t exist, and therefore the option wasn’t there. My mom excused herself to the bathroom and my stepdad leaned over and told me not to worry, that they’d always support me, and that “these things take time.”
It’s been ten months since this incident. I now consider myself a full-fledged lezzer, but why? What changed? For me, I realized that the little things that I wanted from a relationship were in fact things that I could only receive from women; and the things that I was receiving from men were actually just signs of companionship that I’d seek in any pal. I used sex as a reason to receive public affection when I was with men, because that’s a form of validation that my super-ego needs. I’ve always been “someone’s” girl, and I felt that to keep the person, I’d need to use sex. I’ve since looked back and realized that was unhealthy. It was a part of me that I left in the Midwest when I moved to Colorado. I also don’t feel that way when I’m in the company of queer-identified women. I don’t need that validation – that “this is who I’m going home with” thing that I so needed before. I feel my guard down around the LGBTQ community, and it’s because this is where I was supposed to be all along.
I don’t see myself going back to men. I’m still in the mindset that I could be with my girlfriend for the rest of my life, but if circumstances come up where this becomes untrue, I don’t think I’ll run into the arms of a man for comfort like my old self would have. There’s something empowering about claiming my truth as “lesbian.” It’s the experience that has left me feeling the most filled – physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually…you name it. I am a woman who dates women, and that’s what I do.
I am in a relationship with a man but consider myself queer, how to I help him to understand that I am not straight?
Ah. This is so very important. It’s hard to enter a relationship if you dabble in both waters on occasion. There’s an added issue of trust that comes from your partner: if you identify as bi, pansexual, or ‘queer,’ how can they trust you won’t cheat with 100% of the population? (That was asked sarcastically, my dears).
I think the most important thing that you need to convey, no matter how redundant it seems, is that your identity is your identity. It does not change upon you being with a man or a woman. Who you think you are is who you feel you are is who you are, end of story. When you start seeing someone, you don’t have to sit down, shake their hand, say your name, and then exclaim that you’re pansexual, or you identify as queer, or you’ve only been with women up until that point. Let conversation happen naturally. If it doesn’t come up a few days in, though, you should say something. Starting off with “I have something to tell you, and it’s important for me to let you know before we move forward,” is a good start. It gives weight to your words.
I have a friend who had only been with women before meeting her male partner. They’ve been together for so long that he’s taken to calling her straight in front of others. This has offended and hurt her, because it’s not how she feels. For anyone that identifies as a lesbian but has a male partner, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, you can’t help who you fall in love with. Before I came out, that’s what I thought my situation was: straight until proven otherwise. Fortunately, I’ve been proven otherwise.
For me, if my partner told people I had black hair all the time, I would be incredibly annoyed. Not only do I not have black hair, but she’s saying something about me categorized as both ridiculous and untrue. (Liar, Liar, “the pen is blue,” anyone?) Same goes for sexuality – if it isn’t what you are, it can’t be forced upon you.
If you entered the relationship with your partner understanding your sexual identity but it’s not really “spoken” about, bring it up with them. Ask them what they consider your sexuality to be. Ask them what that means for you two. Ask if any parts of it make them nervous. The more open and honest you are about how you feel about your sexuality and your relationship, the better your significant other is going to feel. Give them an opportunity to ask any questions they want; no holds barred. Do the same for them, if that makes you comfortable.
As with any relationship, communication is key. Letting your love know that even though you’re with them and they are of the opposite sex that you still identify as someone who’s attracted to ______ is being open, honest, courageous, and important. Good luck!
At what point is fantasizing about something or someone else, other than my partner, inappropriate?
This is a tough one. It’s on the same lines as “what do you consider sex? Oral? Penetration? Penis-to-vagina only? Anal?” It’s hard to say, but I can give my personal opinion.
One time, I wrote this article about Abby Wambach. Ahem. Have you seen her? Have you seen the naked photo shoot Sports Illustrated did of her? I die one thousand happy heart deaths when I see her running on a field. I also feel this way about a few other celebrities: Emmanuelle Chriqui (Sloan from Entourage, Twitter goddess, etc.), Elisha Cuthbert (especially as Alex on Happy Endings – homegirl throws food down in a way that shouldn’t turn me on, yet it does), and Rashida Jones (especially wearing flannel). These are women I see on TV and make weird, grumbly sounds at, while my girlfriend cocks her head sideways and looks at me, all confused. Whatever.
But, when it comes to real people, it hits a different chord. It’s almost like seeing your love’s ex in public and being introduced. That person becomes real. You start to compare; to see in them what you don’t see in yourself. It can be quite a spiral if you let it. This can go the same for fantasizing. There are these two women that I work with on a semi-regular basis that I joke about “leaving” my girlfriend for. She knows I am joking. I do not have any interest in leaving her for these straight women. There’s a woman that runs in the same non-profit circles as my girlfriend and I. My lady calls her “the brain crush.” Her smarts are attractive; but I know my girlfriend is not going to break up with me and date this other woman. These are light. We don’t fantasize about these people. But if they were real, that would be a different story.
It’s hard to say when it crosses the line from appropriate and okay to inappropriate and a problem. There are some people who can’t get off without imagining something, someone, or somewhere else. Fantasizing is how they learned to get themselves off and there’s no changing it. That happens. It doesn’t hurt to express that to a partner, either. It’s again, better to be honest. You wouldn’t want to be dreaming about being on a beach with Miss Wambach while your partner’s looking into your eyes, trying to figure out what you’re paying more attention to than her. That can be hurtful.
If you’re fantasizing about another person that’s real and that you catch yourself thinking about during times other than sex, like when you’re snuggling up on the couch watching a movie or on a hike with your partner, or maybe not even with them…it’s probably time to rethink your situation. Again, these are all hypothetical situations based off of my life and experience, but I think once you get to this point, you should reevaluate what’s really going on. Are you happy? Are you fulfilled? What needs to change?
But, if you’re not in this place and you’re actually just enjoying that beach scene with Abby Wambach, and your partner possibly joins you two…listen, I’ve gotta go. Best of luck!