No Lesbian Shirt, No Lesbian Shoes, No Lesbian Service

by Lindsay Miller

So recently one of my best friends has become really good friends with a lesbian couple, and I’ve met them a few times and really like them. And they love going to lesbian bars and watching sexy Jell-o wrestling at said lesbian bars and stuff, and they’ve recently been inviting me (along with my bestie) out to bars with them and we’ve all been hanging out more. So far we haven’t hit up a lesbian bar, but I know that it’s coming, which I consider fair; if they’re hanging out at the bars that I like, then I expect to return the favor for them. So my question is, having never been to a lesbian bar, whether or not there’s any, like, etiquette/protocol I should be aware of? Am I overthinking this?

Wait, seriously? Is there usually Jell-o wrestling at lesbian bars? Have I just not been hanging out in the right places?

My guess is that Jell-o wrestling has all kinds of etiquette rules — dress codes, acceptable amount of hair product, etc. — but I’m not the expert on that, and frankly you’re probably better off as a spectator your first time out. Other than that, lesbian bars are very much like the bars frequented by other people, because lesbians are very much like people. Drink your beers, tip your bartenders, don’t blatantly ogle anyone else’s girlfriend (it sounds like you’re a straight chick, so this shouldn’t be too much of a hardship), and you’ll be fine.

I am seriously trying to think of something else to say that will make this answer look like I spent some time on it, but yeah, that’s really it. There’s not, like, a secret password or a dress code or anything. Oh, I guess if it’s an Irish lesbian bar, and it’s St. Patrick’s Day, you probably shouldn’t wear orange. Are there Irish lesbian bars?

Oh, my, A Queer Chick. Have I got questions for you. So … it’s hard to say, because, GOD, heart/vaginas are so terribly complicated, but it seems as though I might enjoy having sex with ladies. Even seeing these words written out scares me a bit. Why? I don’t know, but it hasn’t been until recently (being quite attracted to a straight friend — awesome!!) that I’ve forced myself to think about these things more, and not just sweep those ladykissing impulses under the little persian rug in my head. Also, as you’ve said, sexuality is fluid, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to have more and more attraction to women.

Anyhow. The answer to the question of whether I’d actually enjoy having sex with women has a simple answer — um, have sex with women, dummy! — that would be difficult for me to execute. Because, yeah, I’m engaged to a dude. Specifically, a dude who has had a bisexual girlfriend in the past, which was a difficult experience for him as he felt like he could never be enough for her. I’ve begun to feel a bit sexually frustrated with only doing it with my fiancé, which is infinity unfair to him, I know. I’ve casually woven in questions about open relationships and having sex outside of the relationship, and he wasn’t on board at all. He did sort of offer that option, sounding very pained, in one of our conversations about sex brought on by the fact that I don’t seem as attracted to him as I once did, but I didn’t respond to the question, as it didn’t seem like a good time to have that conversation. I love him, and do really want to spend my life with him, and, as I’ve said, didn’t quite realize until recently that my ladycravings were not going to go away. Also, even if I did get a free pass from my betrothed and, by some miracle, picked up a woman, it seems like sort of a dick move to use the lady as my Lesbo Litmus Test.

I mostly just want you to fix my life so that everything isn’t so goddamn hard, but I guess I should boil it down to some questions. 1) If I’ve managed to go 27 years without having sex with ladies, can I hold out until the husband kicks it in 40 years; 2) Is it worth breaking off an engagement with a very, very good man in order to try girls for a while, when I’ve no concrete evidence that it’s something I’m going to want to do for the rest of my life, or even more than once; 3) (Just to confirm my terribleness) Would it be the worst thing in the history of humankind to hook up with a lady behind the dude’s back so that I’m more sure when I come to him and say, “This is real, I like chicks sometimes,” and not just making an educated guess, and, finally; 4) What kind of a juicebox would I be to use a legit lesbian as my test run with ladies? Is there a good way to present this at the outset to a woman? Would I just be laughed out of the room?

I guess someone has to be the person that gets ripped a new one in the comments each week, and it might as well be me. For the record: I realize I’m the worst, and I need to grow up and talk about shit with the man I plan to marry. But I’m scared of forcing a wonderful man to leave when I haven’t even done any experimenting with the thing I’d be pushing him away over. SHIT IS SO HARD, A QUEER CHICK.

I know shit is terribly hard, but if it makes you feel any better, you have won my everlasting affection by referring to me as A Queer Chick, instead of just Queer Chick. Preserving the articles in people’s titles when addressing them directly just always makes me smile. If I ever meet the Pope I am definitely going to be like, “What’s up, The Pope!” (I know, you’re really supposed to call him Your Holiness. Which, by the way, you may also use with me.)

So, on to your actual problem! Unfortunately, I feel like you left something out — specifically, how you feel about your fiance. Yeah, yeah, you love him and want to spend your life with him, I get it. But, and forgive me pointing this out, it is possible that you’re just saying that because you’re so used to saying it that you don’t even think about whether it’s true anymore? Before you make any kind of a decision about lady sex, you need to figure out where you stand regarding this guy. Does he still turn you on? Do you envision him continuing to turn you on (and, obviously, give you orgasms) for the rest of your natural life? Basically, do you want to have sex with ladies in addition to your dude, or instead of your dude?

Like, look at it this way: if you went out and banged a lady behind his back, and it was awesome, would you come home and say “Sweetie, we really need to talk about opening up our relationship, at least sometimes?” Or would you come home and say, “So long, sucker”? If it’s the latter, you need to take a long hard look at your relationship. Sticking with this guy because you’re not sure if there’s someone else out there you’d like better is a pretty clear indicator that you’re not satisfied. If you’re just hanging around waiting for someone sexier to come along, you’re not being fair to your fiance or yourself.

If, on the other hand, you do love him, and he does turn you on, and the thought of growing old with him fills you with joy, and there’s just the small issue where you can’t imagine going to your grave without ever knowing the touch of some boobs, then you’re going to need to work on him — slowly — about the possibility of future threesomes and/or extramarital relations. Don’t bring it up when you’re fighting; bring it up when everything is awesome, and you’ve just finished telling him how much you love him. Don’t make it seem like an ultimatum, but like something really awesome and sexy and fun that he could do for you because he’s your special snookie-wookie-butt and no one gets you like he does. The idea here is to stress that your relationship is not endangered by your desire to fuck other people — but obviously, no fair pulling this move unless you are one hundred percent sure that you’re not actually going to leave him for your girl on the side.

No matter how solid your relationship is, I’m not giving you the go-ahead to cheat on your fiance just to figure out if girl-sex is everything you ever dreamed it would be. Because, okay, best-case scenario is it’s awesome, and you realize you could never be happy in a monogamous relationship with a dude, and then you break his heart and leave him and he’s miserable for months or years. (Uh, this is the best-case scenario for you, not for him.) You still have to live with the knowledge that you cheated, and betrayed the trust of someone you call a “very very good man.” That is not a good way to break up with someone, and it will leave you both with a worse taste in your mouth than if you just cowgirl up and do it now, before any infidelity occurs. The worst-case scenario, from your point of view, is that you sleep with a girl and realize that You’re Just Not That Into Pussy, and decide to stay with your guy because you figure you’re probably not going to do better, and then you spend the rest of your life keeping this secret that slowly eats you up inside and turns you into a bitter, crazy old lady. I’m not knocking bitter, crazy old ladies — some of my best friends, etc. — but that is not the future I want for you.

So you have to have a very serious conversation with yourself. And you have to start by figuring out, regardless of whether you want to sleep with girls, if the person you’re with now is the person with whom you want to share a medicine cabinet for the rest of your life. Everything else has to proceed from the answer to that question. If he’s the one, you’ll either have to give up on girl-sex or convince him to make allowances. (And if he’s fundamentally monogamous and you’re fundamentally not, then I’m sorry, but he’s not the one.) If he’s not, then it doesn’t really matter whether you’re bisexual — you need to extract yourself from a relationship that has no future.

And if you do end up single, or with a hall pass from your honey, get thee to an online dating site and look for bicurious ladies like yourself. Of course, you could always hit a gay bar and scope out someone you think is cute, or even chat up a girl at your local indie bookstore or wherever the kids are meeting in romantic comedies nowadays. Maybe you’ll find someone with whom you click, and your heart/vagina will just know. But if all you want is to try it and see if you like it before getting emotionally involved, there are a LOT of chicks (and their boyfriends) on the internet looking for the exact same thing.

Hi! So, I have identified as queer for some time. I (a woman, just to clarify) am still attracted to men from a physical standpoint, but at this point in my life for a number of reasons I am pretty much exclusively interested in dating women. Which is fine, no impending identity crisis or anything. The thing is, and I really don’t mean to generalize, but I feel like a lot of lesbians are reticent about dating bi chicks. Even on craigslist, a lot of the ads specify “no men no bi.” In the past, this has not been a problem for me when dating women. I just avoid mentioning the fact that I am bi, as it is not really prudent most of the time.

Here’s where it gets complicated though: recently, I had a baby. He’s almost a month old now and he’s very cute and awesome and I love him so much. His father and I were never involved romantically, it was just one of those things that happens. We went our separate ways shortly after I found out I was pregnant. I was celibate for the duration of my pregnancy and I remain completely single. I stay in contact with him for our kid’s sake, but he’s not someone I deal with every day by any means. He doesn’t even live in the same state as us. This situation is not something I am ashamed of at all, it’s just a lot to have to explain to someone new. However, obviously my child is a very important part of my life and isn’t something I can just avoid disclosing to people I am dating (not that I would want to). I am just worried that women I try to date might take the fact that I just had a kid as the ultimate expression of hetero-breederness. I mean obviously I recently procreated with a man, but like I said it was just a thing that happened and I am really, genuinely not interested in men at this point. Like, at all. How do I explain this to potential new interests? Should I even be worrying about this? Erg. Help.

Congratulations on your new baby! You sound really happy and on top of things, and I am psyched for you, even as you being to navigate the treacherous waters of dating-while-mom.

I think that having a child is always going to be a sticking point for some potential partners. Obviously there are logistical issues, like finding a sitter for date night or trying to get it on without waking the baby. Beyond that, the existence of a baby brings up all these connotations about commitment and white picket fences and, I don’t know, joint health insurance, and no matter how light you try to keep things, I imagine it’s hard to date someone who has a baby and not think about the future. Because, babies! They ARE the future! Those fuzzy, squishy little heads might as well be crystal balls! And some people, the kind who don’t like to think about the future, are liable to find that off-putting, and potentially bail. If you’re a parent, you are going to freak out the commitment-phobic, because you’ve already committed to CREATING A HUMAN LIFE. That’s gotta be a little intimidating.

My guess is that, gender stereotypes be damned, the ratio of commitment-phobes is probably about the same among women and men. Anecdotal evidence suggests that for every lesbian who keeps a U-Haul rental on speed dial, there’s another who has never had a second date with a lady. I would expect this to be about as much of an issue when you’re trying to get it on with a woman as it would be with a man, which is to say occasionally, but almost never with someone who’s really worth your while.

I also don’t envision the topic of your baby daddy coming up on very many first dates. Just as you don’t normally disclose that you’re bisexual, because it isn’t really anyone else’s business, you should feel free to talk about your son and how cute and wonderful he is without delving into the specifics of how he came to be. I would like to imagine that most women, if you say “I have a one-month-old baby,” are not going to respond with “That’s wonderful! So how did you happen to end up with sperm in your uterus?” Although maybe I’m giving people’s manners too much credit. A lot of folks feel shockingly entitled to ask invasive personal questions, especially of pregnant women and parents. If someone demands the details, she is just rude as hell, you don’t need to tell her anything except that you’ll split the check.

If you do feel the need to explain further, you can always just tell people that you used a sperm donor, and save the details regarding exactly where and under what circumstances he donated sperm until you’ve gotten to know someone better.

I had a fling with a girl this summer. It ended naturally at the end of the program we were with. That was fine. The problem is when I went home. I am sixteen years old. I’ve been out to my parents and brother as queer for a while before this. But this was the first time, I suppose, that they had ever been faced with the reality that I like girls. I talked about this girl a lot — I had a huge crush on her. I may have asked my mother for help hiding my hickeys, as we had a family reunion literally the day after I got back and oh boy, awkward looks would have abounded (my mother and I are really close, her general reaction was “Oh. This is … weird. But I’ll help you anyway.” I didn’t have anyone else to ask at the time). The issue was that I got comments about “flaunting my sexuality.” If I had talked about a boy as much as I did, I doubt this would have been a problem. Was I flaunting my sexuality? I didn’t feel like I was, I was just blabbering ridiculously about this girl I liked. It wasn’t about being queer, it was because I liked this girl. How do I make my parents understand this? Am I imagining some underlying homophobia, or is it there? Help!

Well, first of all, based on extensive research conducted by me when I was your age, moms are seldom excited about their daughters having hickeys, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender. Next time, don’t ask for her help: green concealer, a big chunky necklace, and, ideally, telling your lady-friend not to leave marks above the collarbone will be your greatest assets in the War on Awkwardness. No matter how chill your family may eventually become about your orientation, they absolutely do not ever need to know specifics.

Which brings me to how chill they currently are not. Yes, you’re almost definitely right that if you were overflowing with enthusiasm over a boy, your parents would not have a problem with it (although, again, they still would not want to see your hickeys). “You’re flaunting your sexuality” is pretty much always code for “I don’t want to admit to being homophobic, but Jesus Christ am I ever skeeved out by gay people.” It is the fallback argument for people who like to think of themselves as more accepting than they actually are. “Flaunting your sexuality” can, of course, be applied to literally any public expression of non-straightness — kissing, hand-holding, mentioning a same-sex partner, owning a Le Tigre CD, etc. Anyone who uses that phrase against you is telling you that it’s fine if you’re queer, but they’d really be much more comfortable if you would just, for the sake of decency, pretend to be straight.

So yes, unfortunately, your parents and brother are homophobic. Try not to hold it against them too much, if you can. They grew up in the same homophobic culture as the rest of us; it would be strange if they hadn’t absorbed some prejudicial assumptions about queers without even realizing it. What’s important is that they’re trying to counteract their conditioning because they realize that, if they have to choose between you and their knee-jerk closed-mindedness, their beloved daughter/sister wins every time. They’ve known for a while that you’re queer, and they’ve accepted it, in theory. This new evidence that being queer means that you will eventually be having sex with women (if you’re not already) is making them realize they’re not quite as down with the gays as they thought. But instead of kicking you out, or telling you that you’re not allowed to date girls while you live under their roof, they’re going “gaaaah, could you not talk about it so much?” This is not exactly admirable — I’m not saying they get gold stars for basic human decency — but it’s a hell of a lot better than many people in their situation. And it suggests that they’re trying.

It sucks for everyone that being queer is still portrayed as such a scary, perverse thing in our society. It sucks for you, obviously, but it also sucks for your parents, because they’ve been told all their lives that being gay is creepy and wrong, and now those awful stereotypes are getting in the way of their relationship with their smart, together, and (it must be said) impressively capitalization-proficient teenage daughter. (I know not everyone of your generation communicates exclusively via pictures of cats with bad grammar, but it still makes me happy when I see evidence to the contrary.)

Your parents are working to overcome a backlog of fucked-up conditioning, and it’s not going to happen overnight. It will take them time to get used to you being queer, not just as a concept, but as a day-to-day reality. But you know what? Eventually, it’s going to happen. People can get used to a lot weirder shit than a daughter who dates girls. Just keep talking things out, and one day, you’re going to bring a lady home to meet your parents and they are going to react like it’s the most normal and wonderful thing in the world. And on that day, they are still not going to want to see your hickeys.

Previously: PDAs and the Lure of the Work Crush.

Lindsay Miller knows everything. Do you have a question for A Queer Chick?

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock