Coming Out ‘Wholesale,’ Emotional Affairs, and Crushing on Chicks Who Don’t Dig Chicks

by Lindsay Miller

A Queer Chick

I’m a 37-year-old lady who came out as bisexual in the ’90s, and then struggled for 4 or 5 years, before I threw up my hands and ‘decided’ to ‘just be straight.’ My mom was pissed I was gay/bi — especially when she didn’t believe me. I ran down the list, ending with, “Remember that friend who used to stay over nights? Yeah, we totally boned upstairs. A lot.” And my friends were gently confused but didn’t care one way or the other. More dismaying were the men I dated, who predictably were down with the self-serving mental imagery of their lady getting it on with a lady, but which had little or nothing to do with me as a person, or any hypothetical women as persons, or female sexual reality. (So many fights about how bi women are not inflatable dolls for men’s sexual fantasies. So many.) But the real issue was what felt like the ‘all or nothing’ expectations of the gay women I tried to be with. Lipstick lesbian was a contemptuous ’90s term turned in my direction more than once, and it was pretty disheartening. Thank god sexuality has come to be understood as more fluid over the last 20 years. It seems like bi girls don’t get laughed out of the conversation anymore. Maybe?

Predictably, my orientation hasn’t just gone away over 20 years. I still think women are hawt in a way men will never be, and I miss the unique softness and fierceness of a woman. My question is, how does one date ladies nowadays? Back then, we used to go to gay bars and try to pick up girls. Now, do I get on okcupid, or tinder, or what? Then, the protocol was to delay the ‘I’m bi’ revelation as long as possible. Now, do I share that up front? I’m also in a primary relationship with a man, which I’m not giving up. So is that trampy and insulting to other ladies, or is it okay? He’s not interested in joining in, and I wouldn’t want that. I’m not trolling for a trick for my man. This is about me. To complicate matters further, I’m sober. So no swilling out of bottles of wine together under the stars and getting up the nerve to kiss. Or whatever. No alcohol. And its always tricky to do the dance of sexual attraction sans alcohol in our culture. I’m thankful the sexual definitions are not as bifurcated and black and white as they once were. I never fit into them. But I don’t know how to navigate the new ones.

And finally, I work in law in a socially liberal but politically conservative city in the South. I’m not excited about the prospect of damaging my career prospects with attorneys who personally don’t care about sexual orientation, but who get trapped by the weird politics of the locale. When I was 22, I was waiting tables and who cares. At 37, I have more to lose. So I’m not excited about coming out wholesale. But I have enough of a carry over from queer politics of the ’90s to feel like it’s insulting to my partners if I’m closeted. In case the primary male relationship isn’t problem enough. Ugh.

Yeah, none of this feels very savory. And I don’t know where to start. But I miss ladies’ lips, and skin, and hair. Agggh, the hair! Women are fierce in a way men can’t be. I had my first crush on a girl at 15. I dig men too, but lady loving will always be a part of me. Where do I start?

Internet dating is going to be a really good friend to you, I think. That way you can get the “bisexual, polyamorous, and sober” thing out of the way up front, so that any chicks who would find one or more of those things to be a dealbreaker know better than to waste your time. I can’t really speak to which dating sites are the best — everyone has a preference, but you won’t know yours until you have more experience with them. I suggest creating a few accounts and spending a few weeks getting a sense of which one you like best; then, if you feel like it, you can cancel all the ones that aren’t doing it for you and focus your energy where you think it’s likely to produce the best results.

If you want to meet girls in real life, figure out where the queer chicks are in your city — aside from gay bars. Is there a feminist bookstore that has an open mic night? An LGBT bowling league? Gay Days at the art museum? Obviously, the larger and more liberal the city you live in, the more of these kinds of resources you’ll be able to find, but there’s almost guaranteed to be some queer culture that doesn’t revolve around alcohol, if you get out there and look for it.

Whichever way you choose to meet ladies (you can even do both if you have plenty of free time), don’t hide your bisexuality, your partner, or your sobriety from potential dates. Yes, there are some women out there who won’t be into those things — biphobia hasn’t gone extinct since you were last on the dating scene, I’m sorry to say — but those women aren’t right for you anyway, so clear them out as soon as you can and move on to someone with more potential. More than anything, you have to stop looking at your bisexuality and polyamory as something “unsavory” that your lady loves will have to overlook. It’s who you are, it’s totally fine, and it’s all part of the amazing package you have to offer the right woman.

As for being out, we tend to think of that as an either/or prospect, but it’s really more of a spectrum. You can be sort of out. You can be out to your friends and family but not to your colleagues. You can be out about being bisexual but not about being polyamorous. You can decide the level of out-ness that works for you in any given situation. No one likes feeling like a dirty little secret — well, not all the time, anyway — so if you don’t plan to introduce the women you date to ANYONE in your life, be prepared to encounter some resistance. But if being totally open about your multiple-partners-of-multiple-genders situation would cause trouble for you at work, it’s not unreasonable to expect that your girlfriend will understand and compromise.

I’m in my second relationship with a woman. I recently realized I’m more attracted to women than to men, so I’m new to the whole queer scene and don’t know what to expect when it comes to queer life. My girlfriend is very close with her female bff, and they have some history… and intense chemistry. They’re call-each-other-every-day and sleep-over-a-lot-and-plan-trips-to-NYC friends. My girlfriend used to let casual calls from her bff interrupt our dates — once, I finished my whole meal at a restaurant while the bff chatted with my girlfriend about her day on the phone — but she apologized and stopped after I told her it was uncool and made me feel like chopped liver.

My girlfriend really loves me and says she wants a future with me and she swears she’s not romantically hung up on the bff anymore, and the bff and I get along well. But ALL the straight ladies in my life think this is an emotional affair, like, “If it were my husband getting intimate calls from another woman at 11 PM, especially if he used to have a huge crush on her and then she had a crush on him, come on…”

Their closeness makes me feel weird, but wouldn’t a straight lady feel fine about calling up her lady-bff every day if they were really close? What’s the difference between an intimate queer lady friendship with history and an inappropriate emotional affair? Do emotional affairs even exist?? Aaaaah!

Emotional affairs totally exist, but this doesn’t sound like one of those. It can be hard to distinguish between intense platonic affection — the kind many queer girls have for their BFFs, regardless of whether they made out that one time — and intense romantic affection — the kind that’s a threat to your relationship. As you’ve observed, the activities involved, like long phone calls and planning vacations together, are often pretty much the same. But I think one of the ways you can tell is that a partner who’s being emotionally faithful to you prioritizes your feelings and lets you know that she doesn’t take you for granted.

When you told your girlfriend that it sucked to finish your date alone while she chatted with her friend, she stopped doing it. That tells me your emotions matter to her, and that she wants to continue enjoying her friendship with her BFF in a way that doesn’t interrupt her relationship with you. If she’s open to accommodating your reasonable requests and setting boundaries to ensure you feel comfortable, then I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, in communities of lady-lovin’ women, the categories “friend” and “person I’ve seen naked” tend to have an enormous amount of overlap. Could be because our friend pool and dating pool are pretty small and basically the same; could be just because we love having the excuse for lots of extra processing. If you haven’t been out for very long, or just haven’t spent a lot of time around other queer women, this can seem very weird, but 98 times out of 100 there are no lingering feelings or infidelity going on. You’ll get used to it, and then a few years from now you’ll be planning your wedding and you’ll realize that every girl in your bridal party has planted at least one drunken smooch on either you or your intended. And you’ll laugh, because it’s totally normal and fine.

Honestly, it sounds to me like your friends’ opinions are bugging you more than anything that’s actually happened between your girlfriend and her bestie. You get along with the BFF, and your girlfriend lets you know that she loves you and takes your feelings seriously. If something else specific is bother you, bring it up to your sweetie and see what she says, but if everything is going well, don’t let what other people think psych you out. Your relationship is your own.

I keep getting crushes on ambiguously straight girls — is this a good thing (optimism? not assuming others’ sexual orientation?)? I have a feeling it might not be helpful for my emotional state of being. In which case, how do I help myself stop crushing on girls who aren’t (as far as I know) queer?

This is a totally normal stage of queer girl development. At some point, it will stop cold and you will feel a freedom you have never known before. Until then, you will need to find ways to circumvent it, because, yeah, constantly crushing on chicks who don’t dig chicks is a good way to devastate your self-esteem and leave you a hollow, bitter shell of a human.

So: start hanging around more queer women. You can’t choose whom you’re hot for, it’s true, but you’re more likely to develop an attraction to people you see frequently. And, as a bonus, the more time you spend with gay and bi ladies, the more likely they are to develop — and act on — an attraction to you!

Figure out where the queer chicks in your geographic area / age range hang out, and go there. Be prepared to feel like you’re the only person there who doesn’t know anyone — you won’t be, but you’ll still feel like it, and it will be awkward as hell. Practice a few opening lines in the mirror before you leave the house. “Hi, can I sit here?” is a good place to start. For now, focus your efforts on making friends, not finding dates. Once you’ve established yourself as a member of a queer community, it will be so much easier to locate and hook up with appropriate ladies — your friends will help!

In the meantime, if you have a thing for someone and you think she might be straight but you don’t know for sure, what the hell, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I’m a 30-year-old ‘straight’ woman, I sometimes masturbate and fantasize about women. But it seems to go in cycles? At some times in the month I am attracted to both ends of the gender spectrum, and other times I point due male. I feel like I’ll never be able to explore being with women, because it’s such a mercurial feeling. “Hey, wanna date me one week out of the month, and let me bone dudes the rest of the time?” sounds like a terrible opener. What should I do/the ubiquitous ‘what do I call myself’?

If you’re attracted to more than one gender, even if it’s only sometimes, you’re allowed to call yourself bisexual, or queer. I mean, of course you’re allowed. I don’t have to give you permission! But you seem to feel like you need permission, a little bit, so here is mine. Feel free to get it laminated. (You can also continue calling yourself straight, if that feels more accurate, but since you put it in quotes I’m guessing you’re not a hundred percent comfortable with it.)

As for what you should do, I’d suggest starting by going out with a woman at least once, to see what it’s like. It’s not necessarily a great long-term plan to make any kind of decisions about your future romantic life based solely on what you think about when you masturbate — you need real-world information. You don’t have to make any huge commitments or have a deep conversation about your shifting orientation in order to get sushi with someone and maybe kiss her at her front door. If you want to invite her back to your place, you can. If you want to call her again, you can. Try not to overthink it.

I know you’re worried that you’ll start dating a woman you really like and then suddenly, inexplicably, stop liking her and break her heart, but you know what? That happens to people with absolutely unambiguous orientations, too — like all the time. It’s okay to disappoint someone. It’s okay if a date doesn’t lead to anything more. It’s okay, too, to have one-time sex with someone you’ll never want to see again. As long as you tell people what you feel when you know that you feel it, you’re not doing wrong, even if someone ends up getting hurt. Sometimes everyone is honest and well-intentioned and people get hurt anyhow. That’s life.

Maybe you’ll enjoy women so much that your fantasies will blossom into something deeper and more enduring. Maybe you’ll realize that you like to think about chicks when you masturbate but actually making out with one does nothing for you at all. Or maybe you’ll end up being happiest in an open relationship with a dude who’s fine with you having one-night stands with ladies when the planets are aligned. All of these things are totally okay. You just have to sort out what you want, and you’re never going to know unless you give it a shot.

Previously: Dating a Quasi-Boss, Becoming Lesbian Othello, and Taking the Road Less Confusing

Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter, and you can peruse the AAQC archive here. Do you have a question for her?