There’s this girl who lives on my floor that I have a crush on . this is really hard for me to admit. I haven’t talked to any of my friends from home or school about it because I’m pretty confused . I’ve had several boyfriends with whom I’ve had healthy relationships and a happy sex life . I’ve never had feelings for another girl before, and I don’t know if it’s for real. I think it is though, because I feel for her the exact same way I’ve felt for guys in the past. She makes me laugh, and is beautiful, and I get really nervous and excited when she’s around. I know that she’s a lesbian because she was dating a girl at the beginning of the semester but they broke up. I’m honestly not really concerned about other people finding out, although it bothers me a little bit. I just know people will be surprised, and I don’t know if I’m a lesbian. This is the first time I’ve been really attracted to another woman. I really want to kiss her, or talk to her about it, but I don’t know if she’ll laugh at me because I’m straight. What should I do?
From Straight to Gay in Five Seconds Flat
Dear from Straight to Gay,
When I first read your e-mail I hesitated because I didn’t know where to start. So instead of procrastinating, I decided to do some surfing.
I typed in “gay test” (don’t ask why) and the first thing I found was this website at channel4.com that had a “gay-o-meter.” I had to answer a bunch of questions, and it would supposedly tell me how “gay” or “straight” I was. After checking my gender, I was asked things like “Do you know how to change your oil?”; “When you move into a new apartment, how important is it to you that you immediately redecorate?”; and my favorite of all, “When you were young, did you want to be a doctor or a nurse?” Yack!
None of these questions has a single thing to do with my sexual orientation! Even the questions like, “Do you frequently use lube in the bedroom?” still have nothing to do with who I prefer to sleep with! The only question that came close to getting to the point was “Do you get off on lesbian porn?” But I know straight guys and straight women who get off on lesbian porn, so what’s that supposed to mean?
Once I completed the test, answering truthfully and honestly, I was given my score: “Kayy is 50 percent Gay! Congratulations! You’ve scored right in the middle (of “too straight” and “too gay”) and are a happy and well adjusted hetero babe!” (My favorite part is my congratulations for being straight.)
When I filled out the test as a man who sleeps with women, the questions were even more disgusting and stereotypical than the straight woman’s, and my score was: “Dick is 73 percent Gay! Women like you, don’t they? Little do they know that you’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing ready to pounce!” (Don’t get me started.)
Needless to say, this really concerned me. The quizzes were chock full of strict gender norms that are hard or impossible to follow at times. If I want to shave my head, does that make me a lesbian? If I’m a guy who likes interior decorating, am I gay? What the hell?!
But, surprisingly, the part that bugged me the most was that when asked a question, I only got two options to choose from for my answer. When asked for my preference on a certain topic, I would either have to answer, for example, “Totally all the time!” or “Oh my God never!” I had a lot of trouble answering these questions because often neither was true for me. It’s unrealistic to say somebody has to be one or the other.
And look where we are, back at the breaking binaries party we started last week! In case you missed out (I’m offended), last week I talked about how when it comes to sex, hardly anybody is a saint or a slut, and that we all fall somewhere in between.
That’s where I was going with my tangent above – people think that if you do one thing, think one thing or feel one thing, it determines your character and entire being.
So I can imagine how worried you may be right now. In fact, I don’t have to imagine. I was there once. I freaked out. I wondered if I was bisexual or even – gasp! – a lesbian. All the feelings were new to me and I didn’t know how to handle them, let alone communicate how I felt.
For a little while I played with the idea that I was a bisexual, simply because I was attracted to one woman in 18 years of heterosexual tendencies. When it comes to sexual identity, we do have a slight break from dichotomies. While it’s safe to say the mainstream accepts man and woman as the only two gender categories, we recognize that not everybody is decidedly gay or religiously straight. So they throw the word “bisexual” at us and think it will solve all of our problems – when in fact it might complicate things even more.
Instead of taking our feelings at face value – a physical and/or emotional attraction to a person that just happens to be of same-sex persuasion – we freak out and think we’ve suddenly become a new person with a new body, a new set of desires and a new personality altogether. I think it’s safe to say that if you go for it with this woman, nothing about you will change except how you relate to her, and perhaps how you judge and see the world around you.
To reiterate what I said last week, people are quick to label. If we all had personal label machines, we’d probably walk around sticking them to people all day long. Categorizing, grouping, “othering,” whatever you want to call it – lumping a group of people together and assigning them stereotypes makes understanding them much easier.
Unfortunately, that really sucks for those of us who aren’t 100 percent anything.
In one of the most poignant quotes I’ve ever read, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick stated, “How does sex go from being about countless acts to being about two states of being?” My interpretation of this is, as human beings, we naturally feel desire (some more than others) in different ways and toward different people – how we express them in thought and practice does not determine who we are (gay/straight). I’ve heard of women who consider themselves lesbians, even though they’re attracted to men, because of their feminist ideologies. Some men consider themselves straight regardless of the fact that they receive oral sex from other men.
What I’m trying to get across, in a very roundabout way, is the fact that you shouldn’t be freaking out. Don’t put yourself through an existential crisis just because you think another girl is beautiful and down to earth. Kudos for saying you’re not too worried about people finding out; that’s really big of you. Because unfortunately, even though labels are simply “social constructs” it would be na’ve to say that they have no effect on our lives. Labels in and of themselves are meaningless, but those meanings we attach to them can cause drama or danger.
And since you’re enlightened like that, I’d say go ahead and talk to her. If you were more concerned about coming out to parents or something like that, this would be a much deeper issue I’d hesitate to touch. I have a feeling this woman is already onto you – if she’s flirting with you she certainly thinks you’re a cool person, and although she may be pleasantly surprised if you expressed interest, I doubt she’ll laugh or think any less of you.
You never know what will happen after becoming intimate with her. You might fall in love, feel no more attraction to her or other women, or you might experience more pleasure than you’d ever imagined possible with men. You might come out of it proudly wearing a label like lesbian, or heterosexual or bi.
The fact is it’s your choice. My boyfriend often jokes with me, “Can you please be straight for like five minutes?” when I comment on the attractiveness of another woman (because I think there’s nothing wrong with that). I just laugh because if I was forced to check a box on a survey, as much as I hate those things, I would check heterosexual. But in an ideal world, there would be more options. I take a page from Samantha Jones’ book on this topic: “I’m trisexual. I’ll try anything once.”
If only we could all be so enlightened.
Good luck with your adventure!